It's tough to beat the baseball odds when you're always going to the bullpen. Will the worst team in the majors get even worse after burning through so many arms?
Jason's 2015 record as of July 13: 31-24, plus-7.36 units ML; 0-3, minus-3.30 units Total
I remember it as if it were earlier today... we were looking at the busiest bullpens in the American League, and wondering if all that usage would make it harder for those teams to beat the baseball odds during the second half of the season. The short answer: Maybe. It depends how those innings were distributed, and who's coming on or off the disabled list. But you can certainly red-flag the teams who needed the most innings of relief thus far.
So let's continue to do that. We move to the National League, the league we used to take more seriously because there's no designated hitter. This is where we should find the most overworked bullpens, and indeed, three of the four top inning-eaters can be found on the senior circuit. The three teams in question all have losing records; two of them are particularly brutal. Let's see if we can profit from their demise with our MLB picks!
Ride the Snake
The busiest NL bullpen belongs to the Arizona Diamondbacks at 297.1 innings pitched, but at 42-45 (+0.29 units), the Diamondbacks have yet to completely fall apart. Their relievers haven't been awful, ranking No. 19 in the majors at 1.5 WAR and No. 13 overall at 3.74 FIP. Injuries haven't been too problematic; aside from spot starter Archie Bradley (4.90 FIP) and his inflamed right shoulder, there aren't any Arizona pitchers on the DL as we go to press.
It's the next two teams who really deserve our attention. The Philadelphia Phillies (29-62, –23.60 units) and Colorado Rockies (39-49, –5.71 units) have each burned through 294.2 innings of relief pitching, and go figure, they're in the NL East and West basement suites. Of course, the concept of “buy low, sell high” applies with last-place teams, but maybe these guys haven't seen the bottom yet.
The Phillies are definitely suspect. They've got the No. 21-ranked bullpen in the majors at 1.4 WAR (No. 19 at 3.75 FIP), and that includes closer Jonathan Papelbon (2.75 FIP), who is actively lobbying for a trade to a contending team. Two of Philly's injured starters, Aaron Harang (4.08 FIP) and Jerome Williams (5.49 FIP), are due back later this month; however, it looks like Cliff Lee won't be pitching in 2015.
Over in Denver, the Rockies (No. 17 at 1.7 WAR and 3.73 FIP) have some big-time injury concerns with seven pitchers on the DL at press-time. Their two busiest relievers, David Hale (5.20 FIP, strained groin) and Christian Bergman (3.75 FIP, shoulder fatigue), are on the shelf with the kind of injuries that you'd expect from overuse. Colorado may be going into the All-Star break on a Rocky Mountain high after sweeping the Atlanta Braves in four straight, but coming down won't be pleasant.