OPS MLB Betting: Putting Bullpen Ratings To Your Advantage

Joe Gavazzi

Thursday, April 28, 2016 6:04 PM UTC

Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016 6:04 PM UTC

Everyone agrees that a MLB team’s bullpen today is a greater factor in the outcome of a game than 50 years ago. I breakdown the best way to get the MLB betting advantage inside.

Since those years in the early ‘60s, the relief corps has become an integral part of a pitching staff.  With starting pitchers now working every 6th day and going an average of 6 IP, a specialized relief corps is used to work the middle innings, the 8th inning (the setup man) and the 9th inning (the closer).  In an effort to evaluate the efficiency of the bullpen, many indicators can be used.  

The problem with trying to incorporate that into the handicap of a game is that prior to the start of the game, one never knows exactly how long the starting pitcher will go or exactly who the relievers will be.  As a result, the best we can do is to estimate the number of innings pitched in relief and which pitchers will be available.  

In recent seasons, I have authored several articles in which I have proven a positive correlation between a team’s W/L percentage and a bullpen formula which combines the strand percentage with the save percentage.  With most teams having played just 20 games, the sample size for the season remains small.  Yet, this index has proven again to be a reliable indicator of a team’s success.  The average of the strand percentage (inherited runners left on base) and the save percentage is 138 for the season to date.  This is just slightly below the long-term average of 140 to where it will gravitate in the long term.  Nonetheless, by ranking every team’s bullpen index from 1 to 30, we can draw the following conclusions. 

  • 128-100 … the W/L record of the Top 12 teams with a rating of 150 or higher
  • 58-57 …the W/L record of the (6) teams with rating of 141-149
  • 103-132 …the W/L record of  the bottom (12) teams with a rating of less than 140




1. CWS



2. Seattle



3. Washington 



4. Baltimore



5. Cubs



6. NYY



7. Oakland



8. LAD



9. NYM



10. Tampa Bay



11. St. Louis



12. KC



13. Cleveland



14. LAA



15. Arizona



16. Boston



17. Toronto



18. Miami



19. Houston



20. Detroit



21. San Fran



22. Minnesota



23. Atlanta



24. Pittsburgh



25. Colorado



26. Texas



27. Philadelphia



28. San Diego



29. Cincinnati



30. Milwaukee




Is the OPS a Better Indicator?
In the last several seasons, I have also authored numerous articles in which I proven the worth of the OPS (OBP plus slugging average) as a measure of the worth of a team’s offense or an individual pitcher.  This year, out of curiosity, I decided to look at a team’s bullpen OPS.  I ranked the clubs from 1 to 30 with the lowest OPS (the Chicago White Sox at .519) being ranked first and the team with the highest bullpen OPS (Milwaukee at .898) being ranked last.  The following is a chart showing each of the teams, their record and the OPS through Monday, April 25th 2016

Using much the same thinking as drawing the conclusions from the strand plus save percentage ratings, I broke the teams down into 3 categories, indicating the best, the average and the worst.  Here are the findings:

  • 135-92 … the W/L record of the teams with the Top 12 OPS ratings
  • 49-49 … the W/L record of the teams with the middle 5 OPS ratings
  • 105-148 … the W/L record of the 13 teams with the lowest OPS ratings

These differences may not seem like much compared to the records of the strand plus save percentage records above.  But extrapolated by a multiple of 8 (teams have played 20 games out of 162); you can imagine there would be a more meaningful difference.

From this study, I believe that I can now conclude, similar to the proof that I have offered you in previous OPS studies, that it is the most consistent and best indicator to be used in statistical analysis of rating each batting, starting pitching and bullpen.  

Should you believe there is any doubt about the veracity of the OPS as indicator, simply refer to last week’s article, in which I suggested to you that there would be 3 teams on a short-term rise and 3 teams who would have a short-term decline.  Since the time of that article, the 3 teams I projected to improve (the NYM, the Pirates and the Cards) have a combined 13-3 record.  The 3 teams I suggested were due for a downward correction were (Texas, Cincinnati and Milwaukee).  These teams have gone a combined 4-13. The data between this article and my other OPS piecess should be enough info to get the betting edge on the MLB odds and to make more educated MLB picks. Enough said!


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