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Not So Untouchable: The Worst Bullpens of 2007 (So Far)

A little over a week ago, I took a look at the best bullpens in the major leagues thus far into the season.  Today I'll be doing the opposite, focusing on the worst of the bunch.  The following teams are ranked in terms of ineffectiveness measured by the lowest WXRL marks accumulated this year:

Note:  Data Updated Through May 19th, 2007

1.  Kansas City Royals, -0.829 WXRL

The Royals once again find themselves in last place (11.0 GB) in the very competitive American League Central division; the fact they are 8-15 in one and two-run ballgames is a big reason why. The Royals are 4th worst in the American League in completed save percentage (62%), while hitters have teed off for a league worst .822 OPS against Kansas City relief pitchers.  Struggling in the KC pen is Joel Peralta (-0.783), Jason Standridge (-0.424 WXRL) and David Riske (-0.303 WXRL).  Still, you have to like the upside of some in this bullpen.  Rookie closer Joakim Soria (0.634 WXRL) is 7 for 9 in save opportunities while Zack Greinke (0.436 WXRL) and Jimmy Gobble (0.264 WXRL) have each been effective in relief roles.  

2.  Colorado Rockies, -0.574 WXRL

Rockies closer Brian Fuentes (1.257 WXRL) is 10 for 11 in save opportunities thus far into the season. Other than that, nothing has been particularly eye-popping in the Rockies bullpen. Colorado's bullpen ranks dead last in the National League in many categories including K/9 (5.77), OPS against (.803) and is second to last in save percentage (55%) despite the efforts of Fuentes.  Luckily the Rockies are 12-10 in one and two-run games, but you have to wonder if this will last given the ineffectiveness of their bullpen.  Notable Colorado relievers that have struggled this season include Jeremy Affeldt (-0.405 WXRL), Manny Corpas (-0.393 WXRL) and the injured LaTroy Hawkins (-0.765 WXRL).

3.  New York Yankees, -0.417 WXRL

The Yankees have a +26 run differential, but they are 4-14 in one and two-run games thanks to a shaky bullpen.  Yankee relievers have struck out 5.58 hitter per nine innings, the second worst mark in the American League, while have completed a mere 25% of their save opportunities, far and away the worst percentage in the major leagues.  Luis Vizcaino (-0.279 WXRL) has pitched 22.1 awful innings of baseball while neither Mike Myers (-0.503 WXRL) or Mariano Rivera (-1.159 WXRL) have not been effective in high-leverage situations.  Rivera isn't going to pitch this poorly all year, but when Brian Bruney (0.535 WXRL) is your most effective reliever at this point in the season; you know things have been a bit rough.  

4.  Philadelphia Phillies, -0.339 WXRL

When Brett Myers was banished to the Philly pen earlier this season, I simply could not defend the move.  Though Myers was struggling, he could easily make it as the #2 starter for many baseball teams and could even pitch as a teams #1 in certain cases.  I still don't like the move, but Myers has been the most effective Philly reliever in what has been an awful bullpen.  Myers WXRL of 1.130 leads the team and he is 5 for 6 in save opportunities.  The struggles have come from the injured Tom Gordon (-0.668 WXRL) who was very ineffective to start the season, as well as Francisco Rosario (-0.516 WXRL) and Ryan Madson (-0.084 WXRL).  As a team, the Philly relief pitchers are tied with the Rockies for a league worst OPS against of .803.

5.  Cincinnati Reds, -0.176 WXRL

The Reds have the worst winning percentage among National League teams in one and two-run games, once again look toward the bullpen.  Closer David Weathers has been solid, but not fantastic in high-leverage situations (0.323 WXRL) and far too many Reds' relief pitchers have struggled in big-time situations. Todd Coffey's WXRL of -0.359 is a team worst, whereas Victor Santos has pitched 21 ineffective innings (-0.047 WXRL).  As a team, hitters have hit for a .741 OPS against Reds' relievers (4th worst in National League).

6.  Chicago Cubs, -0.041 WXRL

Like the Yankees, much has been made of the Cubs' +21 run differential.  Chicago however, is 6-13 in one and two-run games which is once again the result of an insecure bullpen.  Leading the team in ineffectiveness is Scott Eyre (-1.015 WXRL) who has showed virtually no control this season.  Others such as Bob Howry (-0.352 WXRL) and Will Ohman (-0.294 WXRL) have also been shaky to start the year. However, I must point out that Ohman's poor WXRL figure may be the result of misuse by Lou Piniella. Ohman is a solid LOOGY these days, but right-handers have torched him for a .853 OPS thus far into the year.  Ohman shouldn't be facing right-handed hitters, it's that simple. The central bright spot in the Cubs' bullpen has been Ryan Dempster, who leads the team in WXRL at 0.973 despite Thursday's meltdown against the Mets.  As a team, the Cubs are tied with the Nationals and the Marlins for the worst save completion percentage in the National League at 53%.

7.  Oakland Athletics, 0.432 WXRL

Over the past couple of years the Oakland A's have featured strong bullpens; this year however is a different story so far.   Recently injured closer Huston Street leads all Oakland relievers in WXRL at 0.796 while left-hander Alan Embree has also been effective (0.500 WXRL) in high leverage situations.  Outside of those two though, there hasn't been anything real appealing.  The A's second highest leveraged reliever, Justin Duchscherer, has been surprisingly unproductive (-0.053 WXRL), while Jay Witasick (-0.400 WXRL) and Kiko Calero (-0.101 WXRL) have started the season off slowly. More interesting is the case of Jay Marshall (-0.182 WXRL).  Marshall was selected by the A's in the Rule 5 Draft this past winter; a submarine left-hander that held lefties to a .096 BAA last season in the minors showing solid groundball tendencies.  Right-handers however, raked Marshall and have done so this season as well.  In 29 AB's against Marshall lefties have hit .138/.206/.138 whereas righties have hit .333/.380/.511 against him in 45 AB's.  Like Will Ohman, Marshall has been misused. He's is your typical situational LOOGY.  Never should he face right-handed hitters.

8.  Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 0.520 WXRL

Is Al Reyes the "feel good" story of the year?  The Tampa Bay bullpen hasn't been real impressive so far, but their closer leads all major league relief pitchers in WXRL at 2.358.  Interestingly enough, Brian Stokes is Tampa's highest leveraged reliever (not Reyes) and he currently has the second lowest WXRL mark on the team at -0.477.  Ruddy Lugo (-0.488 WXRL), Shawn Camp (-0.362 WXRL) and Jae Kuk Ryu (-0.377 WXRL) have also struggled in relief roles.  Even more interesting is the fact the Rays are 16-8 in one and two-run despite this relatively weak bullpen.

9.  Toronto Blue Jays, 0.560 WXRL

The case of the Blue Jays bullpen is fascinating.  As a team, their WXRL mark is 9th worst in the majors, however, they are holding hitters to a .663 OPS against (2nd best in A.L.) and are striking out 7.91 hitters per nine innings (3rd best in A.L.).  While the Jays weren't getting production from the recently shut down B.J. Ryan (-1.383 WXRL) and still aren't getting production from step-in closer Jason Frasor (-0.390 WXRL) or Victor Zambrano (-0.350 WXRL), both Jeremy Accardo (1.130 WXRL) and Casey Janssen (1.118 WXRL) are quietly having very good seasons and could start closing if Frasor's struggles continue.  

10.  Florida Marlins, 1.025 WXRL

The major problem the Marlins' bullpen has ran into this season is closing games.  Their save completion percentage is tied with both Washington and Chicago for the worst mark in the National League at 53%.  Leading the pack in terms of ineffectiveness was Jorge Julio (-1.986 WXRL) who was recently dealt to Colorado for Byung-Hyun Kim (-0.341 WXRL) in a deal that looks pretty good for both sides.  Also struggling for Florida is Taylor Tankersley (-0.145 WXRL) and the recently-injured Ricky Nolasco (-0.145 WXRL).  On the flipside there is Kevin Gregg, who is off to an awesome start (1.231 WXRL) and might start closing games until the injured Henry Owens (0.790 WXRL) returns.