2017 Positional Power Rankings: Bullpen (#1-15)

And so we come to the end of our team-by-team positional reviews, with a topic near and dear to my heart: bullpens. In this case, specifically the top 15 projected bullpens, after Craig Edwards already examined the bottom 15. You can find his post linked above, if you haven’t seen it. You can find an introduction to this whole series linked above, if you haven’t seen that. I love to write about relievers, because just about every team has an underrated reliever in the upper system somewhere. In here we can think about some underrated relievers, as well as some relievers who are more properly rated. A plot, now, of the projected landscape:

There are some places where it’s clear that one team is the best in baseball at a certain position. Like, it’s obvious, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that no team is as set in center field as the Angels. This is not one of those places. Sure, we have all the bullpens ranked, and you can see those projections above and below, but think about the margins here, and various other factors. There’s a handful of teams out there that might claim to have baseball’s best bullpen. Maybe two handfuls! There are convincing arguments to be made, even beyond general reliever unpredictability. A good and deep bullpen might be more valued now than ever before, and it’s just my luck I get to write about a bunch of good and deep bullpens. Don’t fret too much about certain rankings. Plenty of bullpens here could be great. Let’s begin!

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Kenley Jansen 65.0 13.2 2.1 0.9 .302 80.6 % 2.38 2.22 2.6
Grant Dayton 65.0 11.7 2.7 1.0 .305 78.3 % 2.92 3.02 1.5
Pedro Baez   55.0 9.8 2.7 1.1 .299 74.8 % 3.44 3.49 0.7
Sergio Romo 55.0 9.5 2.1 1.3 .301 76.5 % 3.48 3.61 0.5
Ross Stripling 45.0 7.3 2.7 1.1 .306 70.4 % 4.21 4.11 0.0
Chris Hatcher 40.0 9.6 2.9 1.0 .305 75.4 % 3.49 3.53 0.3
Josh Fields 35.0 10.5 3.0 0.9 .311 73.3 % 3.45 3.21 0.1
Luis Avilan 30.0 8.5 3.4 1.0 .302 74.9 % 3.66 3.98 0.0
Adam Liberatore 25.0 9.8 3.2 0.9 .302 75.2 % 3.44 3.49 0.1
Alex Wood 20.0 8.0 2.7 1.0 .306 73.1 % 3.77 3.82 0.0
Brock Stewart   15.0 8.5 2.5 1.3 .305 72.3 % 4.07 4.06 0.0
Josh Ravin   10.0 10.9 4.0 1.3 .299 75.0 % 3.89 4.02 0.0
Jacob Rhame 10.0 9.8 3.7 1.0 .306 73.3 % 3.86 3.83 0.0
The Others 21.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 0.0
Total 491.0 10.0 2.7 1.0 .305 75.0 % 3.45 3.45 5.9

I don’t know how many people would pick the Dodgers as having baseball’s best bullpen. I don’t even know if the Dodgers would pick the Dodgers as having baseball’s best bullpen. As shown here, though, there’s at least a strong argument to be made, and it has to begin with Kenley Jansen, who — do I even need to tell you what he’s about?

Jansen has shown zero signs of slowing down, and he’s coming off his first season with 3+ WAR. He continues to run contact rates that are a little worse than Aroldis Chapman’s contact rates, but Jansen’s thing is that he’s thrown better than 70% strikes for three consecutive seasons. He has pinpoint command of one of the game’s great pitches, and his attack is both simple and overwhelming. Last year, league-wide, batters posted a .455 OPS after falling behind 0-and-2. They posted a .446 OPS against Jansen overall. Facing Kenley Jansen is like facing an average pitcher you’ve spotted two strikes.

Jansen is the obvious, proven one. Grant Dayton is the example here of how suddenly an excellent reliever can emerge. Dayton joined the Dodgers in the middle of 2015 in a nothing trade, and then last year he was completely dominant in Double-A, Triple-A, and finally the majors. He debuted months before his 29th birthday. In just shy of 80 combined innings, he had 17 walks and 130 strikeouts, largely on the strength of a rising 92mph fastball. Jansen dominates hitters, and they get it. Dayton dominates hitters, and it’s more of a mystery why. But there’s no doubting he’s fantastic.

It does, of course, drop off from there, but any bullpen would get worse after its top two relievers. It can be unpleasant to watch Pedro Baez go to work, but hitters don’t find the experience much more enjoyable. Sergio Romo isn’t the bullpen ace he once was, but he continues to excel against righties; two years back, he whiffed 64 righties, with one unintentional walk. Josh Fields can be a strikeout machine, but there have been reports of reduced velocity. Chris Hatcher has been effective in the recent past. Adam Liberatore has been effective in the more recent past. This isn’t a one- or a two-man unit. It’s just that the two men are really, unusually good.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Andrew Miller 65.0 14.2 2.3 0.8 .315 84.8 % 2.04 2.08 2.6
Cody Allen 65.0 11.7 3.4 1.0 .308 78.3 % 3.11 3.19 1.3
Bryan Shaw 55.0 8.6 3.3 1.0 .310 75.3 % 3.68 3.87 0.4
Boone Logan 55.0 11.0 3.7 1.0 .315 75.5 % 3.52 3.53 0.5
Dan Otero 45.0 6.7 1.8 0.9 .311 73.5 % 3.61 3.69 0.3
Zach McAllister 40.0 9.6 3.0 1.1 .316 75.8 % 3.64 3.71 0.3
Shawn Armstrong 35.0 11.2 4.5 1.0 .314 76.7 % 3.53 3.68 0.1
Perci Garner 30.0 7.8 4.0 1.0 .315 73.0 % 4.24 4.38 0.0
Kyle Crockett 25.0 8.2 3.3 1.0 .315 73.2 % 3.95 4.01 0.0
Chris Narveson 20.0 7.4 3.3 1.5 .309 72.1 % 4.76 4.90 0.0
Mike Clevinger 15.0 8.4 3.6 1.2 .311 71.7 % 4.46 4.39 0.0
Ryan Merritt 10.0 5.6 1.8 1.3 .312 69.0 % 4.60 4.49 0.0
Austin Adams 10.0 8.1 3.0 1.0 .307 70.9 % 4.02 3.86 0.0
The Others 8.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 0.0
Total 478.0 9.9 3.2 1.0 .313 75.7 % 3.51 3.58 5.4

One reason why you might be inclined to bet the over: Our depth charts limit relievers to a maximum of 65 innings pitched. And, you know, all things considered, that’s hardly unreasonable. But Andrew Miller just threw 74.1 innings, and his playoff usage showed he could go even more than that if desired. Miller isn’t likely to lead all relievers in innings pitched, and this could be a bigger issue with some other guys, but it’s something to keep in mind. Our depth charts assume fairly traditional bullpen usages and set-ups. Terry Francona isn’t conventional, and his bullpen is crazy.

Miller is just so fun. I know you might be tired of hearing his name, and I know you’ve probably thought at some point that the level of praise is exaggerated, but consider that he just posted a career-best strikeout rate and a career-best walk rate. Miller was amazing in 2015, and then he improved his K-BB% by nine percentage points. His ERA- plus his FIP- plus his xFIP- works out to 99. League average in any one of those stats is 100. Andrew Miller could probably teach some slider lessons to God.

Cody Allen is kind of the guy who makes Andrew Miller possible — if it weren’t for Allen being what he is as the closer, Francona wouldn’t feel so free to work Miller earlier on. Allen can have his fits of feeling unstable, because he can have a complicated relationship with the strike zone, but he makes it so hard to get the bat on the ball he comes with a big margin of error.

Bryan Shaw is the cutter specialist who was leaned on heavily in the playoffs, and although he’s no Miller, or even Allen, he’s a perfectly useful third or fourth guy, and here is where the Indians are also blessed. They’re blessed to have Miller, but they’re also blessed to have so much depth. Boone Logan is going to retire the lefties Miller doesn’t get a chance at. Zach McAllister has made a successful adjustment to fastball-heavy relief. Shawn Armstrong just struck out 35% of his opponents in Triple-A. And Dan Otero’s a journeyman grounder guy who just allowed a lower OPS than Rich Hill and Craig Kimbrel. You have to go pretty deep here to find a vulnerability. And now, unlike in the playoffs, the Indians’ rotation is at something more approximating full strength. Uh oh!

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Aroldis Chapman 65.0 14.6 3.6 0.8 .311 83.4 % 2.34 2.43 2.3
Dellin Betances 65.0 14.2 3.5 0.7 .314 81.0 % 2.41 2.29 2.4
Tyler Clippard 55.0 9.6 3.7 1.4 .295 75.7 % 4.05 4.38 0.3
Tommy Layne 55.0 8.2 4.2 1.0 .307 74.5 % 3.99 4.28 0.2
Adam Warren 45.0 7.7 3.3 1.2 .303 71.9 % 4.36 4.44 0.1
Ernesto Frieri 40.0 8.2 4.1 1.8 .296 71.6 % 5.18 5.34 -0.2
Jonathan Holder 35.0 9.5 2.4 1.2 .310 73.7 % 3.78 3.70 0.1
Ben Heller 30.0 9.6 4.2 1.3 .309 73.6 % 4.32 4.47 0.0
Chasen Shreve 25.0 9.8 3.8 1.3 .304 75.2 % 3.97 4.20 0.0
Dietrich Enns 20.0 8.0 4.3 1.2 .308 72.7 % 4.49 4.67 0.0
Johnny Barbato 15.0 9.2 4.3 1.2 .312 72.9 % 4.38 4.43 0.0
Giovanny Gallegos 10.0 9.9 2.8 1.3 .310 73.6 % 3.93 3.85 0.0
Domingo German 10.0 6.5 3.4 1.7 .309 68.8 % 5.39 5.37 0.0
Chad Green 10.0 8.3 2.8 1.4 .312 71.5 % 4.49 4.40 0.0
Bryan Mitchell 10.0 7.2 4.2 1.4 .310 69.0 % 5.21 5.10 0.0
The Others 14.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 0.0
Total 504.0 10.2 3.7 1.2 .307 75.1 % 3.83 3.92 5.2

Repeating the point from above: Our depth charts limit relievers to a maximum of 65 innings pitched. Dellin Betances threw 65 innings while I walked downstairs to get a glass of water. This is most certainly a case where the Yankees might be getting sold a little short, not that it should make an enormous difference — no matter what, this bullpen is good, and it’s good mostly because of that terrifying twosome.

Last year, Betances threw 73 innings. That was low for him! The year before, he threw 84, and the year before that, he threw 90. Betances has become familiar with little annual slumps, which some have blamed on a pattern of overuse, but if we’re going to be honest, every good reliever hits slumps, and when Betances is rolling, he’s as good as anyone else. His career ERA- is 53. Aroldis Chapman’s career ERA- is 53. I don’t know how you’re supposed to pick.

So, thankfully for the Yankees, they don’t have to, because they employ ’em both! Granted, this has led to some ugliness between Betances and management, with regard to his salaries, but let’s just assume that’ll blow over. The Yankees love this arrangement, because although they don’t have Andrew Miller anymore, that was an embarrassment of riches, and Chapman-Betances is the best bullpen one-two punch in the world. I know I don’t need to explain Aroldis Chapman to you, but one interesting note — he just had a career-best average fastball, and a career-high zone rate. Chapman threw two-thirds of his pitches for strikes, and he somewhat hilariously pitched to more contact. The results were predictable.

The soft underbelly is, relative to the other bits, a marshmallow you pull out of the microwave. No team has a larger difference between its second-best reliever and its third-best reliever. To the Yankees’ credit, they took a chance on Tyler Clippard, and his small-sample home-run problem went away. He still doesn’t allow that much contact, so he can play. Tommy Layne, if nothing else, can keep lefties kind of annoyed. My favorite guy here is Jonathan Holder, who owned the upper minors, but the same could be said of Giovanny Gallegos, so it’s nice to have two of those. That is, really and truly, the Ernesto Frieri whose name you see in the table, and his fly-ball issue can be mitigated if his strikeouts come back. The Yankees are going to sort through a bunch of middle-reliever options in the sixth and seventh, probably. They won’t have a problem in the innings after those.

4. Cubs
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Wade Davis 65.0 11.7 3.1 0.8 .297 81.1 % 2.48 2.81 1.8
Hector Rondon 65.0 9.6 2.3 0.9 .302 76.6 % 3.07 3.19 1.3
Koji Uehara 55.0 10.7 2.3 1.0 .291 76.6 % 3.07 3.13 1.0
Carl Edwards Jr. 55.0 11.7 5.0 0.9 .298 77.0 % 3.40 3.57 0.5
Pedro Strop 45.0 10.8 3.5 0.8 .297 77.2 % 2.95 3.21 0.4
Justin Grimm 40.0 10.5 3.8 0.9 .304 75.1 % 3.43 3.51 0.3
Brian Duensing 35.0 7.4 3.2 1.0 .296 75.0 % 3.68 4.12 0.0
Mike Montgomery 30.0 7.8 3.5 0.9 .297 73.2 % 3.76 4.08 0.0
Rob Zastryzny 25.0 8.0 3.6 1.3 .304 70.9 % 4.48 4.51 0.0
Caleb Smith 20.0 4.8 9.1 1.3 .299 69.0 % 6.76 7.11 -0.2
The Others 31.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 0.0
Total 466.0 9.8 3.6 1.0 .300 75.3 % 3.51 3.67 5.0

When people talk about potential Cubs vulnerabilities for 2017, much of the focus has been on the rotation. And, indeed, the rotation is fairly thin, behind its top options. But now look at this bullpen. On name value, and on track record, this bullpen could be outstanding. That’s why it ranks fourth in this list. Yet the question marks are numerous, and we can begin with Wade Davis.

You could’ve argued that, between 2014 – 2015, Davis was the best reliever in the game. And he was by no means bad in 2016, but he started to feel mortal, and worse, he had an arm problem that damaged his trade market. The Cubs were aware of that when they picked him up, but as I write this, Davis has allowed nine hits and eight runs in 3.2 spring innings, with five walks and six strikeouts. His velocity remains below what it was at his peak. Davis could be awesome, or Davis could be hurt. I’m not comfortable predicting either.

Hector Rondon is pretty great! Just had career-best rates of both strikeouts and walks. Big velocity, wipe-out slider. Strained triceps in August. Didn’t see that much action in the playoffs.

Koji Uehara is almost 42, and he’s coming off his first 3+ ERA since he was a big-league rookie. He just averaged his lowest-ever fastball velocity, and he had his own stint on the disabled list. His contact rate allowed went up by eight percentage points. The peripherals, at least, remained good.

Davis, I don’t know. Rondon and Uehara, I don’t know. Thankfully, the Cubs have more than just those three options. Carl Edwards Jr. rides a high-spin fastball to crazy swing-and-miss rates, and Pedro Strop has been fantastic ever since being the other part of the Jake Arrieta trade. Ever so quietly, Justin Grimm just struck batters out at the same rate as Roberto Osuna. And Mike Montgomery just turned himself into a quality ground-ball reliever, which he can be again unless he shifts to starting. With health-related breaks, the Cubs bullpen could certainly be the best. With health-related…other…breaks?…the Cubs bullpen could need some reinforcements. There’s enough depth to avoid becoming a problem. This is what passes for a current Cubs vulnerability, I suppose.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Seung Hwan Oh 65.0 10.6 2.3 0.9 .308 77.3 % 2.92 2.89 1.7
Kevin Siegrist 65.0 10.2 4.1 1.1 .297 76.2 % 3.65 3.95 0.6
Trevor Rosenthal 55.0 11.0 4.5 0.7 .321 76.8 % 3.26 3.39 0.7
Brett Cecil 55.0 10.8 2.9 0.7 .316 76.2 % 3.00 2.90 1.0
Jonathan Broxton 45.0 8.4 3.4 0.9 .306 72.1 % 3.86 3.83 0.2
Tyler Lyons   40.0 9.1 2.3 1.2 .300 76.3 % 3.41 3.65 0.3
Matt Bowman 35.0 7.1 2.8 0.8 .307 72.1 % 3.73 3.73 0.0
Miguel Socolovich 30.0 8.9 3.2 0.8 .305 73.5 % 3.51 3.51 0.1
John Gant   25.0 8.1 3.6 1.1 .310 71.2 % 4.39 4.29 0.0
Mike Mayers 20.0 7.0 3.2 1.2 .310 69.9 % 4.55 4.47 0.0
Samuel Tuivailala 15.0 10.4 4.6 0.8 .312 75.1 % 3.63 3.72 0.0
Rowan Wick 10.0 9.2 4.8 0.8 .313 73.3 % 3.96 3.92 0.0
The Others 26.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 0.0
Total 486.0 9.5 3.4 0.9 .309 74.4 % 3.59 3.62 4.5

The further we get from the top spot, the more difficult it is to see the potential best bullpen in the majors. I’d designate the Cardinals as pretty extreme underdogs in that regard — I don’t think this has the makings of the No. 1 bullpen. Not, at least, unless Trevor Rosenthal re-discovers the strike zone. But what this group isn’t is a weakness, and it all starts with Seung Hwan Oh, who was better than you realized last year. Or maybe he was exactly as good as you realized, but there’s nothing wrong with a reminder, right?

Last season, 130 relievers threw at least 50 innings. Zach Britton allowed the lowest wOBA. Duh. Kenley Jansen was behind him. Aroldis Chapman finished third, and Andrew Miller finished fourth. Oh finished fifth. At .223, Oh allowed about the same wOBA that Rangers pitchers hit for. Only Chapman allowed a lower contact rate against pitches in the strike zone, which speaks to Oh’s dominance. He doesn’t have elite-level heat, but very clearly, he doesn’t need it.

The best of the other pitchers is Brett Cecil, who the Cardinals scooped up for four years. And there was some controversy about that, but there shouldn’t have been — Cecil isn’t old yet, he still throws as hard as ever, and he’s been a strikeout machine for four straight seasons. After he came back from injury last year, the only issue was five homers allowed, which is the very essence of noise.

Although I’m interested in Tyler Lyons, he’s expected to start the year on the DL because of his knee. I’m far less interested in Jonathan Broxton, and far more interested in Rosenthal, who for a short while was stuck in a sort of role-related limbo. I’ll note that Rosenthal has the same stuff he’s always had, and even last year he still got his strikeouts. He’s kind of a wild card, and now, the last thing I want to point out is that, last season, out of all the pitchers with at least 50 innings, Kevin Siegrist faced opponents with the highest average OPS. He still kept his ERA under 3. It’s a subtle fun fact, but an impressive one.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Zach Britton 65.0 10.3 2.7 0.6 .307 80.5 % 2.38 2.71 2.0
Darren O’Day 65.0 10.2 2.9 1.2 .301 78.6 % 3.35 3.79 1.0
Mychal Givens 55.0 10.9 3.7 0.9 .309 76.5 % 3.33 3.46 0.8
Brad Brach 55.0 10.4 3.5 1.0 .303 77.2 % 3.37 3.55 0.6
Jayson Aquino 45.0 5.5 2.8 1.4 .308 69.0 % 5.09 5.08 -0.1
Donnie Hart 40.0 6.9 3.1 1.0 .304 73.6 % 3.96 4.26 0.1
Chris Lee 35.0 5.1 4.1 1.3 .307 68.6 % 5.34 5.35 -0.1
Oliver Drake 30.0 10.7 4.1 1.0 .310 74.7 % 3.74 3.75 0.1
Vidal Nuno 25.0 7.9 2.3 1.4 .302 74.1 % 4.13 4.34 0.0
Richard Bleier 20.0 4.3 1.7 1.3 .308 68.8 % 4.73 4.76 0.0
Jason Garcia 15.0 5.6 4.4 1.2 .308 69.1 % 5.29 5.33 0.0
Ubaldo Jimenez 10.0 7.8 4.1 1.2 .311 70.3 % 4.73 4.57 0.0
Jesus Liranzo 10.0 8.8 5.0 1.4 .302 72.3 % 4.80 5.02 0.0
Joe Gunkel 10.0 6.4 1.8 1.4 .310 69.1 % 4.69 4.54 0.0
The Others 42.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 0.0
Total 522.0 8.6 3.3 1.1 .307 73.8 % 3.95 4.08 4.3

Welcome to the reason why the Orioles are going to think of themselves as contenders again. Oh, sure, they’re going to blast a bunch of dingers. And yeah, maybe Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy take steps forward, and Chris Tillman looks good on the other side of a shoulder complication. It’s not that, outside of the bullpen, the Orioles suck. But the bullpen has been the key to the Orioles overachieving year after year after year, and I guess it shouldn’t surprise you, but the Orioles are set once more to control the last few innings.

Zach Britton might be the game’s closest current equivalent to Mariano Rivera, not that Britton’s record is close to as long as Rivera’s was. But Britton leans just as heavily on one pitch, one overwhelmingly dominant pitch, one pitch that allows him to maintain strong peripherals while also almost completely avoiding hard contact. When Britton comes in, Orioles fans don’t think of a win as a foregone conclusion, because no one has ever been that comfortable with a closer, but Britton is as close to automatic as you can get, one less tough decision for a manager to have to make.

What props this up further in my mind is Darren O’Day. While I understand that O’Day did struggle through some injuries last year, including some rotator-cuff discomfort, O’Day has a career ERA of 2.41, more than a full run better than his FIP. While he doesn’t have a single season with a WAR of at least 2, he has six such seasons by RA9-WAR, and a healthy O’Day provides Britton with a hell of a support system.

Not that it’s even all that necessary, because, Brad Brach! Mychal Givens! Brach just held righties to a .180 wOBA. Givens just held righties to a .233 wOBA. The Orioles are still searching for a more reliable non-Britton lefty, because Givens, Brach, and O’Day will all run substantial platoon splits, but I’ll call your attention to Richard Bleier — he’s a no-one, and he’s been optioned to the minors, but last year he held lefties to a .241 SLG. The year before, against Bleier, lefties had one walk and 27 strikeouts. There’s funk there, and soft contact, and the Orioles love having options.

Oliver Drake has dominated Triple-A two years in a row. Vidal Nuno has out-pitched his stuff. And on and on it goes. If O’Day is healthy is more like his usual self, this unit could be absolutely lethal. And it’s why I can’t let myself entirely write the Orioles off. Buck Showalter is too good with his bullpen management, aside from, well-

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Ken Giles 65.0 12.1 3.2 0.9 .318 77.1 % 3.03 2.88 1.7
Luke Gregerson 65.0 9.2 2.5 1.0 .302 74.9 % 3.46 3.51 0.9
Will Harris 55.0 9.4 2.9 1.0 .307 75.6 % 3.37 3.51 0.6
Christopher Devenski 55.0 8.8 2.3 1.1 .303 75.1 % 3.58 3.68 0.5
Tony Sipp   45.0 9.5 3.2 1.3 .301 76.5 % 3.83 4.07 0.2
Michael Feliz 40.0 10.1 3.4 1.1 .314 72.8 % 3.96 3.74 0.2
Brad Peacock 35.0 8.4 3.8 1.4 .305 71.3 % 4.65 4.64 -0.1
James Hoyt 30.0 11.5 3.3 0.9 .313 76.5 % 3.19 3.18 0.2
David Paulino   25.0 8.4 2.9 1.1 .308 71.8 % 4.11 4.07 0.0
Jandel Gustave 20.0 8.2 3.8 1.1 .308 72.5 % 4.25 4.30 0.0
Brady Rodgers 15.0 7.2 2.0 1.3 .312 69.4 % 4.46 4.20 0.0
Ashur Tolliver 10.0 8.7 4.1 1.2 .309 72.0 % 4.47 4.48 0.0
The Others 36.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 -0.1
Total 496.0 9.5 3.1 1.1 .309 74.0 % 3.78 3.77 4.3

Let’s highlight some individual statistics!

The Astros led the majors in bullpen WAR last season. Second place was 1.3 wins behind.

Ken Giles had baseball’s ninth-best strikeout rate, out of 130 relievers with 50+ innings.

Luke Gregerson allowed baseball’s lowest contact rate, out of the same sample.

Will Harris had baseball’s 12th-best FIP-, out of the same sample.

Chris Devenski had baseball’s eighth-best FIP-, out of the same sample.

Michael Feliz had baseball’s 10th-best strikeout rate, out of the same sample.

James Hoyt had the single highest strikeout rate in Triple-A, out of 293 pitchers with 50+ innings.

I get that those guys are all righties, and southpaw Tony Sipp is coming off a miserable 2016. I get that platoon issues can be troublesome when you’re talking about higher-leverage situations. But Jandel Gustave is also here, hurling a fastball around the triple digits. Devenski has shown the ability to go multiple innings. Feliz has shown the ability to go multiple innings. In both talent and depth, this Astros bullpen looks incredibly good, and although it might have its shortcomings, this is a team strength. This is a very good-looking, complementary bullpen for a team that has injury and durability questions with many of its current starters.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Edwin Diaz 65.0 12.4 2.5 0.9 .318 78.5 % 2.76 2.65 1.9
Dan Altavilla 65.0 8.6 3.4 1.1 .307 73.9 % 3.93 4.07 0.5
Nick Vincent 55.0 9.5 2.7 1.2 .307 75.1 % 3.65 3.70 0.6
Evan Scribner 55.0 9.8 1.9 1.3 .305 76.8 % 3.41 3.55 0.5
Marc Rzepczynski 45.0 9.0 4.0 0.8 .318 75.3 % 3.58 3.77 0.2
Steve Cishek   40.0 9.7 3.2 1.0 .309 74.9 % 3.56 3.61 0.3
Casey Fien 35.0 8.1 2.0 1.2 .305 72.5 % 3.90 3.81 0.1
James Pazos 30.0 9.7 4.0 1.0 .308 74.9 % 3.71 3.88 0.1
Tony Zych   25.0 10.2 2.9 0.9 .313 76.3 % 3.31 3.39 0.1
Shae Simmons   20.0 9.1 4.2 0.8 .305 74.2 % 3.58 3.73 0.0
Paul Fry 15.0 9.3 4.1 1.0 .309 74.4 % 3.84 3.98 0.0
Zac Curtis 10.0 9.9 3.9 1.1 .307 76.0 % 3.84 4.10 0.0
Thyago Vieira 10.0 7.1 5.3 1.1 .308 70.0 % 5.11 5.19 0.0
Max Povse 10.0 7.0 2.5 1.2 .309 70.9 % 4.32 4.28 0.0
The Others 17.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 0.0
Total 497.0 9.6 3.1 1.0 .310 74.8 % 3.63 3.69 4.2

One year ago, Edwin Diaz was one of the better starting-pitching prospects in a weak system. Dan Altavilla was coming off a year in which he made 28 starts in High-A. Nick Vincent was a member of the Padres. This should give you a pretty good idea of how quickly a big-league bullpen can be re-shaped. Vincent arrived in an unremarkable trade at the end of spring training, and he averaged better than a strikeout per frame. Altavilla was converted to relief and he managed a combined 1.70 ERA between Double-A and the majors. And Diaz was the big huge obvious success story, turning an unpopular job change into a decision that might’ve given him a dominant MLB career.

We talk a lot about sample sizes, and we talk a lot about the importance of keeping one’s track record in mind. Diaz has barely thrown 50 major-league innings, and you wouldn’t think that would be able to tell you too much. But I’ve seen all the evidence I need to conclude that Diaz belongs among the relieving elite. His fastball just averaged 97, his unhittable slider averaged 87, and Diaz limited his walks while also avoiding contact even within the strike zone. For as long as Edwin Diaz stays healthy, he’s one of the…5? 10? 15? best relievers in the game. He’s how you want all reliever conversions to go.

After Diaz is when it gets more dicey. Altavilla’s young and his stuff is just fine, but he didn’t come close to Diaz’s performance. His control in a small big-league sample was better than what he had in Double-A. Vincent has made a career of getting righties out, but he’s been bit by a few too many dingers to feel like he’s stable. There’s reason to be interested in Evan Scribner and Steve Cishek — Scribner has 90 strikeouts and six walks over the past three years, but he’s had injuries, while Cishek is on the way back from hip surgery. He pitched last year like he was back around his peak.

And even beyond that, Tony Zych is working back from arm issues, and he’s struck out a third of his major-league opponents. Thyago Vieria is a quick-rising prospect who’s blown triple-digit heat. It’s quite easy to look at this group and figure out how it could be greatly successful. But there are also enough question marks the Mariners could end up hunting for depth, and Marc Rzepczynski doesn’t inspire much confidence anymore as a No. 1 southpaw. It’s a volatile collection. Could be outstanding! Could be less outstanding.

9. Mets
Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Jeurys Familia 65.0 9.6 3.3 0.7 .308 76.1 % 3.07 3.21 1.2
Addison Reed 65.0 9.8 2.4 1.0 .309 74.8 % 3.36 3.25 1.1
Hansel Robles 55.0 10.0 3.5 1.1 .300 74.5 % 3.70 3.75 0.6
Fernando Salas 55.0 9.0 2.4 1.1 .304 72.3 % 3.83 3.68 0.5
Jerry Blevins 45.0 10.0 3.3 0.9 .310 73.3 % 3.65 3.49 0.3
Josh Smoker 40.0 11.2 3.3 1.0 .313 76.0 % 3.37 3.32 0.3
Sean Gilmartin 35.0 7.7 2.8 1.1 .307 70.9 % 4.14 4.05 0.0
Rafael Montero 30.0 8.0 4.1 1.3 .307 70.3 % 4.78 4.65 -0.1
Zack Wheeler 25.0 8.7 3.6 0.9 .311 73.5 % 3.88 3.94 0.0
Seth Lugo 20.0 7.2 2.8 1.3 .305 70.1 % 4.53 4.48 0.0
Paul Sewald 15.0 9.7 3.2 1.1 .309 73.2 % 3.80 3.72 0.0
Erik Goeddel 10.0 8.8 3.9 1.1 .305 71.5 % 4.27 4.15 0.0
Josh Edgin 10.0 9.1 4.4 1.0 .307 74.4 % 3.95 4.11 0.0
Marcos Molina 10.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 0.0
Chris Flexen   10.0 6.3 4.3 1.2 .306 69.5 % 4.99 5.02 0.0
The Others 8.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 0.0
Total 498.0 9.2 3.2 1.0 .308 73.3 % 3.79 3.74 4.1

I mentioned a little earlier that the Astros finished with baseball’s highest bullpen WAR a season ago. The team in second place: the Mets, who finished at 6.6. I don’t know if the Mets got enough credit for the relief pitching they rolled out there, and I suspect they didn’t, given how much of the focus is forever on the health and success of their starting pitchers. Well, basically everyone’s coming back. The Mets didn’t change too much up over the offseason, and the bullpen’s going to get a chance to do it again.

The leader here is Jeurys Familia, although he’s presumably facing a suspension at the start. I don’t really want to gloss right over that, but ultimately this is a post about performance, and so, acknowledging that the Familia story is complicated, his performances have been very good. So they shall likely continue. As last year went along, there were people who missed Familia’s 90+mph splitter he threw later in 2015. The pitch was missed because it was absurd, but Familia didn’t miss it — he decided to just lean on his fastball, and he got his outs while avoiding balls in the air. He’s not quite on the Zach Britton level, but it’s a similar kind of idea.

Addison Reed is an interesting one. His strikeouts were great, and his walks were great, because he just obliterated the strike zone. His ERA was 1.97! He had a hell of a year, but then he did basically the same thing in 2014 with Arizona, when his ERA was 4.25. I’d expect some more home runs, although he’ll still be good enough to get by.

Hansel Robles is an uncommon righty reliever, in that he’s allowed a .327 wOBA to righties, and a .248 wOBA to lefties. That’s a credit to his changeup, but still, Jerry Blevins is around to be the main weapon against lefties, after he had a big comeback season. Quietly, Fernando Salas pitched well for the Mets down the last stretch, with no walks and 19 strikeouts, so he might’ve found a comfortable home. And you have to be intrigued by that Josh Smoker projected strikeout rate — between Triple-A and the majors, he just whiffed 106 batters in 72.1 frames. The rotation here is sexy. The rotation here is critical. The bullpen here is probably underrated.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Koda Glover 65.0 9.3 2.7 1.1 .308 74.0 % 3.65 3.63 0.8
Shawn Kelley 65.0 11.1 2.7 1.0 .306 76.7 % 3.20 3.09 1.4
Blake Treinen 55.0 8.7 3.7 0.7 .312 75.1 % 3.39 3.51 0.6
Joe Blanton 55.0 9.1 2.6 1.1 .305 75.1 % 3.51 3.60 0.4
Sammy Solis 45.0 9.6 3.5 0.9 .309 76.8 % 3.35 3.58 0.3
Oliver Perez 40.0 9.9 3.7 0.9 .313 74.4 % 3.67 3.80 0.2
Enny Romero 35.0 9.1 4.1 1.0 .304 73.1 % 3.97 3.99 0.0
Trevor Gott 30.0 7.2 3.5 0.8 .308 72.7 % 3.86 4.03 0.1
Rafael Martin 25.0 9.5 3.7 1.2 .307 73.9 % 3.98 4.05 0.0
Matt Grace 20.0 6.5 3.0 0.8 .310 72.0 % 3.97 4.04 0.0
Austin Voth 15.0 7.7 3.4 1.1 .308 71.8 % 4.28 4.32 0.0
Jimmy Cordero 10.0 7.1 4.4 1.1 .309 69.2 % 4.85 4.74 0.0
Austin Adams 10.0 9.5 6.0 0.9 .312 73.4 % 4.30 4.48 0.0
The Others 16.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 0.0
Total 486.0 9.2 3.4 1.0 .309 74.2 % 3.69 3.74 3.7

This is one bullpen where there’s been some spring-training intrigue, as Dusty Baker has toyed with the idea of installing Koda Glover as his opening-day closer. A number of people have predicted that Glover could close by July, so maybe bumping the timeline up to April doesn’t mean very much. But don’t come away with the wrong impression — the Nationals haven’t been futzing around with the closer role because they don’t have good relievers. They just don’t have a clear closer, is all. And if we’re going to be totally honest with one another, they’ll probably trade for somebody at some point.

Shawn Kelley is as good as he’s ever been, and he just had easily the best K-BB% of his career. If there’s a problem with Kelley, it’s that you never really know when his next pitch might be his last for a very long time. His elbow has been through a few wars. As for Joe Blanton, the Nationals finally came to his rescue, ending a somewhat perplexing free agency. Blanton’s been a pretty good reliever two years in a row, throwing 156 innings, at that. And Blake Treinen? I’ve always liked Blake Treinen, because of his menacing sinker. Last year he had one of baseball’s best soft-hit rates, and, correspondingly, one of baseball’s best hard-hit rates. He makes it almost impossible to get the ball off the ground, and his only shortcoming is in the walks department.

So those three pitchers are fine. Sammy Solis can retire his lefties. Oliver Perez somehow still misses bats. We’ll see how much ends up riding on Glover. They still haven’t officially named a closer, and Glover’s just one candidate. He’s thrown all of 19.2 big-league innings, and his results were mediocre. His results in the minors were a lot better than that, and this is a 23-year-old who stands 6’5, with a fastball that bumps against 100. I’ll say this much: If Koda Glover is ready for the majors, the Nationals shouldn’t have to worry about their bullpen. Having four or five reliable arms ought to be enough for a World Series contender. If Glover comes up short — or, I suppose, if there’s an injury — the Nationals can say hello to the trade market again. David Robertson is still on the White Sox. That situation can’t last.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Greg Holland 65.0 10.8 4.2 0.8 .319 75.0 % 3.56 3.40 1.4
Adam Ottavino 65.0 10.0 3.3 1.1 .318 75.3 % 3.73 3.72 1.0
Carlos Estevez 55.0 9.2 3.8 1.1 .319 72.3 % 4.20 4.05 0.5
Jake McGee 55.0 8.9 2.9 1.1 .317 75.0 % 3.85 3.88 0.5
Chad Qualls   45.0 6.8 2.3 1.2 .320 70.4 % 4.55 4.29 0.1
Mike Dunn 40.0 9.2 3.5 1.3 .318 73.6 % 4.28 4.34 0.2
Jason Motte 35.0 7.2 3.0 1.6 .313 71.8 % 4.95 4.97 -0.1
Miguel Castro 30.0 8.4 4.0 1.2 .329 74.5 % 4.39 4.45 0.1
Chris Rusin   25.0 6.4 2.7 1.2 .321 70.9 % 4.56 4.44 0.0
Scott Oberg 20.0 8.1 4.0 1.1 .315 73.0 % 4.31 4.44 0.0
Gonzalez Germen 15.0 7.9 4.8 1.3 .315 71.9 % 4.99 5.00 0.0
Jeff Hoffman 10.0 8.1 3.5 1.2 .320 72.7 % 4.40 4.41 0.0
Antonio Senzatela 10.0 6.4 3.0 1.4 .320 69.9 % 5.03 4.90 0.0
Rayan Gonzalez   10.0 7.5 4.8 1.1 .321 71.0 % 4.88 4.82 0.0
Sam Moll 10.0 7.3 3.6 1.3 .323 73.1 % 4.57 4.69 0.0
Jairo Diaz   10.0 8.4 4.5 1.2 .319 72.5 % 4.61 4.65 0.0
The Others 16.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 0.0
Total 516.0 8.7 3.5 1.2 .319 73.1 % 4.24 4.18 3.7

The Rockies fascinate me. I mean, the Rockies always fascinate me, just because of where they play half of their games, but recent versions of the Rockies have gotten increasingly compelling. There’s talk they could be a wild-card sleeper this time around, and, sure, I can see that. However, when people talk about the Rockies as a sleeper team, they tend to focus on the young players the Rockies have developed or otherwise installed. There are plenty of them, but as I analyze this roster in particular, I see so much hanging on a 31-year-old, another 31-year-old, and a 30-year-old.

Greg Holland’s 31, by the way. In case you didn’t know what I was getting at. Adam Ottavino is 31. Jake McGee is 30, creeping up on 31. I just wrote about this bullpen last week, because I couldn’t help myself. These three relievers have, fairly recently, pitched like three of the very best relievers in the sport. If everything went right, the Rockies’ bullpen could become something absolutely terrifying. Yet Holland is returning from Tommy John surgery. Ottavino had Tommy John in 2015. McGee is trying to get over some knee problems. And I guess I should note that a while back he had a Tommy John procedure of his own.

Every reliever on every club is to some extent unpredictable, but I really just can’t tell you what the Rockies are going to end up having. If Holland is back around 100%, he’ll look like a steal of the offseason. Early velocity returns are encouraging. McGee, also, has shown some improved velocity, with his knee issues seemingly behind him. I just don’t know if that’ll be long-lasting. At least Ottavino closed out 2016 pitching well, but his own health record is spotty. There’s hardly enough depth beyond these names.

Last season, the Rockies bullpen had baseball’s worst WPA. Carlos Estevez could have a strong future as a righty who throws 97, but he still has to grow into reliability. I’m not impressed by the various other million-dollar veterans in this group. The error bars here are enormous. The bullpen could be a strength, a weakness, or something in between. I’m sorry I can’t tell you much more than that.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Craig Kimbrel 65.0 12.6 4.0 0.9 .311 78.8 % 3.01 3.09 1.4
Joe Kelly 65.0 9.6 3.3 0.9 .319 74.8 % 3.50 3.51 0.9
Robbie Ross Jr. 55.0 8.3 3.3 0.9 .312 73.8 % 3.75 3.98 0.3
Tyler Thornburg   55.0 9.6 3.7 1.0 .306 76.4 % 3.63 3.83 0.4
Matt Barnes 45.0 9.2 3.8 1.0 .316 73.7 % 3.91 3.87 0.2
Carson Smith   40.0 9.6 3.3 0.8 .317 75.3 % 3.32 3.39 0.3
Fernando Abad 35.0 8.6 3.6 1.0 .303 74.5 % 3.88 4.06 0.0
Heath Hembree 30.0 8.9 3.3 1.1 .310 74.8 % 3.84 3.98 0.1
Noe Ramirez 25.0 8.3 3.6 1.1 .313 73.8 % 4.09 4.25 0.0
Robby Scott 20.0 7.5 2.8 1.2 .312 72.9 % 4.17 4.21 0.0
Brandon Workman 15.0 7.1 3.6 1.2 .318 69.5 % 4.85 4.61 0.0
Luis Ysla 10.0 7.7 5.1 1.2 .314 72.0 % 4.93 5.08 0.0
Chandler Shepherd 10.0 7.6 3.0 1.1 .313 71.4 % 4.32 4.21 0.0
Kyle Kendrick 10.0 5.3 2.5 1.5 .312 68.2 % 5.20 5.07 0.0
Total 451.0 9.4 3.5 1.0 .312 75.1 % 3.65 3.76 3.6

Here’s another bullpen with fairly substantial error bars. How much do you want to trust Joe Kelly’s late-season emergence? How much do you want to trust that Tyler Thornburg keeps his arm in one piece? How much do you like Carson Smith on the other side of Tommy John surgery? If the Red Sox get enough things right, here, then by June or July, they could have one of the best bullpens in the game. There’s a lot that could still happen between now and then.

I wonder if we’ve gotten bored of Craig Kimbrel. I understand he just had his highest walk rate since he was a rookie, but his strikeout rate was outstanding again, and he throws as hard as ever. Kimbrel is still one of the toughest pitchers on the planet to face if you just want to get the bat on the ball, and he could be at least in part a victim of extreme-fatigue. That is, he’s been crazy for too long, and it’s just what we expect now. I suppose it also feels like there are more relievers who are statistically insane. Serves to spread the love around, while also diluting the pool.

Everyone’s probably sick of waiting for Kelly to figure it out, but maybe, just maybe, this time he has — he got moved to the bullpen and he owned Triple-A, and then when he came back, he allowed a .247 wOBA in 17.2 innings. Kelly the reliever did just about everything right, and now it’s just a matter of his repeating said performance. That’s always been his problem, but he could be comfortable now.

Thornburg is coming off a breakout campaign that saw him lift his strikeout rate 12 percentage points. His fly-ball tendency makes him a little dangerous, but any team would love a 66 FIP-. And the last time Smith was healthy and pitching on the regular, he ran a…53 FIP-. He’s months away from joining the Red Sox if everything goes well, but he could make a midseason impact of the magnitude everyone in the trade market’s always looking for.

Matt Barnes is all right, and Robbie Ross can handle a variety of situations without setting himself on fire. The Red Sox have enough depth they don’t need every single break. The more of them they get, the more distance they should be able to keep between themselves and the division’s second-best team.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Ryan Madson 65.0 7.8 2.8 1.0 .312 74.0 % 3.78 3.83 0.6
Sean Doolittle 65.0 11.2 2.1 1.2 .304 76.3 % 3.27 3.11 1.5
Santiago Casilla 55.0 8.3 3.1 1.0 .304 75.6 % 3.64 3.99 0.3
Ryan Dull 55.0 8.9 2.6 1.2 .302 74.7 % 3.72 3.83 0.5
John Axford 45.0 8.4 4.2 0.9 .315 72.7 % 4.11 4.10 0.1
Liam Hendriks 40.0 9.2 2.0 0.9 .318 73.1 % 3.42 3.13 0.4
Daniel Coulombe 35.0 9.4 4.0 0.8 .315 73.6 % 3.70 3.62 0.1
Francelis Montas 30.0 10.0 3.8 0.9 .312 74.9 % 3.57 3.62 0.1
Chris Smith 25.0 8.0 3.3 1.1 .309 71.4 % 4.26 4.19 0.0
J.B. Wendelken   20.0 7.7 3.2 1.0 .319 71.1 % 4.27 4.11 0.0
Raul Alcantara 15.0 5.9 2.4 1.4 .310 68.3 % 4.94 4.82 0.0
Bobby Wahl 10.0 8.9 5.0 1.0 .314 71.6 % 4.50 4.42 0.0
The Others 48.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 -0.1
Total 508.0 8.8 3.1 1.0 .311 73.2 % 3.89 3.85 3.5

This is a bullpen that could be sneaky-good. I don’t think many people are expecting the A’s to play a lot of relevant baseball in 2017, and for however much attention is being given to the roster, a considerable share of that is going to just Sonny Gray. And Gray, and the rest of the rotation, will in large part determine the A’s ultimate fate. But we’ve seen the A’s tanked before by unreliable relief. That shouldn’t happen again, not without an awful lot going wrong.

Sean Doolittle just got back most of the way to what he was before, prior to the shoulder problems we can’t wave away. He missed time again, but he was effective when he pitched, throwing that 95mph high fastball, with six strikeouts for every walk. A healthy-ish Doolittle is a good Doolittle, even if 2014 might not happen again. Ryan Madson took a step back last year and might not be the game’s most reliable closer, but he did, at least, maintain a low contact rate. And besides, the bigger story is the other Ryan, Ryan Dull, who issued just 11 unintentional free passes over more than 70 innings. Dull’s strikes keep him in pitcher-friendly counts, and so he works consistently ahead.

Santiago Casilla’s coming off the highest strikeout rate of his life. He’s depth. John Axford still throws in the mid-90s. He’s depth. Liam Hendriks just had a 68 FIP-, following up a 52 FIP-. He’s depth. Daniel Coulombe turned minor-league strikeouts into major-league strikeouts, with a whole bunch of ground balls. He’s depth. And Frankie Montas, if he’s healthy, can get up to 100 miles per hour. He’s depth. There’s a good number of big-league relievers in here. A lot could still turn on Doolittle’s shoulder, but count the bullpen as a reason why the A’s could hang around longer than many expect.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Sam Dyson 65.0 7.8 2.9 0.8 .314 74.2 % 3.55 3.68 0.9
Matt Bush 65.0 9.5 2.8 1.0 .309 74.5 % 3.48 3.46 1.2
Jeremy Jeffress 55.0 7.4 3.2 0.8 .320 74.7 % 3.61 3.83 0.4
Tony Barnette 55.0 8.0 3.0 1.0 .310 75.2 % 3.72 3.97 0.3
Keone Kela 45.0 10.9 3.5 1.0 .313 76.5 % 3.39 3.41 0.4
Alex Claudio 40.0 6.6 2.4 0.9 .313 73.4 % 3.70 3.85 0.2
Mike Hauschild 35.0 7.3 2.6 1.1 .317 71.1 % 4.31 4.14 0.0
Dario Alvarez 30.0 11.4 3.9 1.2 .321 75.2 % 3.85 3.83 0.1
Jake Diekman   25.0 9.9 4.2 0.9 .312 74.9 % 3.66 3.77 0.1
Andrew Faulkner 20.0 7.7 4.3 1.3 .310 72.3 % 4.67 4.82 0.0
Connor Sadzeck 15.0 6.8 4.7 1.2 .315 71.1 % 4.98 5.06 0.0
Jose Leclerc 10.0 9.6 6.2 1.0 .314 73.8 % 4.49 4.63 0.0
Eddie Gamboa 10.0 7.8 5.1 1.1 .311 71.6 % 4.76 4.88 0.0
Yohander Mendez 10.0 8.1 3.7 1.0 .313 72.6 % 4.20 4.23 0.0
Tanner Scheppers   10.0 7.7 4.1 1.1 .305 71.7 % 4.53 4.62 0.0
The Others 10.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 0.0
Total 500.0 8.5 3.3 1.0 .314 73.9 % 3.83 3.91 3.5

The Rangers bullpen last year had a 4.40 ERA. Take out Tom Wilhelmsen, Luke Jackson, and Shawn Tolleson, and that drops to 3.68. Every bullpen ERA gets better if you take out a handful of the worst offenders, but the overall numbers from last season do kind of skew the picture, because many of the worst performances came from a small number of contributors. In time, the Rangers got their relief corps sorted out, and after all that, this year’s group should look awfully familiar.

Sam Dyson remains in place as the closer with one of those ultra-sinkers that’s incredibly hard to elevate. Dyson isn’t as unhittable as he looked down the stretch in 2015, and last year’s strikeout rate was fairly pedestrian, but he’s so good at limiting any damage it’s tough to build any big inning. Jeremy Jeffress works in a similar way — he’s a weak-contact pitcher, not a no-contact pitcher, yet he’s run a 2.46 ERA over 173 games since 2013. Jeffress didn’t make the impact the Rangers expected last year, because of problems away from the ballpark, but he’s now in line to grab an important role.

In the event the Rangers want a strikeout, they should be able to turn to Matt Bush. At 25%, his strikeout rate from last year was nothing extraordinary, but he has the stuff to bump that up, with high-90s heat, a slider, and a curve. Bush was a rookie last season and he hasn’t even been a pitcher that long, but he was confident pitching in the zone, which bodes well for the immediate future.

Tony Barnette’s going to return, and he just pitched as another weak-contact weapon. Keone Kela’s in here and he’s been able to miss bats, but an elbow problem in 2016 took a bite out of his control, so he’ll need to re-prove himself. This whole bullpen is a fascinating collection of characters, so of course there’s also Alex Claudio, a ground-ball machine whose fastball averages about 85. And I’m a particular fan of the stuff of Dario Alvarez, who just ran 36% strikeouts in limited time. You can never predict when a bullpen will explode. Last year’s early Rangers bullpen wasn’t supposed to explode. But it sure looks like that shouldn’t happen again. Maybe there’s a bit too much contact in here to be elite, but a step forward by Bush would take care of that real quick, now, wouldn’t it?

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
David Robertson 65.0 11.3 3.5 1.0 .313 75.5 % 3.46 3.35 1.4
Nate Jones 65.0 10.4 2.6 1.1 .301 78.0 % 3.16 3.36 1.3
Dan Jennings 55.0 7.5 3.9 0.8 .314 75.0 % 3.78 4.09 0.4
Zach Putnam 55.0 9.9 3.8 0.9 .312 75.6 % 3.58 3.65 0.5
Michael Ynoa 45.0 8.5 4.9 1.1 .312 72.0 % 4.64 4.74 -0.1
Jake Petricka 40.0 7.7 4.0 0.8 .312 74.9 % 3.76 4.02 0.1
Tommy Kahnle 35.0 10.0 5.4 1.0 .309 74.9 % 4.09 4.27 0.0
Chris Beck 30.0 6.1 3.8 1.3 .313 69.1 % 5.17 5.08 -0.1
Juan Minaya   25.0 8.0 4.3 1.1 .312 70.9 % 4.65 4.56 0.0
Matt Purke 20.0 7.4 5.1 1.3 .314 71.0 % 5.20 5.23 -0.1
Carson Fulmer 15.0 8.3 5.4 1.5 .314 69.4 % 5.49 5.36 0.0
Tyler Danish 10.0 5.6 3.5 1.4 .315 68.2 % 5.41 5.23 0.0
Brad Goldberg 10.0 7.8 5.3 1.3 .312 70.9 % 5.20 5.19 0.0
Giovanni Soto 10.0 8.5 5.1 1.1 .312 72.6 % 4.53 4.65 0.0
Reynaldo Lopez 10.0 9.1 3.8 1.3 .316 71.9 % 4.53 4.39 0.0
The Others 9.0 8.3 4.2 1.3 .324 69.1 % 5.10 4.74 0.0
Total 499.0 8.9 4.0 1.1 .312 73.6 % 4.08 4.16 3.4

Congratulations, White Sox! You are, technically, above-average in this position. That’s not bad, considering the whole actively-rebuilding thing. Or maybe that is bad. Let’s say it’s a mixed bag. The White Sox are above-average in part because of David Robertson, but then, if the White Sox had their druthers, they wouldn’t have David Robertson on the roster anymore.

Robertson is still pretty good. Of that there should be little question. He’s never been a burner, and his fastball last year was around where it’s typically been. He allowed a contact rate of 72%, and his career contact rate is 74%. The walks just kind of got away from him, for whatever reason. Robertson just dropped from a K-BB% of 29% to 16%, and that’s at least modestly alarming. I believe in his stuff, but now that he’s expensive, and almost 32, the Sox can’t hold out hope for a big trade return.

The real trade value here probably belongs to Nate Jones. Jones is under contract for two to five more years, which is another way of saying, hey, look at those three nifty club options. Jones has put elbow surgery way behind him, having just thrown 70.2 innings with a 67 FIP- and a 97mph fastball. He’s hard to hit and he throws strikes, so he’s likely to be in high demand. I don’t want to just talk about these players as trade candidates, because that’s no fun, but them’s the circumstances. I don’t make the rules.

Everything else is a grab bag. This is what’s typical for a team in the White Sox’s position. Zach Putnam is an interesting splitter specialist, although unsurprisingly he needed arm surgery last year. Michael Ynoa is that Michael Ynoa, and he finally made the majors, throwing 94 with a fair amount of strikeouts. Jake Petricka, when he’s been at his best, has kept two-thirds of everything on the ground. Tommy Kahnle has walked people as if he’s wanted to practice his pick-offs. The situation here gets troublesome fast, after the top two, and the top two could get traded. But what do the White Sox need right now with a quality bullpen? They’re going to have time. They’re going to have an awful lot of time.

We hoped you liked reading 2017 Positional Power Rankings: Bullpen (#1-15) by Jeff Sullivan!

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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John Wick
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John Wick

Why do your depth charts limit relievers to 65 IP, given there are relievers who can reasonably be projected to pitch over 65 IP in a given year? Seems like an easy fix to put in place.

Bip
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Bip

File a JIRA ticket