Reliever Roundup and Bullpen Bonanza — Trade Deadline Update to Team Rankings, 1–30

Paul Sewald, whose Deadline Day acquisition by the Arizona Diamondbacks greatly helped their team bullpen rankings
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Reliever Roundup and Bullpen Bonanza — All-Star Break Team Rankings

The Trade Deadline is over, and with the new acquisitions having reported to their teams, it is time for another set of team bullpen/reliever/relief corps rankings. However, this one will be a bit different. For the only time all season, we will use each player’s full-season statistics to set the team rankings. They’d be meaningless, otherwise, since none had established themselves on their new teams yet as of July 31. Few had even pitched a game for their new team, in fact. We will return to our usual practice of only using a reliever’s stats with his current team with our next set of rankings.

Most teams stayed near where they were with their Deadline moves. However, there were a choice few whose rankings shifted significantly, including one group that surged 17 spots.

These rankings are not interested in what some guy in the minors did back in April before he was sent down. We want to see whose current relief roster is the toughest. That will be most useful when watching and analyzing games.

Brief Rankings Explanation

Rankings are split into the following categories. These categories encompass what a relief pitcher’s jobs are and are weighted according to importance. We don’t want to get bogged down, so we’ll keep it brief. (Author’s Note: For full details, leave a comment and I’ll be glad to get back to you.)

Clutch (45% of score) — How well they perform in late innings either while the game is tied or while holding a narrow lead.

Run Prevention (35%) — How well they keep runs off the board, including inherited runners.

Baserunner Prevention (13%) — Who has the lowest WHIP and lowest home run percentage (HR%). WHIP is 85% of the Baserunner Prevention score, and HR% is 15%.

Command (7%) — Who has the best strikeout percentage minus walk percentage (K–BB%).

The total score in each category is based on the league average. Zero points equals the league average. Positive scores are better than league average; negative scores are worse. The farther their score is from zero — either positive or negative — the farther they are from the league average.

(Note: Due to weighting each score, adding the four categories together won’t equal the total score.)

For a full breakdown of each category’s score formula, click here.

Team Reliever / Bullpen / Relief Corps Rankings, Post-Deadline. Stats through end of play July 31.
Team Reliever / Bullpen / Relief Corps Rankings, Post-Deadline. Stats through end of play July 31 and, for this time only, include a reliever’s full-season stats. Based on active rosters the morning of August 4.

Post-Trade Deadline Team Reliever and Bullpen Rankings

Better Take an Early Lead…

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  1. Milwaukee Brewers (33.0, First in NL), No Change from Last Week

63.2 Clutch, 7.6 Run Prevention, 8.4 Baserunners, 11.6 Command

The acquisition of lefty Andrew Chafin helps them matchup-wise, but it hurts the overall team score. His numbers in Arizona weren’t all that great. Of concern is his clutch and his alarmingly high rate of inherited runners scoring. Despite this, the rest of the back end for the Brewers (Devin Williams, Joel Payamps, Elvis Peguero) has been lights out, maintaining their reign at the top of the rankings.

The Very Good

  1. San Francisco Giants (14.1, Second in NL), +2 from Last Week

28.9 Clutch, -2.0 Run Prevention, 7.0 Baserunners, 12.2 Command

The Giants did not do a thing to improve their ‘pen at the Deadline, but that’s ok. What they currently have is second-best in both the NL and the majors. Why “fix” what isn’t broken?

  1. Baltimore Orioles (13.6, First in AL), +4 from Last Week

24.0 Clutch, 3.0 Run Prevention, 4.3 Baserunners, 17.4 Command

They picked up the improving Shintaro Fujinami from the Athletics while shipping Eduard Bazardo to the Mariners and Chris Vallimont to the Guardians. The rest of the Orioles ‘pen has continued to dominate, especially setup man Yennier Cano and closer Felix Bautista, who is having an historic season.

  1. Detroit Tigers (10.3, Second in AL), +4 from Last Week

22.9 Clutch, -1.4 Run Prevention, 4.2 Baserunners, -1.6 Command

The Tigers protect late leads as well as anyone. Unfortunately, they aren’t ahead often enough for it to matter much in the standings. They survived the Deadline without trading either of their dynamic duo, setup man Jason Foley and closer Alex Lange.

Pretty Good

  1. Seattle Mariners (8.4, Third in AL), ▼ -2 from Last Week

6.6 Clutch, 7.5 Run Prevention, 7.3 Baserunners, 27.2 Command

They traded Paul Sewald to the Diamondbacks, causing their overall ranking to fall. But they’re still in decent shape, thanks to the rest of the relief unit. Justin Topa and Matt Brash have been outstanding. Andres Munoz is showing promise. Gabe Speier is doing a good job. The Mariners will be fine, at least from a relief pitching standpoint.

  1. New York Yankees (8.4, Fourth in AL), +4 from Last Week

17.6 Clutch, 0.2 Run Prevention, 3.0 Baserunners, 0.4 Command

The Yankees made one major move at the Deadline — Keynan Middleton. Their stock improved slightly despite his recent hiccups.

  1. Boston Red Sox (8.1, Fifth in AL), +5 from Last Week

15.1 Clutch, 0.4 Run Prevention, 5.6 Baserunners, 6.9 Command

Mauricio Llovera and Tayler Scott were so-so pickups for the Red Sox. The recent clutch performances of Chris Martin, Josh Winckowski, and Kenley Jansen are the main reasons for the rise in the rankings.

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks (8.1, Third in NL), +17 from Last Week

15.5 Clutch, -1.6 Run Prevention, 4.8 Baserunners, 15.4 Command

And here we have the biggest movers. Good news: They now have an actual closer (Paul Sewald) and traded Andrew Chafin for Peter Strzelecki. Bad news: They have yet to use Sewald, as they have trailed entering the ninth in every game since he reported to the team. In addition, they sent Strzelecki to the minors despite his stats not justifying it.

Slightly above Average

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  1. Cleveland Guardians (7.2, Second in AL), +5 from Last Week

13.5 Clutch, 5.9 Run Prevention, 0.9 Baserunners, -14.3 Command

The Guardians made several moves at the deadline. None had a measurable impact on their relief corps. Closer Emmanuel Clase and setup men Trevor Stephan and Enyel De Los Santos remain tough in clutch late-inning situations. Problem is, the Guardians need to be ahead more often for it to mean anything down the stretch.

  1. Cincinnati Reds (7.0, Fourth in NL), ▼ -1 from Last Week

13.7 Clutch, 2.8 Run Prevention, 1.6 Baserunners, -5.4 Command

Alexis Diaz is one of the best closers in baseball. He and setup man Lucas Sims have been a tremendous 1-2 punch for the Reds. Their only Deadline acquisition was lefty Sam Moll. As long as he sticks to middle relief, he’ll be a nice addition.

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (6.8, Fifth in NL), ▼ -5 from Last Week

9.0 Clutch, 5.7 Run Prevention, 1.9 Baserunners, 6.6 Command

The Dodgers’ Deadline Day moves, despite them dumping dead weight, did not help their overall ‘pen ranking at all. In fact, it made things worse — something they cannot afford down the stretch. Joe Kelly may be a fan favorite, but he has not been good this season. If it were 2018, we’d get excited. But it’s 2023.

  1. Miami Marlins (6.2, Sixth in NL), +9 from Last Week

8.0 Clutch, 3.0 Run Prevention, 2.6 Baserunners, 18.0 Command

Trading for David Robertson gave this unit, which had faltered in recent days, a great boost. Jorge Lopez has pitched below his potential recently in Minnesota but is off to a good start in Miami. These two, plus Ryan Weathers, give the Marlins the second biggest ‘pen improvement at the deadline (behind the Diamondbacks). As they fight for a Wild Card spot, strong relief performances will be essential to their fate.

Middle of the Pack

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  1. Los Angeles Angels (4.0, Seventh in AL), ▼ -2 from Last Week

13.5 Clutch, -0.5 Run Prevention, -8.4 Baserunners, -11.1 Command

The Angels dipped in the rankings despite the lights-out pitching of Carlos Estevez and Matt Moore. This is because they acquired Reynaldo Lopez from the White Sox and Dominic Leone from the Mets. Both have had mediocre seasons. As long as they reach the eighth inning with a lead, they’ll be in good shape thanks to Estevez and Moore.

  1. San Diego Padres (4.0, Seventh in NL), +6 from Last Week

3.5 Clutch, 4.7 Run Prevention, 5.0 Baserunners, 1.7 Command

Padres closer Josh Hader and setup man Steven Wilson have been terrific. When they took Hader off the market, the teams needing a closer all mourned, despite him being a rental. They picked up Scott Barlow, who has been disappointing with the Royals this season. But it was done in hopes that he’d regain his 2022 form. If they can get him to do that, he’ll be a valuable setup man. But with relievers, that’s a huge if.

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates (3.4, Eighth in NL), ▼ -2 from Last Week

-2.1 Clutch, 3.9 Run Prevention, 11.3 Baserunners, 22.4 Command

They hung onto David Bednar and Colin Holderman, which is what has prevented them from being near the bottom of the leaderboard. And to think that on June 12, they were second in the majors. My, how the mighty have fallen.

  1. Houston Astros (3.3, Eighth in AL), +1 from Last Week

8.9 Clutch, -2.7 Run Prevention, -2.9 Baserunners, 8.3 Command

Picking up Kendall Graveman (again) has given this relief unit a huge shot in the arm. In addition, closer Ryan Pressly has recovered well from a rough start. They’ll need both to pitch well down the stretch as they try to catch the Rangers in the AL West standings.

  1. Minnesota Twins (3.2, Ninth in AL), +1 from Last Week

6.9 Clutch, -1.5 Run Prevention, 3.5 Baserunners, 2.8 Command

Trading Jorge Lopez to the Marlins for Dylan Floro helped the Twins more than it helped the Marlins. They’re moving in the right direction but still have work to do. Getting Brock Stewart back in September will be a big boost, as he has had a tremendous season.

The Average

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  1. Tampa Bay Rays (2.3, 10th in AL), ▼ -2 from Last Week

0.2 Clutch, 5.0 Run Prevention, 8.2 Baserunners, -8.5 Command

The only reliever move of note was dumping Luis Patiño on the White Sox. Despite slipping in the rankings this week, the Rays have steadily improved their clutch score through the weeks, but it still hasn’t been enough to move them up to where a playoff contender should be in the overall rankings. Winning more close games, especially with how well Colin Poche, Jason Adam, and Pete Fairbanks have been doing, should send them higher up the board.

  1. Philadelphia Phillies (2.0, Ninth in NL), ▼ -4 from Last Week

-0.1 Clutch, 3.1 Run Prevention, -0.2 Baserunners, 14.1 Command

Nothing changed at the deadline for the Phillies ‘pen. Their ranking is deflated by the injury of Jose Alvarado, who has been a dependable setup man. Once he returns, they’ll climb back up the leaderboard. In the meantime, Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto are formidable weapons in the late innings of a close game.

  1. Texas Rangers (0.5, 11th in AL), +3 from Last Week

-8.4 Clutch, 3.8 Run Prevention, 11.2 Baserunners, 21.5 Command

The Rangers improved their stock by acquiring Aroldis Chapman at the end of June and shedding John King at the Deadline. They added Chris Stratton as part of the Jordan Montgomery package from the Cardinals, but Stratton’s season-long numbers in St. Louis have not been good. Maybe the change of scenery will help him, but that is a huge gamble for a team that is neck-and-neck with the defending champions for the division title.

Slightly Below Average

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  1. Toronto Blue Jays (-0.8, 12th in AL), ▼ -16 from Last Week

-10.1 Clutch, 8.8 Run Prevention, -5.3 Baserunners, 18.9 Command

The Jordan Romano injury was offset by the acquisition of Jordan Hicks from the Cardinals. Hicks has shown promise in recent days and should give the Blue Jays a boost down the stretch. Genesis Cabrera, their other acquisition from the Cardinals in an earlier deal, has struggled most of this season. He’s had a fairly good start in Toronto, but he’s a ticking time bomb. Consequently, the Blue Jays’ clutch has suffered, causing their overall ranking to plummet.

  1. Colorado Rockies (-2.1, 10th in NL), No Change from Last Week

7.7 Clutch, -7.0 Run Prevention, -6.1 Baserunners, -33.2 Command

The Rockies parted ways with Pierce Johnson and Brad Hand, neither of whom pitched up to his potential in Denver. Lefty Justin Bruihl, whose contract the team bought from the Dodgers, was a nice pickup. Overall, the Rockies do well in late innings with a close lead thanks to the emergence of closer Justin Lawrence and the steady return to form of setup man Daniel Bard. If Bard can get his walks under control, the team will be in even better shape relief-wise.

  1. Atlanta Braves (-2.8, 11th in NL), ▼ -21 from Last Week

-3.3 Clutch, -3.5 Run Prevention, -3.6 Baserunners, 5.5 Command

The Braves’ ranking fell off a cliff post-deadline due to the acquisitions of Pierce Johnson and Brad Hand from the Rockies. However, these two pickups were both based on hoping they can get them back to the form they’ve shown in previous seasons. Neither pitched up to his full potential in Colorado. (How often have we seen the previous sentence in print?) On the plus side, Raisel Iglesias has hit his stride and is a top-five closer in the NL.

Lots of Work to Do

  1. Chicago White Sox (-4.5, 13th in AL), +2 from Last Week

2.8 Clutch, -11.3 Run Prevention, -5.9 Baserunners, -14.4 Command

The White Sox have had a nightmarish season. They wisely cashed in everyone they had of value for a haul of prospects. Among the departures were four of their most trusted relievers: Joe Kelly (to the Dodgers), Reynaldo Lopez (to the Angels), Keynan Middleton (to the Yankees), and closer Kendall Graveman (to the Astros). Yet they’ve risen in the rankings, showing that the departed quartet wasn’t as strong as some may be thinking.

  1. Chicago Cubs (-9.3, 12th in NL), ▼ -6 from Last Week

-20.4 Clutch, -2.4 Run Prevention, 1.8 Baserunners, 7.6 Command

All the Cubs moves at the Deadline should help their run-scoring ability. But outside of Mark Leiter Jr. their relief corps has not been good. The acquisitions of Jose Cuas and Vinny Nittoli will do little, if anything, to help. As they compete down the stretch for the NL Central crown, this will hurt them.

Stock Up on Tums

  1. New York Mets (-13.2, 13th in NL), ▼ -2 from Last Week

-18.6 Clutch, -6.6 Run Prevention, -6.8 Baserunners, -22.8 Command

The Mets went into full rebuild mode at the deadline. One of the casualties was closer David Robertson, who headed south to Miami. This made their ‘pen go from bad to worse, as did the acquisition of the struggling Phil Bickford from the Dodgers. What a nightmare of a season in Queens.

  1. Washington Nationals (-22.9, 14th in NL), +1 Last Week

-32.2 Clutch, -9.9 Run Prevention, -20.1 Baserunners, -33.5 Command

No Deadline moves for the Nationals involved a reliever. Kyle Finnegan has been a top-ten closer, but the prospect-heavy Nationals would not have gained anything they needed by trading him.

Pray for a Blowout Win

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  1. St Louis Cardinals (-25.3, 15th in NL), ▼ -1 from Last Week

-38.1 Clutch, -12.7 Run Prevention, -12.6 Baserunners, -30.0 Command

Their trade deadline moves have cut the cord on a nightmare of a season. Giovanny Gallegos is having a tremendous season. Ryan Helsley also has good numbers, which will help the Cardinals’ ranking when he returns from injury. The rest of the relief corps has struggled, as have the relievers they picked up at the Deadline. This season cannot end fast enough in Cardinals Nation.

  1. Oakland Athletics (-26.2, 14th in AL), No Change from Last Week

-33.4 Clutch, -17.3 Run Prevention, -17.1 Baserunners, -40.7 Command

Very little changed for the Athletics’ relief unit at the Deadline, as Shintaro Fujinami had already been dealt to the Orioles. On the positive side, Lucas Erceg and Trevor May are quietly putting together nice seasons.

  1. Kansas City Royals (-34.1, 15th in AL), No Change from Last Week

-57.6 Clutch, -14.4 Run Prevention, -14.7 Baserunners, -17.7 Command

The Royals have hit the reset button. They traded Aroldis Chapman to the Rangers a month ago. At the Deadline, they sent Scott Barlow to the Padres. Jose Cuas is now a Cub. They picked up Tucker Davidson from the Angels, but he has struggled all season. Their abysmal scores on the leaderboard matter little given how their season has gone.

 

Full Score Explanation

For clutch, we will use both the Goose Egg total (33%) and the ratio of Goose Eggs to Broken Eggs (67%) due to the major flaws in Saves and Holds. Full details about Goose Eggs are here. Otherwise, here’s the elevator speech.

A Goose Egg is like a save, except more restrictive. Here are the main points…

  • It’s done inning by inning, starting in the seventh.
  • Maximum of a two-run lead, not three, but it also includes tie games. Like the save, exceptions are made if the tying run is on base or at bat. (Not on deck, however.)
  • Run Breakdown:
    • No run of any kind — earned, unearned, or inherited — scores, it’s a goose egg (GE).
    • Earned run charged to the pitcher, it’s a broken egg (BE).
    • Any other run scores, it’s neither.
    • Earned run scores in an inning where he closes out the victory, it’s also neither.
    • Starts the inning and gives up no runs, but doesn’t finish the inning, it’s also neither.
  • He must finish the inning while recording the following number of outs:
    • No one on when he starts the inning — all three;
    • One on — at least two;
    • Two or three on — at least one.
  • Any time it’s “neither,” it’s called a “Meh,” as in “nothing special.” They’re like a stalemate in chess and count as nothing, so we really don’t talk about them.
  • Most important is the ratio of GE to BE (GE/BE). The historical average, dating to 1921, is 3.0, or 3-to-1.

Click here for the full database of these stats.

For run prevention, we will use a mixture of the Scoreless Outing Percentage (Earned Runs only), Inherited Runners Scored Percentage (IS%), and ERA-minus. ScOtg% is 75% of the score, IS% is 15%, and ERA-minus is 10%.

Back to the rankings.

Also See:

Week 16 Rankings, Week 15/All-Star Break Rankings, Week 14 Rankings, Week 13 Rankings, Week 12 Rankings, Week 11 Rankings

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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