Reliever Roundup and Bullpen Bonanza — Week 18 (Aug 7–13) Team Rankings, 1–30

(Photo by Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/Getty Images)

Reliever Roundup and Bullpen Bonanza — Week 18 (Aug 7–13) Team Rankings

As we enter Week 18 and settle in for the stretch run, it is time for another set of team bullpen/reliever/relief corps rankings. The Deadline acquisitions have all arrived and assumed their new roles. Most teams stayed near where they were before the trades, but a few shuffled around. And one team took a big jump simply because three of their four usual relievers are on the injured list, with the only one left being the only one having a great season. Statistics run through the end of play on August 6 and only include each reliever’s stats with his current team. In addition, the changes noted are changes between now and the July 26 mid-week updates, not the Trade Deadline rankings.

In a strange yet interesting development, the National League has one dominant relief corps, a very good one, and then a cluster of mediocrity before reaching the bottom third of their rankings.

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, Week 18, Aug 7 to 13. Stats through end of play Aug 6.
Team Reliever / Bullpen / Relief Corps Rankings, Post-Deadline. Stats through end of play August 6 and only include each reliever’s stats with his current team. Based on active rosters the evening of August 7.

Week of Aug 7 Team Reliever and Bullpen Rankings

The Elite

  1. Milwaukee Brewers (55.1, First in NL), No Change from July 26

108.3 Clutch, 11.3 Run Prevention, 11.1 Baserunners, 14.6 Command

The kings remain on their throne. Closer Devin Williams, along with setup men Joel Payamps and Elvis Peguero, are still in form. New acquisition Andrew Chafin is in a comfortable role for him, only starting innings and not pitching in goose egg situations. If only the Brewers would start hitting…

Better Take an Early Lead…

  1. San Francisco Giants (18.4, Second in NL), +1 from July 26

39.0 Clutch, -1.9 Run Prevention, 7.7 Baserunners, 7.4 Command

Setup man Tyler Rogers is putting together a remarkable season. That, along with closer Camilo Doval’s steady recovery from an early-season cold spell, has spelled success for the Giants. As they try to catch the Dodgers for the NL West crown, maintaining form will be huge.

  1. Baltimore Orioles (14.4, First in AL), +5 from July 26

22.5 Clutch, 5.4 Run Prevention, 7.5 Baserunners, 19.7 Command

The Orioles, with the best record in the AL, also have the best relief corps. Especially of note is their pair of All-Stars, setup man Yennier Cano and closer Felix Bautista. In addition, their acquisition of Shintaro Fujinami as another setup man has paid off nicely thus far. He had struggled with the Oakland Athletics but has pitched much better since arriving in Baltimore.

The Very Good

  1. New York Yankees (13.8, Second in AL), +5 from July 26

27.9 Clutch, 1.1 Run Prevention, 3.9 Baserunners, 5.1 Command

Too bad the Yankees aren’t ahead in the ninth inning enough for their high reliever rankings to pay off. That’s overshadowing excellent seasons from closer Clay Holmes and setup man Wandy Peralta.

  1. Toronto Blue Jays (11.4, Third in AL), +7 from July 26

11.7 Clutch, 13.4 Run Prevention, 1.0 Baserunners, 19.3 Command

Some thought it looked bleak for the Blue Jays when closer Jordan Romano went on the IL. But Erik Swanson and Tim Mayza continued their strong seasons, showcasing the relief unit’s depth. In addition, trade acquisition Genesis Cabrera has performed well since being DFAed by the hapless Cardinals. Plus, Jay Jackson has been terrific since his return from the minors. Romano can take all the time he needs to heal up, because the Blue Jays are doing fine without him.

  1. Detroit Tigers (11.3, Fourth in AL), ▼ -2 from July 26

26.2 Clutch, -1.8 Run Prevention, 2.8 Baserunners, -3.3 Command

The Tigers have had a forgettable season, but their ‘pen has been terrific. Closer Alex Lange and setup man Jason Foley are among the best in the AL. Tyler Holton, who pitched admirably for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2022, never got a full chance with them. The Tigers have given him that chance, and it’s paid off. Too bad the team isn’t ahead late in the game more often because this relief corps does not cough up the lead very often in close games.

  1. Seattle Mariners (10.3, Fifth in AL), ▼ -5 from July 26

11.2 Clutch, 6.6 Run Prevention, 6.9 Baserunners, 29.3 Command

Trading away elite closer Paul Sewald made their ratings slip a bit. However, they have such tremendous depth that they’re still in the AL top five and major league top ten. Justin Topa, Matt Brash, and Tayler Saucedo are among the stingiest relievers in the league. All have scoreless percentages in the 80s.

Pretty Good

  1. Los Angeles Angels (9.9, Sixth in AL), +8 from July 26

25.4 Clutch, 2.1 Run Prevention, -9.1 Baserunners, -14.8 Command

Nothing is going right for the Angels right now except the performance of their setup men. Reliable closer Carlos Estevez has even faltered, gaining a ninth-inning broken egg in each of his last two appearances. But the performance of the setup men has more than offset the Estevez hiccup, leading to their rankings jump.

  1. Cleveland Guardians (9.3, Seventh in AL), +4 from July 26

17.0 Clutch, 6.0 Run Prevention, 2.2 Baserunners, -10.0 Command

Closer Emmanuel Clase is having good season. Setup men Trevor Stephan and Enyel De Los Santos are having great seasons. This sets the Guardians up nicely for the stretch run. And given how low the Twins are on this rankings board, this could give the Guardians the edge.

  1. Cincinnati Reds (6.4, Third in NL), No Change from July 26

14.0 Clutch, 0.9 Run Prevention, -0.7 Baserunners, -1.7 Command

Setup man Lucas Sims and closer Alexis Diaz have been a formidable 1-2 punch for the Reds all season. They need more out of Buck Farmer and Ian Gibaut to have any chance at catching the Brewers in the NL Central.

Slightly above Average

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (5.3, Fourth in NL), No Change from July 26

7.4 Clutch, 6.3 Run Prevention, -0.2 Baserunners, -2.7 Command

The Dodgers shed some dead weight at the Deadline and brought in new blood in an attempt to repair their glaring weakness. The jury is still out on the results. In the meantime, setup man Caleb Ferguson and closer Evan Phillips have settled in and are doing well.

  1. Tampa Bay Rays (2.1, Eighth in AL), +3 from July 26

3.4 Clutch, 4.1 Run Prevention, -1.9 Baserunners, -8.2 Command

The Rays keep improving. Their back end has been dependable all season. It’s been middle relief that has held them up. But that seems to have been addressed. We shall see exactly how effectively over the next two months.

The Average

  1. Atlanta Braves (1.6, Fifth in NL), ▼ -8 from July 26

5.0 Clutch, -2.1 Run Prevention, -1.9 Baserunners, 4.8 Command

The Braves have the best record in baseball, with their lumber company of an offense being toward the top of the NL leaderboard in nearly every meaningful category. But their team relief rankings have been an absolute roller coaster. Starting with the (unpublished) test rankings in Week Nine, their rankings have gone as follows: 21 (Wk 9), 17 (Wk 10, Unpublished), 11 (Wk 11), 15 (Wk 12), 13 (Wk 13), 12 (Wk 14), 13 (Wk 15), 5 (Wk 16-midweek), 2 (Wk 17, unpublished due to trade deadline), 13 (this week). With Jesse Chavez not available until probably September, the acquisitions of Pierce Johnson and Brad Hand from the Rockies were a welcome sight. In addition, the recent success of Joe Jimenez has been a plus. Raisel Iglesias is still lights-out in the clutch, although his overall scoreless performance has been lower than expected.

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates (1.4, Sixth in NL), ▼ -7 from July 26

-0.8 Clutch, 0.5 Run Prevention, 5.4 Baserunners, 12.6 Command

As mentioned in the Trade Deadline update, hanging onto stud closer David Bednar and reliable setup man Colin Holderman has kept the Pirates team relief rankings from entering a total freefall. The rest of the ‘pen has struggled mightily as of late.

  1. Washington Nationals (1.0, Seventh in NL), +13 from July 26

11.8 Clutch, -2.5 Run Prevention, -12.3 Baserunners, -26.3 Command

Take both the Nationals’ ranking and their overall points with a grain of salt. They jumped due to the improvement in clutch. That improvement came because three of their most used relievers — Hunter Harvey, Carl Edwards Jr. and Mason Thompson — are on the injured list. The current roster is Kyle Finnegan (having a great season) and a bunch of guys who have barely pitched in clutch situations. They don’t have many failures, so their GE/BE ratio is way higher (5.2) than it should be (2.7). Once the trio returns, they’ll fall back to 28th. (Note: We almost left them there but felt it would open a can of worms and set a precedent we did not want to set.)

  1. San Diego Padres (0.7, Eighth in NL), +5 from July 26

-1.1 Clutch, 1.7 Run Prevention, 3.7 Baserunners, 2.7 Command

The Padres are improving in the nick of time. Closer Josh Hader has been great all season. Setup man Steven Wilson is quietly putting together a lights-out campaign of his own. Trade acquisition Scott Barlow, who struggled this season as a closer with the Royals, came in as a setup man. The Padres hope he can return to 2022 form. We shall see.

  1. Philadelphia Phillies (0.3, Ninth in NL), ▼ -3 from July 26

-2.5 Clutch, 1.9 Run Prevention, 1.0 Baserunners, 9.1 Command

The Phillies relief roster is mostly underperforming. Matt Strahm and Jeff Hoffman have been below average in Goose Egg situations. Hoffman, however, has done well in middle relief, so the Phillies are doing the right thing by keeping him there. Seranthony Dominguez, Gregory Soto, and Craig Kimbrel have been slightly above average in late innings. This is not up to par for any of the three. If they pitch up to their potential, the Phillies will be in good shape for the stretch run. If they don’t, the Phillies will be disappointed. That’s all there is to it.

  1. Boston Red Sox (0.1, Ninth in AL), ▼ -12 from July 26

3.4 Clutch, -3.2 Run Prevention, -1.7 Baserunners, -1.3 Command

Chris Martin has been outstanding for the Red Sox in a setup role. The rest of the roster has been pedestrian, and that includes their Deadline acquisitions. Expect to see this ranking continue to fall.

The Below Average

  1. Houston Astros (-1.2, 10th in AL), ▼ -1 from July 26

0.1 Clutch, -3.3 Run Prevention, -2.8 Baserunners, 4.7 Command

Hector Neris has been great for the Astros. Bryan Abreu has been so-so. Ryan Pressly had a shaky start but is recovering nicely. The jury is still out on Kendall Graveman, whom the Astros acquired at the Deadline for the second time in three seasons.

  1. Colorado Rockies (-1.2, 10th in NL), +5 from July 26

11.3 Clutch, -7.0 Run Prevention, -9.5 Baserunners, -36.6 Command

The Rockies have bid farewell to Brad Hand and Pierce Johnson. Justin Lawrence has emerged as a formidable closer in succession of Daniel Bard. Bard, meanwhile, is getting decent results in a setup role despite an alarmingly high walk rate (and, consequently, WHIP).

  1. Texas Rangers (-1.6, 11th in AL), ▼ -1 from July 26

-15.6 Clutch, 5.6 Run Prevention, 12.9 Baserunners, 25.4 Command

Once the Rangers get to their back end of Aroldis Chapman (setup) and Will Smith (closer), it’s game over. The pair has a combined 28 goose eggs to one broken egg since Chapman joined the team. Josh Sborz has shown flashes of brilliance but needs to be more consistent. If the Rangers get their middle relief in gear, watch out.

  1. Miami Marlins (-2.7, 11th in NL), ▼ -5 from July 26

-10.3 Clutch, 0.6 Run Prevention, 2.5 Baserunners, 20.1 Command

For most of the first half, the Marlins had a legitimate three-headed monster in setup men Tanner Scott and Dylan Floro followed by closer A.J. Puk. Now, Floro is on the Twins, Scott has become average, and Puk has flamed out. The addition of David Robertson as a closer might help. Something needs to happen, because the team will need these guys to return the form as they fight for a Wild Card down the stretch.

Lots of Work to Do

  1. Chicago Cubs (-4.3, 12th in NL), No Change from July 26

-15.3 Clutch, 3.8 Run Prevention, 3.4 Baserunners, 11.6 Command

The Cubs have been on a roll since the the All-Star Break. Setup men Julian Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr.and closer Adbert Alzolay have done well during this stretch. If they keep it up, not only will the Cubs’ relief ranking improve but their postseason chances will as well.

  1. Minnesota Twins (-5.4, 12th in AL), ▼ -2 from July 26

-11.8 Clutch, -4.4 Run Prevention, 6.7 Baserunners, 8.7 Command

A recent lull from closer Jhoan Duran has caused the Twins’ ranking to slip. Griffin Jax has also been down a bit lately. Maybe the imminent return of Brock Stewart will shake these guys up. They certainly need it.

Stock Up on Tums

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks (-12.1, 13th in NL), +2 from July 26

-26.3 Clutch, -2.6 Run Prevention, -1.5 Baserunners, 12.3 Command

What a frustrating week for the Diamondbacks. They addressed their glaring need for an elite closer by picking up Paul Sewald, who was ranked third in the AL at the time of the trade, from the Mariners. Sewald, being the best closer available, was as good a trade as the Diamondbacks could have hoped for. In addition, they sent Andrew Chafin to the Brewers, shedding someone who had become a liability in the setup role. They won Monday night, hours after the trade was announced. Sewald joined the team Tuesday, fresh and ready to go since he hadn’t pitched in a game since closing the previous Friday (against the Diamondbacks, coincidentally). But instead of the Diamondbacks keeping up the momentum from Monday so Sewald could immediately step in and produce for his new team, they lost every game for the rest of the week.

Sewald’s first appearance for them came Saturday night in mop-up duty while the Diamondbacks were being blown out by the Twins, where he struck out the side in a nearly meaningless appearance. When he finally took the hill Sunday to close out the one-run game against the Twins, it was his first closing opportunity in nine games. Predictably, it went awry. A first-pitch home run coughed up the lead. A walk and another home run later, Sewald had a broken egg and blown save-loss, the Diamondbacks had their sixth straight loss, and everyone had a bad taste in their mouths. No, it wasn’t a good start for the new closer, but the Diamondbacks did not put him in a position to be successful.

  1. New York Mets (-14.3, 14th in NL), ▼ -7 from July 26

-22.3 Clutch, -5.1 Run Prevention, -8.3 Baserunners, -19.5 Command

For the Mets, their ‘pen is Brooks Raley, who is having a tremendous year, with a bunch of guys who are either mediocre or straight up struggling. Very little has gone right in Queens this season, where one can hear wailing and gnashing of teeth on a nearly nightly basis.

Pray for a Blowout Win

  1. Chicago White Sox (-21.5, 13th in AL), ▼ -3 from July 26

-26.7 Clutch, -18.7 Run Prevention, -9.4 Baserunners, -23.8 Command

The White Sox got rid of their most-used relievers at the Deadline. What is left has a lot of room to grow.

  1. St Louis Cardinals (-22.4, 15th in NL), ▼ -2 from July 26

-34.9 Clutch, -10.0 Run Prevention, -10.0 Baserunners, -26.7 Command

Giovanny Gallegos is having a great season in setup for the Cardinals. That’s about all we can say.

  1. Oakland Athletics (-25.2, 14th in AL), No Change from July 26

-31.0 Clutch, -18.4 Run Prevention, -15.3 Baserunners, -41.2 Command

Lucas Erceg and Trevor May are quietly putting together good seasons for the Athletics, despite their team being on the losing end night in and night out.

Completely Started Over

  1. Kansas City Royals (-34.7, 15th in AL), No Change from July 26

-56.3 Clutch, -16.7 Run Prevention, -11.7 Baserunners, -28.8 Command

Everyone who was having a remotely decent or good season for the Royals at the Deadline is now wearing another uniform. They had the lowest score before trading these guys away, so of course they’re in last place by a large margin now.

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:

Trade Deadline Rankings Update, 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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