Pitching, defense, and outscoring the opponent wins games. Which is the most important? I believe it’s safe to say most people would choose pitching. Pitching is an art. It takes time to perfect this art. Some pitchers master it early in their careers while others take a considerable amount of time. Nevertheless, pitching is one of the most important concepts to winning games. At the same time, I would never suggest drafting a pitcher if there is a can’t miss hitter. For example, since I’m writing about the NL Central, I want to talk about the draft process Theo Epstein has used to rebuild the Chicago Cubs. It is true, the league is pitcher dominated, but this hasn’t made Theo shy away from drafting hitters with the Cubs’ first pick since his arrival in October 2011. They have been Albert Almora (2012), Kris Bryant (2013), and Kyle Schwarber (2014). Let’s not forget, Theo also signed Jorge Soler in 2012. He’s ahead of the curve when it comes to finding hitters that absolutely pound pitching. With the game being dominated by pitchers, why not find players that can counteract pitchers’ productivity?
I want to dissect pitching a bit further and look at bullpens. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a lead blown or a loss occurring because a relief pitcher couldn’t get the job done. It’s common for closers to dominate the ninth inning with a 95+ MPH fastball. It’d be great if the entire bullpen could throw with such force, but it’s just not possible. There are times when a lefty specialist may be needed, the setup man for the eight inning, or even a long reliever because a starter was shelled early in the game. Now, more than ever, bullpens play a vital role during a team’s success during the regular season and postseason. Looking back at 2014, the Kansas City Royals had the most dominant bullpen that aided them in reaching the World Series. Now, let’s focus our attention on the NL Central and see how each of the five clubs’ bullpens compare to the other 25 MLB teams.
Naturally, the division leading St. Louis Cardinals have the second best bullpen in baseball. This is directly correlated to their 33-17 record. Carlos Villanueva (0.43 ERA), Trevor Rosenthal (0.74 ERA & 15/16 Saves), and Kevin Siegrist (2.08 ERA & 8 Holds) have been lights out. It gets interesting when we look at the rest of the division. The Cubs are holding onto second place with a 26-22 record, but the Pittsburgh Pirates are only a game back of the Cubs after going 8-2 in their last 10 games. As of right now, the Cubs’ bullpen is struggling, and it won’t be long before the Pirates and their Top-5 bullpen leap frog Chicago. Pittsburgh has had many bright spots of their own in Tony Watson (1.29 ERA), Rob Scahill (1.40 ERA), Mark Melancon (2.74 ERA & 13/14 Saves), and Jared Hughes (3.63 ERA, but 5 ER since May 15). The Cubs will have to settle down if they want to stay in the race for both the NL Central and Wild Card spots. Again, pitching wins ball games and we are seeing how a dominant bullpen is allowing the St. Louis Cardinals to stay ahead of the division. The recent success of Pittsburgh’s bullpen is allowing them to gain ground on the Chicago Cubs after a slow start. Not to mention, after a slow start, Andrew McCutchen is hitting .333 with five homers, 15 XBH, and 17 RBI in the past 30 days. It’s safe to say he may finally be over the knee injury that plagued him since Spring Training.
I want to take a look at League Three (3) in Major League Fantasy Baseball and how the top MLB relievers and top NL Central relievers have attributed to the success in the league. Note: NL Central in Red.
Dellin Betances [Owned by New York Binge Drinking] 0.00 ERA in 27.1 IP
Wade Davis [Owned by Extra Winnings] 0.00 ERA in 22.0 IP
Tony Watson [Owned by Orange Juicers] 1.29 ERA in 28.0 IP
Glen Perkins [Owned by The Red Rockets] 1.88 ERA 19/19 Saves
Drew Storen [Owned by New York Binge Drinking] 0.84 ERA 16/17 Saves
Trevor Rosenthal [Owned by New York Binge Drinking] 0.74 ERA 15/16 Saves
Brad Boxberger [Owned by The Red Rockets] 2.70 ERA 15/15 Saves
Zach Britton [Owned by Uncle Charlie Hustle] 2.33 ERA 13/14 Saves
Aroldis Chapman [Owned by The Balking Dead] 1.61 ERA 9/9 Saves
As you can tell, not only have these relievers aided in the success of their Major League clubs, but also in the success of fantasy owners who have them on their roster. All but Zach Britton, Tony Watson, and Aroldis Chapman play for teams that are in second place or better in their division. With that being said, Tony Watson and the Pittsburgh Pirates are making their push to go atop the NL Central.
The point of this article is simple. Not only do bullpens make successful MLB teams, but they can easily attribute to the success of fantasy baseball teams alike. Many times, great relievers can be found on the waiver wire. Last season, Dellin Betances was a waiver wire gem, just as Brad Boxberger has been this season. I can assure you Wade Davis, Tony Watson, Glen Perkins, and Zach Britton were all picked up through the free agent pool in seasons past. Here are a list of top relievers that may still be available in many fantasy leagues and are doing a fine job for their MLB club.
Evan Scribner (OAK): 2.20 ERA, 28.2 IP, 33:2 K:BB, 0.87 WHIP
Michael Blazek (MIL): 1.27 ERA, 28.1 IP, [26:10] K:BB, 0.92 WHIP
Roberto Osuna (TOR): 1.75 ERA, 25.2 IP, 25:7 K:BB, 0.90 WHIP
Will Harris (HOU): 0.38 ERA, 24.0 IP, 29:6 K:BB, 0.50 WHIP
Keone Kela (TEX): 1.90 ERA, 23.2 IP, 21:7 K:BB, 1.27 WHIP
Shawn Tolleson (TEX): 2.70 ERA, 23.1 IP, 30:4 K:BB, 0.99 WHIP [Current Closer]
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Major League Fanatsy Sports Radio Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D. Roberts on Sunday June 7th from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports radio sponsored by The Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in at 646.915.8596 This week’s topics are the A.L. Central, and N.L. West.