Unfortunately for baseball fans the season has only two months left. The season can feel too long at times, but every fan starts to get a little sad once August begins. However, this just means we are closer to the playoffs. Bullpen units will be relied on more than ever to hold on to every win they can.

Whether it be because of poor starting pitching or innovative managing, some bullpen units have taken on a far larger workload than others. Managers have been relying on their bullpens more and more ever since the Cleveland Indians used relief pitcher Andrew Miller to dominate the American League playoffs in 2016.

The bullpen arms are still adjusting to the increased workload two years into this phase of MLB management. Monitoring the bullpens with the highest usage can provide an important edge as the season goes on.

Top Ten Bullpens by Innings Pitched

Rank Team Innings Pitched ERA
1 Tampa Bay Rays 562.2 3.92
2 San Diego Padres 456 3.45
3 Miami Marlins 448 5.18
4 LA Angels 437.2 3.66
5 Cincinnati Reds 436 4.09
6 LA Dodgers 431.2 3.88
7 Milwaukee Brewers 430 3.77
8 Toronto Blue Jays 425 4.64
9 Chicago Cubs 424.1 3.35
10 Oakland Athletics 423 3.30

The Tampa Bay Rays have been employing an all reliever strategy as a part of their starting pitcher rotation so the innings pitched numbers is a little misleading. The strategy has been quite successful and the Rays have been one of the surprise teams of the seasons (59 wins and 57 losses).

The bullpen arms have been holding up decently so far. However, starting pitchers Chris Archer and Nathan Eovaldi were just traded. That means even more work for the bullpen. It is worth monitoring the bullpen as a starting pitcher days for regression due to overwork.

All of the teams on this list need to be monitored for wear and tear. The most important angle is identifying players on the teams who have thrown the most innings. After Andrew Miller dominated the postseason in 2016, he still only threw 62.2 innings in 2017.

Most Innings Pitched by Relievers With Sub 3.20 ERA

Rank Player Team Innings Pitched ERA
1 Jared Hughes Cincinnati Reds 59.1 1.37
2 Blake Treinen Oakland Athletics 58 0.93
3 Craig Stammen San Diego Padres 58 2.33
4 Jordan Hicks St. Louis Cardinals 58 3.1
5 Edwin Diaz Seattle Mariners 57 2.05
6 Lou Trivino Oakland Athletics 57 1.58
7 Josh Hader Milwaukee Brewers 56.1 1.6
8 Adam Ottavino Colorado Rockies 56.1 1.6
9 Jeremy Jeffress Milwaukee Brewers 55.2 1.29
10 Collin McHugh Houston Astros 55 0.98

The biggest takeaway here is the Brewers top reliever usage. The Brewers spent the trade deadline building a lineup that could contend in late October. They added power hitters to their lineup by acquiring third basemen Mike Moustakas (20 HRs), and utility infielder Jonathan Schoop (17 HRs). They also added top tier reliever Joakim Soria (2.56 ERA, 2.16 FIP, 1.164 WHIP, 44 innings pitched).

These additions were supposed to put Milwaukee over the edge. Instead, the Brew Crew have lost six of their first nine games in August. The bullpen has been struggling after having one of the most dominant starts to the season. Corey Knebel (4.79 ERA, 4.59 FIP, 1.29 WHIP) has not fully recovered from his previous injury and hurt the team all year.

On Thursday he struggled again, walking the bases without recording an out and the bullpen melted giving up six runs to blow the save and lose the game. The game before that Josh Hader gave up two runs in an 11 to 5 loss to the Padres.

It is not a guarantee any of the players with high workloads will deal with regression. However, all of these pitchers are vital to their team’s late game success.

Closely monitoring their performances can provide several angles to exploit:

  • Live betting opportunities to fade the struggling tired bullpen units or individual players
  • If these bullpen units or individual players are struggling, but you like the team that day, consider some first five inning
  • If the team has a weak starter throwing, look to play the opponent’s team total over