You can’t win a game if the bullpen blows the game. In MLB today, the bullpen is more important than it’s ever been. In 2021, the average team is asking their bullpen to get 13 outs per game. That’s nearly half of the 27 outs you need in a nine-inning contest. It’s four outs more than the average MLB bullpen workload ten years ago, and seven outs more than in 1995.
If you want to win baseball games you better have a good bullpen. Which means for gamblers you need to choose teams that have good relievers coming out of the pen to get the final 3-4 innings of outs.
When placing your MLB bets, you should consult bullpen strength. Even if a top-notch starter is on the mound, you can’t assume the pen will finish off a victory.
According to Stathead (from Baseball-Reference.com), here are MLB’s most effective bullpens so far in 2020. The four stats are Bullpen ERA, WHIP (walks+hits per inning pitched), Wins Above Average, and OPS+ (a lower figure indicates the bullpen is above league average).
Wins Above Average measures the ability of the bullpen to perform in high-leverage situations as opposed to an average MLB bullpen.
Best MLB Bullpens, 2021
|TEAM||BULLPEN ERA||WHIP||WINS ABOVE AVG||OPS+|
10 Best MLB Bullpens
Here are my picks for the ten best MLB bullpens as we enter the second half of the 2021 season, and how these teams look for a deep run into the playoffs.
- San Francisco Giants
The biggest surprise of the ’21 season is the emergence of the Giants to take the top spot in the tough NL West. They may not hang onto that lead, but their bullpen is so good they are almost certainly a lock for a playoff spot.
- Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are masters at utilizing their bullpen in unique ways. Once again they have a deep pen with strong arms, which may lead them back to the World Series.
- San Diego Padres
Ace closer Mark Melancon leads a squad of excellent relievers.
- Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers, like the Rays, shuttle in fresh arms every year and seem to find a way to have one of baseball’s best bullpens. Even though their starters are not elite, the Brewers are a good team because of the back end of their pitching staff.
- Miami Marlins
Barring a miracle, the Marlins are not going to the postseason, but a bright spot has been the performance of their unheralded bullpen, led by Yimi Garcia, Richard Bleier, Dylan Floro, and Adam Cimber.
- Houston Astros
Dusty Baker’s team is poised to make the playoffs for a fifth straight season, and given the balance of their pitching staff they are a good choice down the stretch.
- Los Angeles Dodgers
The defending champs have it all, and will be favored to come out of the National League.
- New York Mets
Injuries are decimating their roster, but the Mets are deep in the bullpen, and Francisco Lindor is finally starting to come around. (Until he was injured last weekend…)
- Chicago White Sox
Has the best record in the American League, but watch their starting rotation, which may tire under all the extra innings they toss compared to other playoff teams.
- New York Yankees
When the Yankees aren’t in first place and on pace to win 100 games, there’s panic in the streets of NYC. But, this team has a lot of serious flaws, chief among them their defense. Pitching relies on defense, and even though the Yanks bullpen is very good, they can’t do it alone. The Bombers are probably going to miss the postseason.