MLB Betting: Key Stats To Evaluate Bullpens



In today’s game, the difference between winning and losing a game could easily come down to a team’s bullpen. With starting pitchers rarely going the distance, an increasing amount of reliance is being placed on a team’s bullpen to bridge the gap between the 7th to 9th innings. When betting on baseball games, it becomes more and more important to factor in the strength of a team’s bullpen, which usually translates into a team’s ability to close out games. Here are the key statistics to consider when evaluating a team’s bullpen.

Earned Run Average (ERA)

A bullpen’s ERA is important to consider since this statistic provides a general idea of a bullpen’s ability to limit runs – vital when relievers enter a game tied or within one or two runs. However, a team’s bullpen may go through stretches of ups-and-downs so ERA must be viewed with caution. Additionally, it also helps to take note of a team’s setup man and closer and dive deeper into the individual stats of these players – they are usually responsible for finishing off the 8th and 9th innings of games.

Walks Hits Per Innings Pitched (WHIP)

A bullpen’s WHIP indicates the ability of a team’s reliever, on average, to limit the number of baserunners. With more runners on base, a team increases its chances of scoring runs. As a result, it is essential for relievers to limit the hits and walks allowed to batters, both of which contribute to WHIP. Although a bullpen’s ERA may fluctuate over different periods, the WHIP figure tends to remain relatively consistent.

Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)

A bullpen’s FIP paints a better picture of a team’s relievers to limit runs since it removes the effects of a team’s defense. Relievers with superior defenses behind them have the luxury of being bailed out by the defense turning well-hit balls into outs. As a result, FIP may provide a better indicator of a bullpen’s long-term ability to record outs.

Saves To Save Opportunities

While this statistic is applicable to a team’s bullpen, it revolves more around a team’s closer. In MLB, a save opportunity arises whenever:

1. A pitcher enters the game with a lead of three runs or less and pitches for at least one inning.
2. A pitcher enters the game, regardless of the current count, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat, or on deck.
3. A pitcher enters the game and pitches for three innings or more.

It is especially important for a team to convert its save opportunities. Blown save opportunities arise when a team has the lead and gives it up, either from the opposing team tying the game or taking the lead. A team that is very capable of converting save opportunities into saves is able to maintain its lead and close out close games.

Strikeouts Per Nine Innings Pitched (K/9)

A bullpen with a strong K/9 allows a team to get out of jams and limit the number of balls put in-play. With an elite K/9 figure, a team’s bullpen is able to more easily strand existing baserunners and negate the opposing team when they are trying to advance runners or score runners via a sacrifice groundout or flyout. By striking out opposing batters at a high rate, it makes it especially difficult for opposing teams to start a late rally.

Groundball Rate (GB%)

A bullpen’s GB% should also be taken into account. Weakly induced groundballs tend to make for easy outs and are vital when a team is trying to stop the opposing team’s momentum and turn double plays. A bullpen with a superior groundball rate will be more likely to limit the number of potential runs scored with multiple runners on-base or runners in scoring position.