January 14, 2011

Baseball’s best bullpens: Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers

Last night the Yankees paired the best closer of all time with the best closer in baseball last year. Only one other team has a comparable one-two punch: the Red Sox.

I’d also add the Tigers to this best bullpen in the game discussion with their addition of Joaquin Benoit, who posted a 1.34 ERA for the Rays last season.

Yankees Red Sox Tigers
Mariano Rivera Jonathan Papelbon Jose Valverde
Rafael Soriano Daniel Bard Joaquin Benoit
David Robertson Dan Wheeler Joel Zumaya
Pedro Feliciano Hideki Okajima Daniel Schlereth
Joba Chamberlain Bobby Jenks Ryan Perry

Since Papelbon is coming off the worst season of his career (3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8 BS), I think it’s safe to say the Yankees do have the best combination of setup man and closer. But let’s look at each bullpen five men deep.

Before the eighth and ninth, the Yankees can mix and match the sixth and seventh innings with Robertson, Feliciano and Chamberlain. Robertson was very good in the bullpen from June until the ALCS when the Rangers tattooed him. Feliciano’s role is to retire tough lefties, and that’s about it. Some people are clamoring to move Chamberlain back to the rotation, but that’s very unlikely.

Red Sox:
Bard is coming off an exceptional season and might be the only setup man who compares to Soriano. However, Rivera’s consistency makes him a better option at closer than Papelbon. With additions of Wheeler and Jenks, the Red Sox’ pen is just as deep as New York’s. Okajima had a great second half last season and should be feared.

Valverde, Benoit and Zumaya might be the best one-two-three punch in the game. Schlereth, a lefty, and Perry, a righty, are coming off good seasons too. Ex-Yankee Phil Coke is now in the rotation, which also looks very strong.

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