Revisiting AL East Position Rankings: Pitching - Page 3 of 4 - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Paul Folkemer

Revisiting AL East Position Rankings: Pitching

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

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Bullpen

April rankings:

  1. Orioles
  2. Yankees
  3. Red Sox
  4. Blue Jays
  5. Rays

The Orioles’ bullpen, which was the backbone of the club’s success from 2012-2016, faltered in 2017. Seemingly unstoppable closer Zach Britton discovered that he could, in fact, be stopped. A forearm strain sent him to the DL twice and his command was a bit off when he returned. Ultimately, his season ended due to knee discomfort. Brad Brach had some shaky moments as Britton’s replacement in the ninth, but the Orioles got key contributions from setup man Mychal Givens and middle relievers Miguel Castro and Richard Bleier.

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For pure dominance, nobody topped the Yankees’ bullpen, which, by the end of the season, was a crew full of strikeout artists. Of the nine Yankee relievers who made at least 30 appearances, seven of them averaged more than 10 whiffs per nine innings. In-season trade acquisitions David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle bolstered a group that included Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and Chad Green. The only blemish was the uncertainty in the closer role, where both Chapman and Betances held and then lost the job at various times.

The Red Sox had no such trouble in the ninth inning. Craig Kimbrel (pictured above) was one of the majors’ best closers, racking up 35 saves, a 1.43 ERA and a whopping 126 strikeouts in 69 innings. But his supporting cast — consisting mainly of righties Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes — wasn’t as overpowering as the Yankees’ crew.

Tampa Bay closer Alex Colome led the majors with 47 saves, but had some rough patches throughout the year, allowing runs in 18 appearances. Former Oriole Tommy Hunter was the Rays’ most reliable reliever, posting a career-best 2.61 ERA in 61 games, but no one else in their patchwork bullpen pitched more than 41 times.

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, had a lot of mediocrity in their bullpen. Closer Roberto Osuna blew 10 saves in 49 opportunities, and Dominic Leone (2.56) was their only regular reliever with an ERA below 3.00.

End-of-season rankings:

  1. Yankees
  2. Red Sox
  3. Orioles
  4. Rays
  5. Blue Jays

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