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Strong & Deep Bullpens

Posted by Steve Lombardi on November 27, 2010

How many teams have featured three plus pitchers in the same season to have thrown in 50+ games with an ERA+ of at least 130 while also collecting at least 60 Ks?

Here's the list:

Rk Year Lg Tm #Matching  
1 2010 NL Atlanta Braves 3 Takashi Saito / Jonny Venters / Billy Wagner
2 2009 NL Atlanta Braves 3 Mike Gonzalez / Peter Moylan / Rafael Soriano
3 2008 AL Boston Red Sox 3 Manny Delcarmen / Hideki Okajima / Jonathan Papelbon
4 2008 NL Philadelphia Phillies 3 Chad Durbin / Brad Lidge / Ryan Madson
5 2007 NL Arizona Diamondbacks 3 Juan Cruz / Tony Pena / Jose Valverde
6 2007 NL Chicago Cubs 3 Bob Howry / Carlos Marmol / Michael Wuertz
7 2007 AL Minnesota Twins 3 Matt Guerrier / Joe Nathan / Pat Neshek
8 2007 NL New York Mets 3 Pedro Feliciano / Aaron Heilman / Billy Wagner
9 2006 AL Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 3 Hector Carrasco / Francisco Rodriguez / Scot Shields
10 2004 AL Minnesota Twins 3 Joe Nathan / Juan Rincon / J.C. Romero
11 2003 NL Arizona Diamondbacks 3 Matt Mantei / Jose Valverde / Oscar Villarreal
12 2003 NL Los Angeles Dodgers 3 Eric Gagne / Guillermo Mota / Paul Shuey
13 2002 AL Minnesota Twins 3 Eddie Guardado / LaTroy Hawkins / J.C. Romero
14 1999 NL Atlanta Braves 3 Kevin McGlinchy / Mike Remlinger / John Rocker
15 1999 AL Chicago White Sox 3 Keith Foulke / Bob Howry / Sean Lowe
16 1999 NL Cincinnati Reds 3 Danny Graves / Scott Sullivan / Scott Williamson
17 1997 AL Milwaukee Brewers 3 Mike Fetters / Doug Jones / Bob Wickman
18 1997 AL New York Yankees 3 Jeff Nelson / Mariano Rivera / Mike Stanton
19 1996 NL San Diego Padres 3 Doug Bochtler / Trevor Hoffman / Tim Worrell
20 1995 NL Colorado Rockies 3 Darren Holmes / Curt Leskanic / Steve Reed
21 1992 NL Houston Astros 3 Joe Boever / Xavier Hernandez / Doug Jones
22 1990 NL Cincinnati Reds 3 Norm Charlton / Rob Dibble / Randy Myers
23 1987 NL Cincinnati Reds 3 John Franco / Rob Murphy / Frank Williams
24 1980 NL Chicago Cubs 3 Bill Caudill / Bruce Sutter / Dick Tidrow
25 1968 AL Chicago White Sox 3 Bob Locker / Hoyt Wilhelm / Wilbur Wood
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/27/2010.


Wow. So, the Braves, the last two seasons, are the only baseball team in history to have 3+ guys like this two years in a row. Never would have guessed that without seeing these results.

This entry was posted on Saturday, November 27th, 2010 at 11:11 am and is filed under Season Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

13 Responses to “Strong & Deep Bullpens”

  1. Note that the Braves have done it the last 2 years with 3 completely different pitchers.
    Probably the biggest limit is in the strikeouts, especially years ago. With the higher average K/9 today it would be easier for a pitcher to qualify. ERA+ is not the same on average for starters and relievers, maybe 95 for starting pitchers and 110 for relief. So, while 130 would be very impressive for a starter, it is much less so for a relief pitcher.

  2. The '07 Cubs did it without their closer being one of the three.

  3. So did (at least) the 2003 Diamondbacks

  4. Mantei was their closer that year. If you were thinking of Kim, he was gone by then.

  5. FWIW, I used the '90 Nasty Boys as my baseline here and tried to find trios somewhat like them in the query.

  6. That was some bullpen the '68 ChiSox had! Wood leads the team in wins and has a great year. I look at Wood's career and I wonder why more pitchers don't try the knuckleball.

  7. Funny that of the 25 teams on this list, only 2 won the World Series that particular year (1990 Reds and 2008 Phillies).

  8. Joe Garrison Says:


    How many of the above teams made the playoffs?

    What's the percentage?

    And how many won at least one playoff round?

    Quick now... just wondering if it is true that you need good bullpen to make the post season and a really strong bullpen to do well once you get there.

    Go go go!

  9. The Angels also did this in 2008 with Rodriguez, Shields and Arredondo?

  10. No they didn't - sorry I thought it was 50Ks not 60 - Arredondo only had 55.

  11. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    I notice that on your prototypical example, charlton actually started 16 games, so he was only in the pen for a bit over half the season. He does pick up 50+ games though.

  12. Steve, interesting theme, but I'm wondering why the 50-K requirement?

    -- I searched for 50+ games relieved, 50+ IP and an ERA+ of at least 150, with no K filter. Two teams had 4 such pitchers, the 2008 Angels & 2004 Braves, each a division winner. Of the last 20 teams with at least 3 such pitchers, 15 made the playoffs, and 3 of the last 6 WS winners have had 3 such pitchers.

    -- A 50-K floor seems modest at first blush, but it weeds out a surprising number of star relievers, even from the not-so-distant past. Dan Quisenberry had just 1 season with 50+ Ks, but he ranked in the top 3 in the Cy Young vote 4 straight years, and won 4 AL Fireman of the Year Awards with less than 50 Ks. There have been 63 seasons of at least 30 games in relief, 50 IP and an ERA+ over 200, but with less than 50 Ks -- 2 each by Mariano Rivera, John Franco, Mark Eichhorn, Quiz, Frank Linzy and Terry Fox. Just 2 years ago, Brad Ziegler had a 1.06 ERA (394 ERA+) in 59.2 IP, with only 30 Ks.

    -- Any historical comparison with a K floor will skew towards teams of the current era. The MLB K rate in 2010 (7.1 K/9) was 25% higher than in 1990 (5.7), almost 50% higher than 1980 (4.8), and more than twice the 1930 rate (3.3). Unfortunately, the Play Index does not let us filter on K rate relative to the player's league.

  13. Raymond Culpepper Says:

    Strikeouts aside, the 2002 Braves bullpen may have been the deepest and best ever:

    Smoltz, 3-2,3.25 in 80.1 innings, 55 saves
    Hammond, 7-2, 0.95 in 76 innings
    Remlinger, 7-3, 1.99 in 68 innings
    Holmes, 2-2, 1.81, in 54.2 innings
    Gryboski, 2-1, 3.48, in 51.2 innings
    Lightenberg, 3-4, 2.97 in 66.2 innings
    Spooneybarger, 1-0, 2.63 in 51.1 innings

    Total for the 7: 25-14, 2.41 in 448.2 innings

    I don't think any other team has ever had that many effective bullpen pitchers with at least 50 innings.