Sport Bullpen woes plague NL contenders

03:35  11 august  2018
03:35  11 august  2018 Source:   sbnation.com

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Emma covered their bullpen woes pretty thoroughly on Tuesday, but their offense has struggled nearly as much. Jon Tayler: I’m tempted to say “Every team in the NL West,” as all the would-be contenders there can’t hit and are being torn apart by injuries.

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Several teams vying for a playoff spot in the National League find themselves on shaky ground because of their bullpen, with events of the last few days heightening the concern.

The most glaring concern is the most serious, and has little to do with baseball. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen was placed on the disabled list on Friday after experiencing an irregular heartbeat in Denver on Thursday. He was sent back to see his cardiologist in Los Angeles, placed on the disabled list, and could miss the next month or so.

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Alas, their bullpen couldn't close the deal—something many other contenders can relate to these days. They have the league's second-best record and an 8 1/2 game lead in the NL East, but the Nationals' bullpen issues have already taxed their rotation and divided their clubhouse.

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Jansen has had problems before in the high altitude of Coors Field. He had an irregular heartbeat in 2012 in Denver and had cardiac ablation surgery to correct it that offseason. In 2015 Jansen experienced high blood pressure during a series there, too.

For years the question surrounding the Dodgers bullpen has been how they would navigate the bridge to Jansen. Los Angeles has some potential intriguing options coming in the next few weeks, with one or two starters possibly moving to relief plus the pending return of Julio Urias from shoulder surgery. But for now the ‘pen is a scramble for the Dodgers, who entered Friday tied atop the NL West with Arizona and also in a virtual tie with Atlanta for the second wild card spot.

An expensive flop

With Jansen unavailable on Thursday night in Denver, the story of the game might have been the Dodgers’ bullpen blowing a late lead, with the embattled Pedro Baez allowing four runs in the seventh.

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No matter how you slice it, you cannot sugarcoat 17 blown saves (tied for the most in the majors), or a 40 percent blown-save rate that ranks 13th of 15 NL teams. The bullpen stands as the No. 1 element that the Giants need to fix, internally and externally.

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But things soon shifted to a familiar refrain in Colorado, with Rockies relievers allowing five home runs in the final three innings of a Dodgers win. “Tonight’s one of those games where you’ve gotta flush it,” Rockies reliever Scott Oberg said, per MLB.com.

The Rockies bullpen ranks dead last in the National League with a 5.22 ERA, and even when factoring in the hitter-friendly environs of Coors Field has been stunningly bad.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way for the Rockies, who spent $106 million in free agency on contracts for relievers Wade Davis, Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw. Their ERAs are 5.51, 6.63 and 6.45, respectively. At over $45 million, the Rockies have the most expensive bullpen in the league. With any kind of non-putrid performance from their relievers, Colorado would be in much better position than 3½ games out of a playoff spot.

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The Cubs’ bullpen was a glaring weakness, and it turned what would’ve been a respectable 3-3 homestand against two NL contenders into a lost opportunity at 2-4. The pen wasted two more homers from Willson Contreras and another from Kyle Schwarber.

“Our guys need to perform better, and they would be the first to tell you that,” Black said when I asked him about the bullpen woes . The NL West standings on Sept. 30 will tell us whether the Rockies were prudent or overly cautious on July 31. Looking ahead.

Strange brew

The Brewers enter Friday in first wild card position and just 2½ games back of Chicago in the NL Central. Their bullpen has done relatively well this season, ranking sixth in the NL with a 3.75 ERA, but in August things have gone south. Milwaukee relievers this month have allowed 34 runs — including 10 home runs — in just 27 innings.

Things turned disastrous on Thursday night when they couldn’t hold a 4-2 lead in the ninth against San Diego. Closer Corey Knebel faced four batters and didn’t retire a single one, allowing three walks and a hit. He was replaced by recent trade addition Joakim Soria, who allowed a grand slam, part of a six-run inning and a heartbreaking loss for the Brewers.

To top things off, Soria had to leave after the grand slam with a right thigh strain and on Friday was placed on the 10-day disabled list.

“He shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place and hopefully whatever happened to him today, he’s all right because that’s my fault,” Knebel said, per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. ”We had the win and I blew it.”

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In 2012, they won another championship, although Lincecum posted a 5.18 ERA and was banished to the bullpen in the World Series. Made the playoffs as a wild card, with help from a terrible NL West that featured the 96-loss Rockies and 98-loss Diamondbacks.

Power Rankings: A new No. 1 and NL contenders make their moves. The Dodgers' mark is all the more remarkable given their injury woes , which at one point had franchise shortstop Corey Seager, 2017 MVP candidate Justin Chicago's biggest edge on the stat sheet might come in the bullpen .

Capital punishment

I’d be remiss without mentioning that Greg Holland, a free agent flop this winter who wasn’t signed by the Rockies, found his way to the Nationals after getting released by St. Louis. Holland joined a Washington bullpen that was down a member after trading the reasonably productive Shawn Kelley for spite, and on Thursday against the Cubs Holland walked in the eventual winning run.

That loss dropped the Nationals to just 59-57, easily the most disappointing team in the National League, in third place in their own division and five games out of a playoff spot. Washington owns the 10th-best record in the National League.

Washington is also without the services of All-Star closer Sean Doolittle, who is out with a stress reaction in his foot.

There is still roughly seven weeks remaining in the regular season, quite some time for these teams to overcome their recent bullpen struggles. But with the playoff contenders bunched so closely together, the teams that find relief might be able to separate themselves from the pack.

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