In pulling together the Yanks-Rays Series Preview for this week I couldn't help but notice that the four teams likely headed to the postseason in the American League had four of the strongest bullpens in the league. Not that this is surprising news in any way, shape or form, but it did make me wonder how often the four postseason entrants also possessed the top four bullpen ERAs.
Here's a gander at the numbers, with AL ranks in parentheses:
It seems anecdotally that the Twins' bullpen is perceived to be somewhat inferior to the other three teams', but that's pretty clearly not the case. While they don't strike too many batter out, they keep the ball in the park and walk very few batters, hence the second-best FIP in the American League. When batters do make contact the balls fall for hits more frequently than with the other 'pens, hence the higher WHIP.
The Rays' 'pen leads the AL in K/BB and WHIP, though they're the worst of the four units at stranding runners. The Yankees relief corps excels at keeping men off base, leading the league in BAA and placing second in WHIP, while the Yankee defense also deserves a nod for the 'pen's league-leading BABIP.
The Rangers' 'pen leads the league in strand rate (not to mention sheer number of pitchers) and also excels at limiting baserunners, which helps add up to the second-best ERA in the league.
It's really quite something to see just how closely aligned these four teams' bullpens are. Between having the top four ERAs and four of the top five FIPs (all within 0.07 of each other), there's not one team in the AL postseason field that one could look forward to knocking an opposing team's starter out of the game to feast on said team's bullpen. I suppose if I had to pick my poison I'd go with the Twins, who despite walking almost no one still give up their share of hits, at least relative to this field. The Rays and Rangers excel at missing bats, which of course makes mounting rallies all the more difficult.