Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Ranking the Best Bullpens Ever

One of the most underappreciated spots on the team is the role of reliever. But over the course of a season, and even in important championship games, a great team needs great relief pitching. That's where the bullpen comes in. As such, I have decided to review the top five bullpens of all time using ERA-.

ERA- was used as a tool of evaluation as it effectively compares ERA over time, recognizing that ERA can be adjusted depending on the season, the park and the league. It is measured where 100 is average and each point below or above that is one point better or worse than average. Like normal ERA, the lower the ERA-, the better.

5. 2006 Twins (61 ERA-): The Twins finished first in the American League Central with a 99-66 record for a reason – their bullpen. The bullpen had a collective 8.13 K/9, kept opponents to a .224 average and had an ERA of 2.91.

4. 2002 Braves (64 ERA-): With a 101-59 record, the 2002 Braves finished first in the NL East. With John Smoltz at closer backed by a group of stellar bullpen arms, the team kept the ball in the park, allowing only a 0.58 HR/9 and kept runners on base, maintaining a 80% LOB record on the season.

3. 1981 Yankees (64 ERA-): More than 30 years ago, the Yankees bullpen had an incredible ERA of 2.60 and a WHIP of 1.23. The bullpen helped the team make it to the World Series, but unfortunately the team lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.

2. 1990 Athletics (63 ERA-): The Athletics finished first in the AL with a 103-59, thanks in part to a bullpen that maintained an ERA of 2.35 throughout the 1990 season. Their closer, Dennis Eckersley, even maintained a 0.61 ERA in 63 games. The team found success as they were able to limit runners getting on base, allowing only 2.7 walks per nine innings pitched.

1. 2003 Dodgers (61 ERA-): Led by Canadian Eric Gagne at closer, the 2003 Dodgers finished second in the NL West, making a habit out of striking out their opponents. The team maintained a 8.93 strikeouts per nine and a 25.10 strikeout percentage.