I’ve ranked all of the positions in the American League West, except for the pitching staffs.
To open up my preview of the best pitchers in the AL west I’m going to look at the often overlooked heroes of baseball, the relief pitchers.
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The Oakland Athletics featured one of baseball’s best bullpens last season and have improved this year giving them the edge over the rest of the west, but what about the other four teams? Where do they rank?
The best bullpens in the AL West:
1. Oakland Athletics – The Jim Johnson experiment failed miserably last season, and to a degree so did the Luke Gregerson acquisition. In 2015 the A’s have retooled all over the roster, including the pen. Tyler Clippard and R.J. Alvarez join the injured all-star closer Sean Doolittle, Dan Otero, Fernando Abad, Jesse Chavez, and others to form one of baseball’s top-10 bullpens. Last year’s team compiled the third best bullpen ERA in baseball, and this season they look even better. Projected wins above replacement, courtesy of Fangraphs: 2.3
2. Seattle Mariners – They led baseball in bullpen ERA in 2014 thanks to a collective effort from closer Fernando Rodney, former closer Tom Wilhelmsen, strikeout machine Charlie Furbush, Danny Farquar, and Yoervis Medina. Rodney is a rollercoaster when he closes out games, but he has been among the most consistent relievers in baseball the past few seasons and this pen boasts some of the best strikeout artists in baseball. Can they repeat 2014’s success? Projected WAR: 1.8
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – They cobbled together one of baseball’s best bullpens in 2014 after acquiring Joe Smith and closer Huston Street, turning a weakness into a great strength. They don’t pack the high-strikeout punch of the A’s or Mariners, but look for this group to bring consistency to the back end of games in 2015. Projected WAR: 1.4
4. Houston Astros – The Astros posted baseball’s worst bullpen ERA last season but vaulted themselves back into the mix of the West’s best bullpen with their free agent signings. They added Luke Gregerson and another Former-Athletics Pat Neshek to the back end of their pen, stabilizing a young group of relievers. Gregerson was recently named the team’s closer, and although he was unreliable in high-leverage situations for Oakland last season he has been a quality reliever for a long time, and has to be better than Chad Qualls in the ninth. Projected WAR: 1.5
5. Texas Rangers – What is there to say? This group looks bad. They were one of baseball’s worst relief corps last season and are expected to be even worse in 2014. Closer Neftali Feliz has been plagued by injury the past two seasons, and although he finished 2014 well, he is still a big question mark in the ninth. Tanner Scheppers was an elite setup man in 2013, but failed as a starter in 2014. If he transitions well back to the bullpen this group might not be a total disaster. Projected WAR: -0.2