MLB’s Best Bullpen Resides in Milwaukee

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The New York Yankees. The Cleveland Indians. The Los Angeles Dodgers. The Houston Astros. The Colorado Rockies. Some familiar postseason presences, some rising contenders, some youthful teams full of hope. They all have bullpens considered to be among the best in Major League Baseball.

None of those five have the best bullpen in the sport, and that honor belongs to one team. The team was ranked ninth in bullpen power rankings by MLB.com entering the 2018 season, and that’s the highest I could find on a quick Google search.

We’re talking about the Milwaukee Brewers, the surprise leaders of the National League Central, whose bullpen has been the best relief unit in baseball in the first third of the 2018 season. It’s not even particularly close from a relative standpoint; Milwaukee’s bullpen has blown out the competition in the April and May.

The names on the depth chart don’t really jump out to anyone, but with gradual, individual improvements comes refinement of the group itself, and the leaders of the Brewers bullpen have stepped up their game. Lefty Josh Hader has set the NL on fire, right-handed closer Corey Knebel is back with a vengeance after an early-season injury, and role-playing set-up men like Jeremy Jeffress and a resurgent Matt Albers have held down the fort in numerous ways.

Behind @jhader17 and crew, the @Brewers have formed the best bullpen in Major League Baseball.Click To Tweet

The individual relief arms have zeroed in on their own performance enough to where the bullpen as a whole has skyrocketed into a position as MLB’s preeminent pen. Aside from Knebel (who has battled injuries, but had 39 saves and a 250 ERA+ last season), it seems every reliever is having a career year — or close to it.

It starts with Hader, whose microscopic 1.09 ERA is the best in the NL among relievers with 30 or more innings pitched, and boils down to Knebel, who is due for a bounce-back as the season progresses. Even lesser-known guys like Taylor Williams and Jacob Barnes are throwing lights out baseball this season.

PLAYERIPERAK/BBSAVES/HOLDSOPPONENT'S BA%
Josh Hader331.0966/126/9.094
Jeremy Jeffress290.6225/93/7.138
Dan Jennings25.22.4518/70/6.253
Matt Albers251.0821/51/7.198
Jacob Barnes212.5721/92/3.286
Taylor Williams202.7029/110/1.159
Corey Knebel10.25.0614/65/1.167

As for solo stats, those often don’t tell the full story. For example, Jared Hughes of the Cincinnati Reds owns the seventh-best reliever ERA in baseball, but the Reds’ total ERA is 3.98 and good for only 16th in MLB. On that note, let’s check in on the MLB leaderboard for reliever earned run averages and see how the Brew Crew is chugging along.

TEAMRELIEVER ERAIPK/BBSAVESOPPONENT'S BA%
1. Milwaukee2.45216.2249/8217.206
2. Arizona2.47185.2
164/6115.209
3. Chicago Cubs2.67195.1197/9413.204
4. Houston3.02152171/3812.225
5. Boston3.17190203/6521.227
6. San Diego3.23217.2221/7716.229
7. NY Yankees3.39188.2253/7613.212
8. Oakland3.56205186/7813.256
9. Philadelphia3.63178.1183/7613.237
10. Atlanta3.72200.2200/10213.226

Milwaukee’s bullpen consists of proven commodities like Knebel and Hader, but also unsung relief heroes like Jeffress and Dan Jennings. It’s the perfect combination of fireballing, fastball-first guys and finesse, late movement guys, and they can beat you with left-handers and right-handers. If you’re trailing late against the Brewers, the game is all but over.

If Milwaukee, 36-21, holds on and qualifies for the postseason via division championship or Wild Card Game berth, it’ll be the best group of relief arms in baseball carrying the squad into October.

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