MLB: The Top 10 Most Nerve-Wracking Bullpens So Far in the 2011 Season

Lake CruiseAnalyst IMay 14, 2011

MLB: The Top 10 Most Nerve-Wracking Bullpens So Far in the 2011 Season

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Ryan Franklin #31 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers before blowing the save in Game Two of the NLDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Dodger Stadium on October 8, 2009 in Lo
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The Major League Baseball season has produced some very exciting finishes so far, as walk-off home runs, come-from-behind ninth-inning wins and extra-inning clutchness have happened with extraordinary frequency.

    Some of the action is due to inept bullpens—Mariano Rivera frequently excluded. Stay tuned into my frequency though, and join me now for a look at the top-10 culprits.

    Steal the show...I mean, start it...

10. Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Madson Is Closing, and Oh, What a Relief It Is

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    PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 27:  Relief pitcher Ryan Madson #46 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 27, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Phillies defeated the Diamondback
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Phillies have been getting it done with Ryan Madson closing...for now. How long can they keep it up while Brad Lidge is on the self? I'll be here to let you know.

    Just know this—the Phillies are nerve-wracking in close games even when Lidge is healthy.

    The next team on my list also serves up a healthy bowl of bullpen nail-biter soup. 

9. Los Angeles Dodgers: Vicente Padilla Is Now the Interim Closer for Broxton

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 04:  Starting pitcher Vicente Padilla #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on August 4, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Padres 9-0.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/G
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Padilla has been up and down in his brief stint as the interim closer, while Jonathan Broxton is out—shut down after experiencing elbow pain.

    Padilla was painful and got pulled as the closer last night after having a shaky ninth inning.  Manager Don Mattingly went to Kenley Jansen, who closed out Arizona.

    Which pitcher is up next? Maybe Padilla, maybe Jansen. 

    It could be a roller coaster ride while J.B. is gone. Get well soon.

8. Milwaukee Brewers: Ushering in the Twitter Age for Closers in Wisconsin

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 10:  John Axford #59 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches against the Colorado Rockies during spring training baseball game at Maryvale Baseball Park on March 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Through his Twitter account, closer John Axford apologizes to fans when he blows saves.

    He started off blowing one against the Cincinnati Reds, and he's blown two so far this season.  While he has eight saves and 18 strikeouts in 14.1 innings pitched, he's far from rock steady. His ERA is 4.70. 

    He's been chopping the axe better, lately, but still...it's nail-biting time in Milwaukee when he comes in right now.

    The Brewers are pitiful this year, though, and he could get rusty because they lose so much.

7. Seattle Mariners: Brandon League Has Given Up Ball Games Lately

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    CLEVELAND - MAY 13:  Brandon League #43 of the Seattle Mariners takes a moment to himself inbetween pitches before giving up a walk-off two run home run to Travis Hafner #48 of the Cleveland Indians in the 9th inning on May 13, 2011 at Progressive Field i
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Closer Brandon League started out the season like a bat on fire, but he's been doused with blown saves to the tune of three in a row.

    The Mariners' other closer—David Aardsma—had to restart his rehab after spraining his elbow and is at least a month away from a return.

    It's not like it matters though because Seattle isn't contending early in the season. From the looks of it, they won't be contending late either. 

    To quote native St. Louisan and former N.Y. Yankee, Yogi Berra: "It's getting late, early."

6. Minnesota Twins: Joe Nathan Removed Himself as the Closer Early in the Season

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 11: Matt Capps #55 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the Detroit Tigers during in the eighth inning of their game on May 11, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Tigers defeated the Twins 9-7. (Photo by Hannah Foslien
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Nathan is out and Matt Capps is in, but Capps has been up and down the last three seasons. 

    The Twins are in last place and own the worst record in the league. The bullpen is overworked, and the starters can't seem to do anything to stop the bleeding in Minneapolis.

    Maybe they can look to St. Paul.

5. New York Yankees: Joba Chamberlain Putting on the Ritz for Other Teams

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    ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 07:  Pitcher Joba Chamberlain #62 of the New York Yankees throws against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on May 7, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Chamberlain was roughed up last night against the Red Sox, but he's been put in almost every pitching position by the Yankees. It's a rough way to earn a living.

    With suspect starting pitching and middle relief nail-biting big boys, New York has earned their position on my list. 

    Perhaps it'll get better when Phil Hughes returns, maybe not.

    The Jankees—I mean the Yankees—are relying on Mariano Rivera, 41, and Rafael Soriano if Mo falters...a janky situation.

4. Chicago White Sox: Next Up to Try to Close a Game...Manager Ozzie Guillen

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    ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 11:  Reliever Matt Thornton #37 of the Chicago White Soxpitches the tenth inning to pick up the save against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on May 11, 2011 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.  The White Sox won 6-4 in ten innings
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Maybe manager Guillen could get Rollie Fingers or Lee Smith to help his team out. 

    In frustration over his relievers, Guillen left a media session early in the season. It didn't help as the trend has continued, and the White Sox have tumbled down the standings.

    With Cleveland doing what they do, Chicago is barely standing.

3. Atlanta Braves: Oh, for Another Billy Wagner to Go in Bullpen

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    ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 01:  Closer Billy Wagner #13 of the Atlanta Braves pitches in the ninth inning to the New York Mets at Turner Field on September 1, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Braves miss closer Billy Wagner because he was one man who could get the job done. The Braves rely on a combination of closers—at least that was the plan. 

    Now, it's more like a small army. Atlanta's relievers are in the same category with the White Sox and the next team on the list.

2. Houston Astros: They're Second in the Majors in Blown Saves...Going for No. 1

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    HOUSTON - APRIL 14:  Pitcher Brandon Lyon #37 of the Houston Astros high fives catcher Humberto after  getting the final out against San Diego Padres at Minute Maid Park on April 14, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    With nine blown saves as a team, closer Brandon Lyon and the Astros have been bugging out.

    Not so great this season, they have the worst record in the National League. I don't see it turning around in 2011. 

    At least the next team—No. 1 on my Bullpen Stress Chart—is in first place...for now.

1. St. Louis Cardinals: They Lead the Majors in Blown Saves and Miss Wainwright

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 24: Reliever Mitchell Boggs #41 and Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrate defeating the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on April 24, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    With nine blown saves, the Cardinals lead the Majors.

    The Redbirds are searching to find a closer this season after incumbent Ryan Franklin blew the first game of the season—and continued to get worse.

    Next up was Mitchell Boggs—who completed three of his first four save opportunities and went downhill after that. 

    Eduardo Sanchez stepped up and converted his first opportunity before blowing the next one. Against the Reds, St. Louis blew another game last night.

    It hasn't been smooth sailing, but I'm cruising out of here to see a man about a boat. Catch me on the next edition of Relieving Stress with Lake Cruise...