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