The Oakland Athletics bullpen suffered its worst 30-game stretch of the year between April 21 and May 22, when it had a 6.17 ERA. In that stretch, the A's went 7-23, falling from 7-7 to 14-30. The bullpen's record was 2-8 with six blown saves. For shorthand, I shall refer to this period as "The Dark Times."
Since The Dark Times, however, the A's bullpen has been quite good. Since May 23, A's relievers have enjoyed a 3.26 ERA. Over Oakland's last 30 games, the A's bullpen has a 3.05 ERA, the team's best 30-game average of the season:
A 3.05 ERA over the whole season would rank fourth in the American League. As it stands, Oakland's bullpen ERA has fallen to 4.30, good for 14th place in the American League ahead of the Texas Rangers (4.38), from a season high 5.29 after the team's 31st game on May 8.
Who was around during The Dark Times but is no longer with Oakland? Let's take a look (stats limited to The Dark Times):
- Chad Smith is responsible for five of the 61 runs (8.2%) conceded during The Dark Times despite only pitching 1⅓ of the 89 relief innings (1.5%).
- R.J. Alvarez has 11 runs over four innings, though six of those were earned when he was asked to try to eat innings while the team was desperately shorthanded in the bullpen.
- Ryan Cook conceded five runs in 4⅓ innings.
- Dan Otero gave up seven runs in 12 innings.
- Arnold Leon gave up just two runs but only in 2⅔ innings.
- Angel Castro allowed just one run in three innings.
- Chris Bassitt pitched well in relief during the Dark Times, allowing just four earned runs in 10⅔ innings, for a 3.38 ERA. He recently made two excellent spot starts while Sonny Gray recovered from gastroenteritis.
So that's 35 earned runs in 38 innings either out of the organization (Smith), optioned to Triple-A as relievers (Alvarez, Cook, Otero, Castro), or optioned to Triple-A to return to starting (Leon, Bassitt). The rest of the bullpen—Eric O'Flaherty, Fernando Abad, Fernando Rodriguez, Evan Scribner, Edward Mujica, Tyler Clippard, and Ike Davis (one scoreless inning)—gave up 26 earned runs over 61 innings for a 3.83 ERA during The Dark Times.
Who is new to the bullpen and was not around for much of The Dark Times?
- Drew Pomeranz moved from starting to relieving upon Kendall Graveman's return to the starting rotation and has a 1.18 ERA in 16 relief appearances.
- Edward Mujica only made his first appearance for Oakland on May 11 and made five scoreless appearances before going on the disabled list. He returned on June 19 and has allowed three earned runs in 4⅔ innings, but still has a 2.70 ERA in 11 appearances for Oakland.
- Pat Venditte stormed on to the scene and threw 5⅔ scoreless innings himself before going on the disabled list.
Who is still around from The Dark Times?
- Tyler Clippard has been steady throughout the season. He had a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings before May 23 and a 2.70 ERA in 17⅔ innings since then.
- Evan Scribner was a gem before May 23, picking up a 2.70 ERA in 23⅓ innings. He has struggled since then, however, especially recently. In nine appearances from June 12, Scribner has a 7.27 ERA in 8⅔ innings, and has given up six home runs.
- Fernando Abad has calmed down from the 6.94 ERA start he had in 21 appearances through May 22. In eight appearances after then, he owns a 1.17 ERA.
- Eric O'Flaherty went on the disabled list after April 30 sitting on an 11.57 ERA. He made his first return appearance on June 5, and has made nine appearances allowing only a 3.52 ERA.
- Before May 23, Fernando Rodriguez owned a 5.19 ERA in eight appearances. Since May 23, Fernando Rodriguez has a 2.93 ERA in 16 appearances. In fact, take out the two runs he allowed to Tampa Bay while getting just one out on May 24, and Rodriguez owns a 1.80 ERA over his last 15 appearances for the A's.
Sure the bullpen will still blow up once in awhile. Every bullpen does. Heck, even Dellin Betances fails to strike out Brett Lawrie with a breaking ball and gives up a home run instead every once in awhile. But those occurrences are rarer these days for the men in green and gold, and we need not panic when Bob Melvin calls for a reliever.
So the bullpen has calmed down, the worst performers are away from the big league club, and the A's are 25-17 (.595) since the end of The Dark Times. Things are looking up for a team that needs to climb up the American League ladder.