Makinen: Improving the MLB bullpen betting system




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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been giving regular updates on my MLB Bullpen System, and I’m here to do so once again as we close the first month of the season. Unfortunately, this past week wiped out a lot of our season profit, but in essence, that is the risk that is taken by playing systems consistently. Sometimes they lose in specific time windows, but if the system is strong, which this one has proven to be, it fares well over the long haul. For the seven days closing the month of April, the system was down -17.28 units, with three particular days proving damaging, and the other four providing profits. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the system, how it has fared this past week and the season overall, and then provide some more specific stats on line ranges in which the system has proven more fruitful than others. You’ll see I have uncovered an incredibly defined weak spot in the system. I will provide the latest stats updates and current bullpen ratings as well.

>>Check Steve Makinen’s daily Bullpen Ratings

Remember, I reiterated last week that I get a little leery of tracking records on a day-by-day or weekly basis, as the purpose of the system is not so much to keep track of specific wins and losses, but rather to teach bettors the importance of bullpen performance and how it is reflected in MLB betting success. In my opinion, lines are too reflective of the starting pitchers, when in most cases, the bullpens tend to work at least a third of the game. That leaves a lot of value to be found when analyzing the late-game possibilities. Beyond that, I believe that a solid working bullpen is usually a function of an overall superior team. You’ll see later when I reveal some of the more specific line range wins and losses that overpricing of games does hurt this methodology. You can follow my daily adjustments and keep track of the Bullpen System plays every day for the rest of the season.

After posting a few in-season updates already, this past week’s results with the strategy produced a record of 45-45 for -17.28 units or an R.O.I. of 19.2%. These were the results by day:

Monday 4/24: 4-7, -5.94 units

Tuesday 4/25: 5-9, -7.53 units

Wednesday 4/26: 10-5, +3.15 units

Thursday 4/27: 7-4, +1.25 units

Friday 4/28: 6-5, +0.32 units

Saturday 4/29: 8-6, +0.22 units

Sunday 4/30: 5-9, -8.75 units

Adding these numbers to the early results I shared last week, the overall season record of this methodology is now 247-166 for +17.11 units, an R.O.I. of 4.1%.

To put this in perspective, over the entire 2022 baseball season, the R.O.I. for this concept was 4.9%—pretty consistent by year-over-year standards. I hope that these results will continue at this level for the rest of the season, but we all know that remains to be seen. That leads me to this next important bit of information…

As I’ve promised in recent updates, over the rest of the season, I plan on digging deeper into the numbers to see if we can narrow down some specifics to help us improve our profits with the methodology. Right off the cuff, I can tell you that I get skittish in backing a team where there is significant overpricing, regardless of the level of bullpen mismatch. With this sticking in my mind, I found several instances last week in which I felt quite skittish about backing the team with the better bullpen. As these games lost, I figured I owed it to myself to study the logic. Here are some extremely interesting nuggets I found for this season by drilling down deeper into my MLB Bullpen System results:


–  In games this season through Sunday in which the team with the better-rated bullpen was listed as a favorite of -190 or more, that team was 59-30 for -9.33 units. When you consider that the overall profit for the season has been +17.11 units, it shows how much these big favorites are dragging the system down. I’ve never been a fan of laying 2-1 or more on one of 162 baseball games for any team.

–  In combining starting pitcher differences in looking at these games with -190 favorites or higher, there’s been even a better opportunity to avoid games. Specifically, when the starting pitcher difference between the better bullpen team is less than 20, these big favorites have gone just 10-22 for -38.62 units! In other words, there has to be a massive starting pitcher strength difference between the teams to even consider paying this high of a price. The R.O.I. on this has been -120.7%, and if you would have taken these games out of the entire MLB Bullpen system, the profits would be up to +55.73 units.

–  Money line underdog teams with better bullpen ratings have gone 49-48 for +13.86 units thus far.

–  Finally, I discovered last week that backing better bullpen teams on losing streaks has also proven fruitful. When on 2 game-losing streaks, these teams with better bullpen ratings have gone 41-18 for +15.47 units. Better bullpen teams on 3+ game-losing streaks have gone 21-2 for +19.58 units!

Make sure to consider these angles as we move forward, as they are foundational. First off, bettors never want to pay too high of prices for any single baseball game in a regular season. Second, the law of averages suggests that teams with good bullpens won’t be stuck in lengthy losing skids.

Now, let’s take an updated look at some of the key bullpen stats that have been accumulated so far this season, as well as my current Bullpen Power Ratings as we head into this week’s games. Note, ratings were as of games through Sunday, April 30th, and I do update them on a daily basis.


Key Bullpen Stats (through games of April 30th)


Top 5 Bullpen ERAs

  1. Baltimore: 2.86
  2. New York Yankees: 2.93
  3. Milwaukee: 2.97
  4. Houston: 2.97
  5. Tampa Bay: 2.97


Worst 5 Bullpen ERAs

  1. Chicago White Sox: 6.86
  2. Oakland: 6.83
  3. San Francisco: 6.15
  4. Kansas City: 5.26
  5. Los Angeles Dodgers: 4.76


Top 5 Bullpen WHIPs

  1. Tampa Bay: 1.07
  2. Baltimore: 1.13
  3. Texas: 1.13
  4. Toronto: 1.13
  5. Detroit: 1.13


Worst 5 Bullpen WHIPs

  1. Chicago White Sox: 1.76
  2. Oakland: 1.75
  3. San Francisco: 1.52
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers: 1.45
  5. Colorado: 1.43


Top 5 Bullpen Ks/9 innings

  1. St. Louis: 11.25
  2. Chicago Cubs: 10.98
  3. Kansas City: 10.88
  4. Chicago White Sox: 10.77
  5. Houston: 10.73


Worst 5 Bullpen Ks/9 innings

  1. Tampa Bay: 6.95
  2. Oakland: 7.19
  3. Washington: 7.52
  4. Milwaukee: 7.63
  5. Boston: 7.93


As a reminder, I use a manual process of analyzing daily box scores to build my Bullpen Power Ratings. In most cases, the end number is a reflection of the three stats listed above with great consideration also given to overall talent, injuries, and momentum.


Biggest Movers in SM Bullpen Power Ratings since last week Monday the 24th of April:


Biggest upward movers (PR points)

  1. Kansas City: +13 points
  2. Philadelphia: +8
  3. Arizona, Milwaukee, Los Angeles Angels, Toronto: +4


Biggest downward movers (PR points)

  1. Miami: -11 points
  2. St. Louis: -9
  3. Chicago White Sox: -8
  4. New York Yankees, San Francisco, Texas: -6


Steve’s Current Bullpen Ratings/Ranks

Rank – Team – Bullpen PR

  1. Houston: 20
  2. Tampa Bay: 16
  3. Baltimore: 15
  4. Milwaukee: 14
  5. Seattle: 13
  6. Toronto: 11
  7. Los Angeles Angels: 10
  8. Cleveland: 10
  9. New York Yankees: 9
  10. New York Mets: 8
  11. Philadelphia: 8
  12. Minnesota: 7
  13. Pittsburgh: 7
  14. Atlanta: 6
  15. Los Angeles Dodgers: 4
  16. Chicago Cubs: 4
  17. Cincinnati: 4
  18. Boston: 3
  19. Texas: 3
  20. San Diego: 2
  21. St. Louis: 1
  22. Detroit: 1
  23. Washington: -2
  24. Kansas City: -4
  25. Arizona: -6
  26. Miami: -9
  27. Colorado: -12
  28. San Francisco: -14
  29. Chicago White Sox: -23
  30. Oakland: -30


These are sorted first by bullpen ranking, and then by overall team power rating. As we look at the MLB schedule in the early part of the week, the biggest bullpen mismatches show (all with double-digit margins):

Atlanta over Miami

Milwaukee over Colorado

Minnesota over Chicago White Sox

Baltimore over Kansas City

Seattle over Oakland

Houston over San Francisco

Remember to be selective using the drill-down systems I shared above. However, we never want to overpay. Good luck with your baseball wagering this week.