Makinen’s updated MLB bullpen power ratings


We’ve just come out of the MLB All-Star break and it’s a good time to check in on how each of the 30 bullpens are faring. Handicapping bullpens — their performance, usage and daily availability — is a key part of baseball betting. Sometimes it helps to take a simple snapshot at various points of the season to remind ourselves how important bullpen handicapping is to betting success. 

I am leaning on my bullpen ratings more than ever. Teams are treating their starters more carefully these days, and the extra-inning change in 2020 has only enhanced the importance of pitchers getting hitters out — and getting them out in dominant fashion — late in games. There are many sophisticated stats out there, but the combination I choose to employ most is WHIP and strikeouts per 9 innings.


Before I update everyone with my current bullpen ratings, it’s important to note that the power ratings I’m using are the same ones that go into creating the daily strength ratings and projections you’ll find on all season long. They are devised from both statistics/performance and perception in the betting markets. I also use ballpark factors to accurately reflect the conditions pitchers operate in.

Here’s a reminder of why bullpen strength and my power ratings are so important:

There were 2,465 MLB games in 2021. By simply taking the team with the higher Steve Makinen Bullpen Power Rating, a bettor would have gone 1,358-1,049 (56.4%) for -8.16 units — there were 58 games with equal ratings — representing a loss of just 0.3%. While not a positive ROI, it still easily beat the juice, which typically averages about 5%.

In games with a Steve Makinen Bullpen Power Rating difference of 10 points or more, the higher-rated team was 582-349 (62.5%) for %plussign% 54.49 units. This represents an ROI of 5.9%, a nice return for 6%plussign% months of betting. In games with an SMBPR difference of 20 points or more, typically top-five bullpens versus bottom-five bullpens, the higher-rated team was 143-70 (67.1%) for %plussign% 17.58 units. That’s an ROI of 8.3%.

Keep in mind, these ratings will update consistently throughout the season, sometimes daily. However, if you have a good gauge for the talent levels and you monitor the key stats regularly, you’ll be able to understand the differences between bullpens.

Here’s a look at how my top-10 and bottom-10 bullpens have done this season in terms of net betting units:

Top 10 in SMBPR right now

1. Houston: %plussign% 16 units

2. Seattle: %plussign% 7.9 units

3. Atlanta: %plussign% 3.2 units

4. Los Angeles Dodgers: %plussign% 6 units

5. Toronto: -10.4 units

6. Chicago White Sox: -6.4 units

7. Cleveland: %plussign% 4.1 units

8. Baltimore: %plussign% 18.2 units

9. New York Mets: %plussign% 14.7 units

10. New York Yankees: %plussign% 16.3 units

Bottom 10 in SMBPR right now

21. Minnesota: %plussign% 3.9 units

22. San Diego: %plussign% 3.9 units

23. Texas: -4.7 units

24. Arizona: -3.9 units

25. Boston: -4.1 units

26. Detroit: -9.3 units

27. Washington: -20.8 units

28. Colorado: -0.2 units

29. Pittsburgh: %plussign% 1.4 units

30. Cincinnati: -10.2 units

As you can see, eight of the top 10 bullpens are in positive unit territory as of Monday (producing a combined %plussign% 69.6 units of profit). Seven of the bottom 10 bullpens are in negative unit territory (totaling a combined -44 units).

Here are my current bullpen ratings for all 30 teams, with each team’s beginning-of-year ranking (BOY) with some key stats (MLB rankings in parentheses) and comments.

1. Houston

BOY ranking: 10   

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 21        

Innings pitched/game: 3.12 (30)

ERA: 2.74 (1)         

WHIP: 1.13 (3)       

Ks/9: 9.65 (7)         

WHIP last 15 games: 1.14 (10)  

Top performers: Ryne Stanek — 0.55 ERA, 9.5 Ks/9; Ryan Pressly — 20 saves in 30 appearances 

Steve’s thoughts: Houston has climbed to the top of my bullpen rankings after opening the season No. 10. Every member of this relief staff has performed respectably, which is one of many reasons the Astros are rolling right now. The bullpen was expected to be one of the questionable areas for Houston in 2022, but this bullpen boasts the top ERA in baseball.

2. Seattle 

BOY ranking: 13

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 20        

Innings pitched/game: 3.36 (27)

ERA: 3.4 (7)

WHIP: 1.08 (1)       

Ks/9: 9.79 (4)         

WHIP last 15 games: 0.95 (2)    

Top performers: Paul Sewald — 12 saves, 2.45 ERA, 10.6 Ks/9; Andres Munoz — 11 holds, 2.84 ERA, 13.7 Ks/9; Erik Swanson — 1.00 ERA, 27 appearances          

Steve’s thoughts: Seattle’s bullpen has been about as deep in strong performers as anyone’s, and that group had a lot to do with the team’s recent 14-game winning streak. Even since that streak ended, the bullpen has allowed just 11 baserunners in 15.1 innings.

3. Atlanta

BOY ranking: 2

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 18        

Innings pitched/game: 3.55 (19)

ERA: 3.09 (3)         

WHIP: 1.15 (5)       

Ks/9: 10.36 (1)       

WHIP last 15 games: 0.99 (3)    

Top performers: Kenley Jansen — 22 saves, 12.3 Ks/9; A.J. Minter — 44 appearances, 1.79 ERA, 12 Ks/9

Steve’s thoughts: Since a relatively slow start for such a talented group, Atlanta’s bullpen has resembled that of the one that lifted the franchise to a World Series title last fall. Adding Kenley Jansen this year was a big move and he has delivered with 22 saves. Since July 4, the Braves are 12-6 and the bullpen boasts a 2.60 ERA and 1.035 WHIP.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers 

BOY ranking: 4

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 16        

Innings pitched/game: 3.51 (22)

ERA: 3.33 (6)         

WHIP: 1.12 (2)       

Ks/9: 9.72 (5)         

WHIP last 15 games: 1.04 (4)    

Top performers: Evan Phillips — 11 holds, 1.62 ERA; Yency Almonte — 1.33 ERA, 25 appearances  

Steve’s thoughts: The Dodgers added Craig Kimbrel early in the season and, while he hasn’t been as good as we’ve been used to, there’s a bit more stability when it comes to the closing role. Several of the big names from this bullpen at the outset of the season have landed on the IL at various points, including Blake Treinen and Daniel Hudson, but the replacements have come up big and kept this group among the game’s elite.

5. Toronto 

BOY ranking: 7

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 14        

Innings pitched/game: 3.75 (13)

ERA: 4.05 (19)       

WHIP: 1.22 (13)     

Ks/9: 8.72 (18)       

WHIP last 15 games: 0.84 (1)    

Top performers: Jordan Romano — 21 saves, 2.55 ERA, 10.2 Ks/9; Yimi Garcia — 34 appearances, 14 holds, 2.73 ERA

Steve’s thoughts: Toronto’s bullpen stats aren’t reflective of a unit rated fifth in baseball by my standards, but the group has been dominant lately and has shot up the rankings, particularly in the recent nine-game stretch in which the Jays have gone 8-1. In that stretch, this unit has allowed just five earned runs in 31.2 innings with a WHIP of 0.758.

6. Chicago White Sox

BOY ranking: 3

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 14        

Innings pitched/game: 3.78 (11)

ERA: 4.05 (18)       

WHIP: 1.31 (18)     

Ks/9: 9.25 (13)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.09 (8)    

Top performers: Liam Hendriks — 18 saves, 13.2 Ks/9; Kendall Graveman — 41 appearances, 2.53 ERA, 14 holds  

Steve’s thoughts: The White Sox were one of my top three bullpens out of the gate this season but struggled early, a big part of the reason the team has underperformed. However, this unit has begun to thrive. In fact, from July 7 thru July 22, this unit allowed just five earned runs in 40 innings (1.13 ERA). If the offense could get healthy and the team turns around its struggles at home, the train could start moving.

7. Cleveland    

BOY ranking: 18

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 12        

Innings pitched/game: 3.29 (29)

ERA: 3.69 (11)       

WHIP: 1.21 (10)     

Ks/9: 9.36 (10)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.06 (5)    

Top performers: Emmanuel Clase — 20 saves, 1.37 ERA; Trevor Stephan — 36 appearances, 2.70 ERA  

Steve’s thoughts: Cleveland’s bullpen usage is ranked 29th in MLB, and the Guardians have gotten a solid and consistent performance out of the group. Clase has been dominant as the stopper and earned his chance to close the All-Star Game. Keep an eye on James Karinchak grabbing a bigger role, being back from IL, as his 16.6 Ks/9 is among the best in the game and an improvement on his 14.5 career average. 

8. Baltimore    

BOY ranking: 28

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 11        

Innings pitched/game: 4.08 (3) 

ERA: 3.14 (4)         

WHIP: 1.2 (6)         

Ks/9: 8.39 (21)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.09 (7)    

Top performers: Jorge Lopez — 1.59 ERA, 18 saves; Felix Bautista — 41 appearances, 1.63 ERA; Cionel Perez — 38 appearances, 1.41 ERA    

Steve’s thoughts: During its current 13-4 run, Baltimore has had just one bad outing from its bullpen. Since July 6, this underrated group has put together a 1.75 ERA with 10.96 Ks/9 in 56.2 innings. Middle relief has been particularly strong, with three set-up men boasting at least 12 holds so far. This group has made the biggest climb of any in MLB since Opening Day, rising 20 spots. Now, if only the starting staff could hold up its end of the bargain.

9. New York Mets

BOY ranking: 8     

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 10        

Innings pitched/game: 3.48 (23)

ERA: 3.53 (10)       

WHIP: 1.22 (12)     

Ks/9: 10.21 (2)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.07 (6)    

Top performers: Edwin Diaz — 21 saves, 1.60 ERA, 17.6 Ks/9; Adam Ottavino — 38 appearances, 2.45 ERA   

Steve’s thoughts: Edwin Diaz has turned into perhaps the most feared closer in the game, and his 17.6 Ks/9 is elite. The Mets’ bullpen has dropped in recent weeks, though. Since July 9, the group has 27 earned runs in 48.2 innings. The only left-hander in the pen, Joely Rodriguez, has underperformed with a 5.93 ERA in 34 appearances.

10. New York Yankees  

BOY ranking: 5

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 10        

Innings pitched/game: 3.44 (24)

ERA: 2.97 (2)         

WHIP: 1.13 (4)       

Ks/9: 9.28 (12)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.18 (11)  

Top performers: Clay Holmes — 1.26 ERA, 17 saves, 42 appearances; Wandy Peralta — 2.27 ERA, 33 appearances

Steve’s thoughts: Fortunately for the Yankees, Clay Holmes has stepped into the closer’s role and has been dominant. This group has underperformed overall, however, and there are reasons for concern. Bigger names such as Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Loaisiga have been awful, and Michael King, who was having a fantastic season, was lost for the season to injury. On the positive side, this unit boasts the best mix of lefty-righty matchup possibilities of any team in the league.

11. Tampa Bay

BOY ranking: 11

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 7

Innings pitched/game: 4.33 (1) 

ERA: 3.46 (8)         

WHIP: 1.2 (7)         

Ks/9: 8.34 (24)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.28 (15)  

Top performers: Jason Adam — 1.41 ERA, 42 appearances, 13 holds; Brooks Raley — 12.5 K.s/9, 35 appearances; Colin Poche –  34 appearances, 2.27 ERA      

Steve’s thoughts: As usual, Tampa Bay’s bullpen has been used more than any other. Collectively, the group has been good, not great, and most bettors are wondering if a true closer will ever emerge from what is being deemed a committee. Some big arms have been lost to injury, including JP Feyereisen, who had allowed zero earned runs in 24%plussign% innings before being lost to the 60-day IL.

12. Philadelphia

BOY ranking: 15   

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 6

Innings pitched/game: 3.38 (26)

ERA: 3.87 (15)       

WHIP: 1.34 (22)     

Ks/9: 9.59 (8)         

WHIP last 15 games: 1.35 (20)  

Top performers: Seranthony Dominguez — 1.80 ERA, 11.1 Ks/9; Brad Hand — 38 appearances, 2.12 ERA; Corey Knebel — 12 saves, 39 appearances, 2.87 ERA

Steve’s thoughts: Philadelphia’s bullpen has been pretty good overall, with five or six players that are having solid statistical seasons. Unfortunately, the group has had some really bad outings, impacting the numbers negatively. Case in point: In the first game out of the break, the relief staff allowed nine runs in 4.2 innings, setting the tone for a weekend sweep to the lowly Cubs. In the other 18 games in July, this group has allowed only 14 earned runs in 62.2 innings.

13. Milwaukee

BOY ranking: 1

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 6

Innings pitched/game: 3.58 (18)

ERA: 3.93 (16)       

WHIP: 1.23 (14)     

Ks/9: 9.66 (6)         

WHIP last 15 games: 1.41 (22)  

Top performers: Josh Hader — 28 saves, 15.8 Ks/9

Devin Williams — 15.2 Ks/9, 1.72 ERA, 40 appearances

Brad Boxberger — 38 appearances, 17 holds, 2.92 ERA      

Steve’s thoughts: Milwaukee’s bullpen has dropped 12 spots since opening day, second most to the Angels. Much of the reason has been the recent skid of Josh Hader, who went from being untouchable in the first two and a half months to being lit up almost every other time he has pitched. His ERA has ballooned to 4.50, and even in recent games in which he has earned saves, things have gotten hairy. The opposite can be said of Devin Williams, who has gone from struggling to unhittable in recent weeks. Perhaps the biggest problem for manager Craig Counsell, however, is the innings eaters are not giving the Brewers a chance to come back from deficits. Perhaps the recent acquisition of Jake McGee can bolster this group’s performance.

14. Miami

BOY ranking: 12

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 4

Innings pitched/game: 3.43 (25)

ERA: 3.95 (17)       

WHIP: 1.33 (20)     

Ks/9: 9.47 (9)         

WHIP last 15 games: 1.31 (17)  

Top performers: Tanner Scott — 12 saves, 12.8 Ks/9; Anthony Bass — 1.51 ERA, 42 appearances   

Steve’s thoughts: Miami has had the same issue as Milwaukee, with its closer going faulty. Since Anthony Bender went on the 60-day IL, Scott has been anything but reliable in the stopper role. The set-up men have been the best performers for this bullpen, particularly Bass and Steven Okert. Like most teams in the middle of the pack of these rankings, consistency has been a problem.

15. Oakland

BOY ranking: 23

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 3

Innings pitched/game: 3.52 (20)

ERA: 4.15 (21)       

WHIP: 1.39 (26)     

Ks/9: 8.96 (16)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.3 (16)    

Top performers: Zach Jackson — 41 appearances, 19 holds, 2.82 ERA, 12.7 Ks/9; A.J. Puk — 2.27 ERA, 11 holds; Sam Moll — 37 appearances, 1.78 ERA.

Steve’s thoughts: With its starting staff struggling to find consistency and the lineup producing the fewest runs in baseball, Oakland’s bullpen has been perhaps the team’s only reliable unit. The group has been particularly good of late, with a 2.88 ERA over 72 innings (78 strikeouts) since July 3. It’s a big reason why the A’s had gone 10-9 in their last 19 games through Monday. Four set-up men have at least 10 holds. A new closer is a must, however, with Lou Trivino showing a 6.83 ERA in 36 outings. Jackson seems like an ideal candidate.

16. Chicago Cubs            

BOY ranking: 26

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 3

Innings pitched/game: 4.33 (1) 

ERA: 4.23 (22)       

WHIP: 1.33 (21)     

Ks/9: 10.05 (3)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.33 (19)  

Top performers: David Robertson — 14 saves, 1.83 ERA, 11.4 Ks/9; Scott Effross — 45 appearances, 2.79 ERA, 12 holds; Mychal Givens — 37 appearances, 2.87 ERA, 11 Ks/9

Steve’s thoughts: The Cubs’ bullpen has been maddeningly inconsistent, but what can you expect from the most overused bunch in the league. The unit has ranked near the top of MLB in strikeouts per 9 innings nearly all season long, and lately they are on a good stretch. In fact, in the last seven games, five of which were wins, the Cubs relief staff has gone 29 innings, allowing just two earned runs while striking out 29 hitters. If this group continues to contribute at that level, the Cubs could be a pesky opponent down the stretch.

17. St. Louis             

BOY ranking: 14   

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 2

Innings pitched/game: 3.69 (16)

ERA: 3.49 (9)         

WHIP: 1.22 (11)     

Ks/9: 8.11 (27)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.22 (12)  

Top performers: Ryan Helsley — 32 appearances, 0.67 ERA, 13.4 Ks/9; Genesis Cabrera — 2.60 ERA, 10 holds; Junior Fernandez — 12 recent appearances, 1.26 ERA      

Steve’s thoughts: St. Louis has some huge arms capable of hitting triple digits on the radar gun. However, ranking just 27th in strikeouts per 9 innings, you have to wonder why they aren’t more dominant, other than Helsley of course. Overall, the other statistics are respectable, but when this team has struggled the bullpen has been a big culprit. That said, this unit has moved up three spots in the last couple of weeks and has the potential to be a top 10 group.

18. San Francisco       

BOY ranking: 9     

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 2

Innings pitched/game: 3.83 (10)

ERA: 4.28 (24)       

WHIP: 1.38 (25)     

Ks/9: 7.76 (29)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.69 (28)  

Top performers: Camilo Doval — 41 games, 3.40 ERA

Steve’s thoughts: One of the reasons the Giants were so good in 2021 was the performance of their bullpen. Closer Jake McGee had a big year. He has been awful in 2022, so much so that he has now landed on Milwaukee’s roster. McGee’s struggles and what’s left of San Francisco’s relief staff has resulted in some very underwhelming overall statistics. Dovall looks like he could be the answer at closer, but set-up men Dominic Leone and Tyler Rogers will have to be better if this team is to factor in the playoff race. At one point, I had this team ranked eighth. Since July 3, with an ERA of 6.29, they have plummeted.

19. Los Angeles Angels

BOY ranking: 6     

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 0

Innings pitched/game: 3.76 (12)

ERA: 4.08 (20)       

WHIP: 1.24 (15)     

Ks/9: 8.39 (22)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.41 (23)  

Top performers: Jose Quijada — 2.12 ERA, 12.2 Ks/9, 18 appearances; Raisel Iglesias — 15 saves, 12.5 Ks/9  

Steve’s thoughts: Every other part of the Angels’ team has underperformed, so why not the bullpen as well? Admittedly, I took the bait on this team, figuring the talent was worth a loftier ranking. I had this bullpen ranked sixth at the outset and it has since dropped 13 spots. They haven’t posted big strikeout numbers as expected, and the overall ERA is 20th in MLB. Closer Raisel Iglesias and set-up men Ryan Tepera and Aaron Loup all have ERAs over 4.00.

20. Kansas City 

BOY ranking: 25   

Steve Makinen Power Rating: 0

Innings pitched/game: 3.75 (13)

ERA: 4.58 (27)       

WHIP: 1.49 (30)     

Ks/9: 8.24 (26)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.57 (27)  

Top performers: Scott Barlow — 1.97 ERA, 16 saves; Dylan Coleman — 40 appearances, 2.97 ERA; Jose Cuas — 23 outings, 2.84 ERA             

Steve’s thoughts: The Kansas City bullpen has been one I have struggled to analyze all season long. At times, they’ve been collectively very good, despite an overall WHIP of 1.49 that ranks last in the league. In one recent outing against Cleveland, the relief staff allowed 22 baserunners in 7%plussign% innings. In 13 games since that ugly outing, this unit has allowed just 14 earned runs in 45.2 innings, good for a 2.75 ERA.

21. Minnesota 

BOY ranking: 17   

Steve Makinen Power Rating: -1         

Innings pitched/game: 4.02 (5) 

ERA: 3.87 (14)       

WHIP: 1.26 (17)     

Ks/9: 9.17 (14)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.32 (18)  

Top performers: Jhoan Duran — 34 appearances, 2.3 ERA 10.9 Ks/9, 6 saves, 10 holds; Jovani Moran — 13.0 Ks/9, 2.33 ERA  

Steve’s thoughts: Most teams that end up changing closers in the middle of the season fail to maintain high spots in my rankings, and the Twins were forced to do so when Emilio Pagan struggled. He has actually picked it up a bit in the set-up role and has five holds since the demotion. Still, the Twins have dropped four spots since the beginning of the season and much of that has come in the last three weeks, when they have allowed 31 runs in 13 outings covering 50.1 innings.

22. San Diego

BOY ranking: 19

Steve Makinen Power Rating: -2         

Innings pitched/game: 3.3 (28) 

ERA: 3.86 (13)       

WHIP: 1.2 (8)         

Ks/9: 8.77 (17)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.72 (29)  

Top performers: Taylor Rogers — 28 saves, 10.2 Ks/9; Luis Garcia — 37 appearances, 15 holds, 3.50 ERA          

Steve’s thoughts: The San Diego bullpen is free falling and has dropped around 10 spots over the course of July. The collective ERA this month is 5.65. Not surprisingly, this has played a role in San Diego’s 8-12 slide.

23. Texas

BOY ranking: 22

Steve Makinen Power Rating: -4         

Innings pitched/game: 4.01 (6) 

ERA: 3.77 (12)       

WHIP: 1.25 (16)     

Ks/9: 8.36 (23)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.53 (26)  

Top performers: Joe Barlow — 13 saves; Matt Moore — 33 appearances, 1.61 ERA, 10.1 Ks/9; Brock Burke — 48%plussign% innings, 1.12 ERA  

Steve’s thoughts: Heading into July, I had Texas’ bullpen ranked right around the top-10 mark. The WHIP of 1.53 in the last 15 games ranks 26th in the league, and with a usage rank of sixth, it’s putting a lot of pressure on the offense. Losing closer Joe Barlow to a blister injury July 12 didn’t help. He should return soon.

24. Arizona

BOY ranking: 24

Steve Makinen Power Rating: -5         

Innings pitched/game: 3.63 (17)

ERA: 4.3 (25)         

WHIP: 1.37 (24)     

Ks/9: 7.59 (30)       

WHIP last 15 games: 1.27 (14)  

Top performers: Joe Mantiply — 40 appearances, 2.39 ERA; Kyle Nelson — 35 appearances, 1.76 ERA      

Steve’s thoughts: Arizona is slowly making the climb back up the rankings. At one point, this bullpen was ranked 28th among the 30 teams. I wouldn’t say this group has been great lately, but a WHIP rank of 14th in the last 15 games is more respectable than the overall numbers. The biggest weak spot for this unit is its strikeouts per 9 number rank last in the league. It’s part of what you get with Mark Melancon as the stopper.

25. Boston

BOY ranking: 16   

Steve Makinen Power Rating: -6         

Innings pitched/game: 3.96 (7) 

ERA: 4.28 (23)     

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As one of the original founders of StatFox, Steve Makinen has been in the business of sports betting and data analysis for almost 25 years now. In his time in the industry, Steve has worked in a variety of capacities on both sides of the betting counter, from his early days of developing the StatFox business, to almost a decade of oddsmaking consulting for one of the world's leading sportsbooks, to his last seven years as Point Spread Weekly and Analytics Director with VSiN. Steve has always believed that number crunching and handicapping through foundational trends and systems is the secret to success and he shares this data with VSiN readers on a daily basis for all of the major sports.