We Twins backers are all rather frustrated with the state of the bullpen; the late-inning guys have lost three games in a row, and have generally been awful this season. But how bad are things, really? Is the Twins bullpen as bad as we think, by the numbers - and in comparison to the rest of the league?
+ Test #1: Losses, saves, and blown saves.
Minnesota's 'pen has blown seven saves this year, but that's only good for a tie for seventh. The Nationals relievers have blown an astonishing 11 save opportunities - which is especially impressive, given that Washington has only six saves on the year.
Unfortunately, there are two other teams with just six saves - and Minnesota's one of them. Joe Nathan is 6-8 in save opportunities this year, and the rest of the bullpen has blown five other games. This 46% conversion rate is third worst in the majors, behind only Houston (41%) and Washington (35%).
Speaking of blowing games, the Twins bullpen has lost six games - but that's not even close to the Nationals (11 losses) or the Angels (10 losses, including seven blown saves.) Minnesota is tied for ninth.
+ Test #2: OPS Against
On-base percentage plus slugging percentage is a pretty good stand-in for run production. It would make sense that the bullpen with the worst OPS against is therefore the worst in baseball.
Here once again, it's hard to beat the Nationals bullpen, which has an OPS against of .849. Houston is second-worst at .842. The Twins, though, are right in the running; their OPS against of .824 is seventh-worst in the big leagues.
Other candidates for "Worst Bullpen in the American League" also emerge, including Cleveland (.838 OPS against, 7/15 in save opportunities), and the Yankees (.837, 7/12).
+ Test #3: Fielding-Independent Pitching
Forgetting about defense for a second, we look at pure pitching statistics, using the sabrematrician's favorite, FIP. And as you might expect, the same candidates fall out on the bottom of the league: New York (5.87) is worst, followed by Texas (5.62) and Houston (5.47). Cleveland is fourth-worst at 5.39, but then comes our Twins at 5.31. (They're even worse than Washington, which is at 5.19).
+ And so, our best conclusions from the numbers...
The numbers don't lie: The Twins bullpen is terrible on a number of levels. They can't hold a lead, nor can they get anybody out.
That said, things are worse by far in Washington, and probably in Houston as well. And fans in Cleveland and New York have reasons to be miffed as well.
Of course, a look at the standings probably would be enough to anger those fans: Cleveland and Washington are in last place. Houston is barely ahead of the Pirates. And the Yankees are 4.5 games back... and would be much worse off, if it weren't for three games against Minnesota's relievers.
And so, our conclusion: the Twins do not have the worst bullpen in the major leagues. But it's close.