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Relief Failure

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Bullpen faulters, Tiger comeback ousts good start by Perkins.

For the first time in over a week, the Minnesota bullpen allowed a run.  Following a strong performance from Glen Perkins, who left the game in the seventh with a 4-1 lead, Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier in particular saw the game fall down around them.  The Detroit Tigers, a team just as hot as the Twins in recent weeks, put together a pair of 2-run innings late in the game and came away with the win.

While the bullpen this season hasn't been as vaunted, or as intimidating, as it's been in recent years, the primary four haven't been bad.  Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain, Dennys Reyes and Matt Guerrier (and even Craig Breslow) have pitched pretty well.  That got me to thinking...who have put forward the best seasons as a reliever over the handful of seasons in the 2000's as the Twins have been competetive?  We'll start in 2001, the Twins' first winning season in almost a decade.  Also, we'll judge "best performance" by ERA+, which is the ratio of the league's ERA (adjusted to the pitcher's park) to that pitcher.  A rating of greater than 100 is above average, and a rating of less than 100 is below average.

With that, the top 20 performances since 2001:

Pitcher Year ERA+ IP WHIP
D. Reyes 2006 504 50.2 0.987
J. Nathan 2008 292 33.2 0.950
J. Nathan 2004 292 72.1 0.982
J. Nathan 2006 283 68.1 0.790
L. Hawkins 2003 243 77.1 1.086
J. Crain 2004 236 27.0 1.074
J. Romero 2002 236 81.0 1.210
J. Nathan 2007 230 71.2 1.019
L. Hawkins 2002 210 80.1 0.971
P. Neshek 2006 204 37.0 0.784
M. Guerrier 2007 184 88.0 1.045
J. Rincon 2005 181 77.0 1.208
J. Rincon 2004 180 82.0 1.024
D. Reyes 2008 171 23.2 1.183
J. Nathan 2005 165 70.0 0.971
J. Crain 2005 164 79.2 1.130
E. Guardado 2003 157 65.1 0.980
J. Rincon 2006 154 74.1 1.345
E. Guardado 2002 153 67.2 1.049
P. Neshek 2007 147 70.1 1.009

As you can see, I've thrown in performers from this season where they'd match up against our historical relief pitchers if the season finished today.  The next best performance from this year's crop would be from Jesse Crain, who placed 25th.  For the purpose of this exercise I removed Johan Santana's '03 numbers, since he did make a significant number of starts.

Over the years, the Twins certainly haven't had a derth of quality bullpens.  The biggest strength the last couple seasons has been at the back end with Nathan, while earlier successes revolved around a pair of set-up men as opposed to the closer.  One thing's for sure:  Reyes had one hell of a year in 2006!

Hopefully as this season takes shape, guys like Guerrier and Crain can continue the recent tradition of great bullpens, stepping into the void when the heirarchy breaks down.  They've been admirable, but both have a ways to go before they can crack this list.