HomeTeamsGuardiansThe Guardians Bullpen Has Been Behind The Team’s Run Of Dominance

The Guardians Bullpen Has Been Behind The Team’s Run Of Dominance

The Cleveland Guardians are, as of Friday afternoon, first in the AL Central with a 27-17 record. So far, the first season of the post-Terry Francona era has been smooth, thanks to the cool leadership of first-year manager Stephen Vogt.

The Guardians’ offense is a bit better in comparison to its 2023 numbers. The sheer stats don’t actually show marked improvement as the unit’s OPS last year was .695 and it’s .698 this campaign. Context matters, though: in 2023, they ranked 27th in the category, and this year they are 15th.

Still, the offense is not the main reason why Cleveland has been so successful this year. Pitching is, particularly the bullpen, and these unsung heroes deserve every bit of appreciation and credit that can go their way.

Before the start of Friday’s games, the Guardians bullpen ERA was the best in baseball, at 2.44. The Yankees (2.56) are second, and only three squads – Cleveland and the two New York teams – are under 3.00.

But that’s not all: Cleveland has, by far, the best relief WAR (Wins Above Replacement) per FanGraphs, at 2.8. The second-placed Philadelphia Phillies started Friday as the Guardians’ closest competitor, at 2.2.

Yes, the starters have mostly been solid even if Shane Bieber is no longer with the team following his Tommy John surgery. The Guardians bullpen, though, has been truly magnificent, and is the real reason why the organization has been able to win so many close games.

Emmanuel Clase (0.42 ERA in 21.1 innings, 12 saves) has been brilliant as usual as the ninth-inning stopper, and there have been several revelations such as Hunter Gaddis (2.18 ERA in 20.2 frames), Cade Smith (2.21 ERA in 20.1 IP) and Tim Herrin (0.95 ERA in 19 IP).

Even Scott Barlow, who had a particularly slow start considering his track record, is already at a 3.10 ERA and taking care of high-leverage innings.

Besides Tyler Beede (who is no longer with the team), every Guardians bullpen piece has an ERA under 4.00. All of them, including the aforementioned stars plus Pedro Ávila (3.86 ERA), Nick Sandlin (2.57), and other arms with fewer than 10 innings pitchers such as Eli Morgan, Peter Strzelecki and Sam Hentges.

Perhaps more than ever before, the relief corps win games for MLB organizations, and this reality becomes even more evident in the postseason. That’s what this team is shooting for: to be players in the playoffs and, why not, make a deep run.

The Guardians bullpen has depth, quality, and versatility. It boasts guys who can go longer than an inning, specialists against lefty-heavy batting orders, a top closer, and several excellent setup men. If the team is going to go places this year, its relievers will likely play a huge role.


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