Neal Cotts: 1.94 (4.49)
Cliff Pollitte: 2.00 (4.40)
Dennys Reyes: 0.89 (4.37)
Juan Rincon: 2.91 (3.60)
Pat Neshek: 2.19 (2.91)
Rafael Betancourt: 1.47 (2.98)
Aaron Fultz: 2.92 (4.26)
Rafael Perez: 1.78 (2.59)
In any case, this odd little trend suggests that the team with the ridiculous bullpen will end up winning the division. Does that pattern hold up this year? Well, the first-place White Sox currently rank No. 1 in the AL in bullpen ERA at 2.86. Meanwhile, the second-place Twins rank sixth at 3.48, while the Tigers (4.40) and Indians (4.44) rank 12th and 13th, respectively.
This year, Chicago's crazy bullpen contributions are coming from the likes of Boone Logan (2.29 ERA, 5.03 career), Scott Linebrink (1.50 ERA, 3.12 career) and closer Bobby Jenks (1.54 ERA, 3.06 career). Meanwhile, the Twins have gotten typically great production from Joe Nathan, but have lost their second-best reliever for the year and are getting sub par performances from guys like Juan Rincon and Jesse Crain.
You don't HAVE to have a great bullpen to succeed -- the Tigers sported a 4.40 ERA last season on their way to the World Series -- but as the trends above illustrate, it sure does help. Currently, the Twins' relief corps seems to be heading in the wrong direction. They've fallenf rom the top of the league to the middle of the pack over the past couple weeks, and it's hard to feel comfortable any time a starter hands a small lead to the bullpen in the sixth or seventh inning.
How to improve on this issue? Maybe the answer is to bring in some fresh blood in the form of a Tim Lahey or a Mariano Gomez from Triple-A. Maybe the answer is, as Howard Sinker suggests, parting ways with Rincon, who just can't seem to get anyone out these days.I don't really know what the best solution is. What I do know is that we Twins fans have become accustomed to seeing a stellar bullpen over the past several years, and that the Twins are going to have an extremely difficult time remaining near the top of the standings if the quality of the 'pen continues to deteriorate.