Not to put too fine of a point on it, but teams struggle without reliable bullpen arms and a proficient closer. Year after year, teams fall by the wayside as late-inning relievers turn over leads and cost their club valuable ground in the standings. With that in mind, we’re keeping weekly tabs on blown saves, noting which teams have the least effective bullpens.
Tampa Bay Rays – 29 Blown Saves
Another perfect week in the save department didn’t prevent the Tampa Bay Rays from losing ground in the ultra-competitive American League playoff race. Rays’ relievers went 2-for-2 late in games but ended the week with back-to-back shellackings at the hands of the New York Yankees.
Although they didn’t falter late in games, the Rays’ staff was utterly ineffective, posting a 5.44 save percentage over the past seven days. Six different pitchers ended the week with a 9.00 earned run average or worse, including Luis Patino, who was tagged for nine earned runs in 1.1 innings pitched for a forgettable 60.75 ERA. Worse, Corey Kluber lasted only two batters, giving up five scores, resulting in an 81.00 ERA.
Stability in the closer role isn’t worth much if the team isn’t leading late in games. Yankees Stadium can be an unforgiving venue, but it’s an environment the Rays will likely have to tame if they hope to make a deep playoff run.
Chicago Cubs – 29 Blown Saves
The Chicago Cubs are just trying to limp towards the finish line at this point, but their bullpen isn’t doing them any favors. Cubbies relievers converted just one of three save opportunities this week, elevating their season-long total to 29 blown saves, tied for the most in the majors.
Mark Leiter and Rowan Wick were both on the hook for a blown save this week, albeit from the same outing. Wick came on in the top of the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds with runners on, walking in the game-tying run, with Leiter following that up in the ninth by giving up a walk and a triple, coughing up the lead for good.
The silver lining for this week is that Brandon Hughes looked much better, giving up just two hits and one walk in 2.0 innings pitched and converting his lone save opportunity. Hughes will be in the mix for saves towards the end of this season and could enter the 2023 training camp as the de facto closer.
Atlanta Braves – 26 Blown Saves
Kenley Jansen is spiraling in the wrong direction ahead of the postseason. The Atlanta Braves closer converted two of three save opportunities, again getting hurt by the long ball. That drops him to 4-for-6 over the past 15 days and 7-for-10 since August 12, leaving the Braves questioning his form down the stretch run.
Granted, Jansen looked superb through his first two saves of the week, allowing no baserunners across 2.0 innings while striking out four. However, he fell apart in Sunday’s series-deciding game, giving up two solo shots and allowing the Seattle Mariners to walk off the defending World Series Champs.
Batters are starting to see Jansen’s pitches a lot better. After giving up five home runs through the first five months of the season, Jansen has given up three over the last couple of weeks. Still, Braves relievers have combined for the fifth-best earned run average this season, meaning A.J. Minter, Raisel Iglesias, or Collin McHugh could be in line for some save opportunities if Jansen continues to struggle.
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