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 – 23 Blown Saves
The All-Star break limited the amount of action we could soak in over the past week; consequently, there’s been no change among the top three teams on our blown saves list. That means the Tampa Bay Rays still lead the pack with 23 failed conversions.
The Rays returned to action Friday, not needing a save attempt over the weekend while dropping two of three against the Kansas City Royals. Overall, pitching was largely ineffective, giving up 12 or more hits every game, totaling 1.80 walks and hits per inning pitched and a .364 opponent batting average.
The reigning AL East Champions need to be at their best over the coming weeks as they look to solidify their hold on an AL Wild Card berth. Their next three series come against the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Guardians, and Toronto Blue Jays, all of whom have postseason aspirations. The Rays can’t afford many more blown saves if they hope to maintain their position in the standings.
Boston Red Sox – 20 Blown Saves
As bad as the Rays were over the weekend, they couldn’t hold a candle to the Boston Red Sox. Boston was humiliated Friday night, dropping a 28-5 decision against the Blue Jays, with a comedy of errors over the weekend. The Red Sox were swept at home against their division rivals, posting a cumulative 40-10 score. The silver lining for the beatdowns that ensued is the Red Sox didn’t add to their blown saves, although they are still the only team with a conversion rate below 50.0%.
Those three losses had a detrimental effect on the Red Sox’s playoff hopes, as they have fallen 3.0 games back of the final Wild Card spot. Moreover, the MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline is days away, and the team will need to decide how they want to proceed. If the plan is to push for the postseason, the Red Sox would be wise to add to their bullpen, shoring up the back end and providing some much-needed continuity to the closer role.
Atlanta Braves – 18 Blown Saves
The Atlanta Braves enjoyed a successful return to action, taking two of three from the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend. None of the games involved save situations; therefore, the Braves held steady with 18 blown saves.
Braves’ pitchers shone over the weekend, striking out 34 across 27.0 innings, and allowing 11 earned runs. That’s been par for the course for the defending World Series Champions, as they lead the majors with 930 punchouts this season. Their relievers have been integral to their success, compiling 10.35 strikeouts per nine innings and the third-best earned run average in the MLB.
The Braves and New York Mets are pulling away at the top of the NL East standings, with Atlanta 1.5 games back of the Mets for the division lead. These teams face each other 12 more times this season, including a five-game set at the start of August. The more effective bullpen could decide which team clinches the division and potentially a first-round bye.
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