Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 4/19/12

If there is one thing we have learned from the early season it is that if a team fancies itself as a contender, then they probably should have bolstered their bullpen in the off-season.

Just look at what is happening to the Angels, considered World Series favorites by many.  They currently sit at 4-8 with a bullpen ERA just south of 5.00, three blown saves and a three losses.  The Angel relievers have also not yet picked up a save or a win.  What is really scary is that Jordan Walden, who led the league with 10 blown saves last season, has not been involved in any of it as he has only worked mop-up duty in his three appearances.  Granted, the Angels have other problem, like feeble lineup, but as it currently stands, the lousy middle relief they have gotten is the difference between them being last in the AL West and nipping at the Rangers' heels atop the division.

But the Angels are not alone in their relief struggles.  Take the Tampa Bay Rays for example.  They should consider themselves lucky to be sitting at 6-6 considering their bullpen ERA is at an ugly 5.56, second-worst in baseball.  Just imagine how much worse things are going to get for them when interim closer Fernando Rodney remembers that he is, in fact, Fernando Rodney and starts dousing everything in gasoline.

Situated in the same state as the Rays are the big-spending yet disappointing Miami Marlins.  The Marlins actually tried to address their bullpen in the off-season, giving a big contract to All-Star closer Heath Bell, but Bell needed three tries before he was able to register his first save as a Marlin.

Of course, the most stark example of a bullpen's failing undermining a team's success is the Boston Red Sox which is rumored to be petitioning the governor of Massachusetts to declare their bullpen a natural disaster zone.  They've already lost their prized off-season acquisition closer Andrew Bailey to the most inevitable injury ever.  Their seemingly failproof fallback plan of fellow trade addition Mark Melancon ended up failing so miserably that he has been demoted to the minors and, not so coincidentally, they have the worst bullpen ERA in the league.  As a result, the Red Sox are 4-8 and last place in the AL East. 

So what does this all mean?  Other than small sample sizes can make any relief corps look nightmarish, it seems like this is all setting up for their to be a massive run on relievers when the trade market opens up in the next several weeks.  With the Halos, BoSox and Fish all making heavy investments in becoming World Series contenders, they certainly won't want to sit idly by and watch their respective bullpens spoil all their plans.  Let's all hope they save a little extra budget room to make those trade additions, otherwise they are just going to have to cross their fingers and hope their relievers can fix themselves.

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This article first appeared on The Outside Corner and was syndicated with permission.

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