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A's get F's following bullpen performance

8/26/2011

The New York Yankees' three grand slams against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday have been well documented, but what about the team on the losing end of that 22-9 game?

The 22 runs were the most scored by the Yankees in a home game since July 26, 1931, but the A’s pitching collapse was just as rare. Oakland’s relief effort yielded 16 runs, all earned, the most by a bullpen in a nine-inning game in team history according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Most Runs Allowed
A's Bullpen in 9-Inning Game

Bruce Billings was hit the hardest, giving up seven runs in 1⅓ innings. In 2011, that’s tied for the second-most runs allowed by a reliever in a game, behind only Vin Mazzaro, who allowed a staggering 14 runs May 16 against the Cleveland Indians.

On Thursday, Billings threw 57 pitches, including 44 fastballs. Yankees hitters totaled four hits off the heater, a pitch that has been very ineffective this season for Billings. Of his 13 hits allowed in 2011, 11 have come off his fastball, a pitch he has used more than 72 percent of the time. While batters are hitting .524 against his primary pitch (worst in MLB, minimum 100 fastballs), his slider has yielded only two hits and one walk on 33 pitches.

What Could Have Been

Imagine for a minute that the San Francisco Giants were successful in acquiring closer Heath Bell. With the potential for a healthy Brian Wilson in September, the two would have provided a formidable duo. Since Bell became a full-time closer in 2009, he has a major-league leading 124 saves. Just behind him is Wilson with 121. Third is Mariano Rivera with 110.

The Giants already have an elite bullpen. Their 2.88 ERA ranks second in the majors behind the Atlanta Braves. San Francisco’s relievers also have the second-best opponent OPS (.620) and have allowed the fewest home runs (23).

Double Trouble

Minnesota Twins reliever Alex Burnett was a bright spot this week for a bullpen that has struggled this season. In three appearances, Burnett logged four scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and no walks.

Alex Burnett

Burnett

Burnett has excelled in several areas this season, most notably in his ability to throw consistently throw strikes. According to Inside Edge, Burnett throws his first pitch of an at-bat for a strike 62 percent of the time, 4 percent higher than the league average.

Burnett also has been economical -- 45 percent of his innings have been one-two-three, 10 percent higher than the average pitcher this season.