7 relievers pitch multiple innings of scoreless ball
By Zachary Finkelstein
Following an epic postseason performance that will be discussed for quite some time, the Cleveland Indians' relief corps entered 2017 amid great expectations.
The unit collectively lived up to the hype during the season's first month, posting baseball's second-best bullpen ERA (2.25) across 68 frames. And though the pack was led by closer Cody Allen -- April's American League Reliever of the Month presented by The Hartford -- the outstanding effort indisputably was of the group variety.
That effort, of course, carried over into May. And finally, after five weeks of play, the Indians' bullpen can be called the "MLB Bullpen of the Week presented by The Hartford."
As part of the MLB Prevailing Moments program, each Monday throughout the 2017 season, MLB.com is honoring the Bullpen of the Week. An industry-wide panel of MLB experts, including legendary stats guru Bill James, constructed a metric based on James' widely renowned game-score formula, to provide a weekly measurement of team-bullpen performance.
Here's how the Bullpen Rating System is compiled for each week. For reference, a weekly score of 100 is considered outstanding:
• Add 1.5 points for each out recorded
• Add 1.5 points for each strikeout
• Add 5 points for a save
• Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed
• Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed
• Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed
• Subtract 1 point for each walk
• Subtract 5 points for a blown save
The Indians' bullpen scored a rating of 125 points on the week by allowing just one earned run on seven hits across 20 2/3 frames. Their relievers struck out 30 against 10 walks, and Allen converted all three of his save opportunities.
In a week that dominant, one would be hard-pressed to single out a shining star or three. Seven Tribe relievers pitched multiple innings during the six-game stanza without allowing a run, with Allen (three innings), Dan Otero (three innings) and Andrew Miller (four innings) leading the way from a workload standpoint.
The bullpen's best test came Sunday, with starter Mike Clevinger on the hill for his season debut.
The unexpected: Called up from Triple-A on Sunday with Corey Kluber on the disabled list, Clevinger held the Royals to just one hit over 5 2/3 scoreless frames. But thanks in part to four walks, the righty racked up 91 pitches (50 strikes) in relatively short order before exiting the 1-0 game.
How they prevailed: Save for a Boone Logan walk immediately following Clevinger's departure, Tribe relievers dominated across 3 1/3 innings sans a run or hit allowed. Bryan Shaw replaced Logan and fanned all four Royals he faced before handing the ball to Miller, who extended his season-opening scoreless streak to 15 2/3 innings with a perfect eighth.
Allen hit a batter and issued a walk in the ninth, but he got Brandon Moss on a flyout to center with two on and two out.
"The last few outings, I've been scuffling a little bit with my delivery," Allen said. "But we were able to pull it out today, and it's a good win."
The Indians' week of work was enough to outpace other solid bullpen efforts around the big leagues. The Pirates finished second behind the Tribe with a rating of 95.5, and the Blue Jays finished third at 84.5
Zachary Finkelstein is a fantasy editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.