The 2014 All Star bullpen will look very different from previous years. Mariano Rivera is retired and Joe Nathan looks like he should have retired. There will be no lifetime achievement award to hand out.
Because of this, there will be an opportunity for a lot of young, first time or resurgent All Stars in the American League. So here are the players who have earned the chance to pitch for home-field advantage in the World Series.
1. Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox Closer, 0x All Star
Following his career best 2013, Uehara has continued his success. Despite turning 39 earlier this year, Uehara has continued to put in work as the Red Sox Closer.
Uehara has the best ERA of any closer with more than 25 innings this season. Koji has been very effective in his limited save opportunities, converting on 18 of his 19 save chances. In 38 2/3 innings this season Uehara has 49 strikeouts but just 24 hits allowed and five walks surrendered. With these numbers there should be no denying him his first all-star appearance,
2. Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals Closer, 1x All Star
The only other full time closer in the American League with an ERA under two is Holland. After making the All Star team in 2013, Holland has continued his success out of the Royals bullpen.
Holland has a league high 23 saves, but it is not his only thing that makes him All Star worthy. In 31 2/3 innings Holland has 49 strikeouts while facing just 125 batters. His WHIP is just over one, and although he has been very successful he doesn’t quite have the control of Uehara, walking 2.6 batters per nine innings.
3. Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners Closer, 1x All Star
Now with his fourth team in six seasons, Rodney continues to plug along while his replacement in Tampa, Grant Balfour, has struggled. Rodney hasn’t been as good as he was in 2012, the only time he made an All Star team, but he has been good enough for the Mariners.
He also leads the league with 23 saves but also has a league high 33 games finished overall. Rodney has faced 136 batters this season and has allowed just one home run. His 2.23 ERA makes him a prime candidate to make his second career All Star appearance.
4. Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles Closer, 0x All Star
After receiving mixed results from Tommy Hunter, manager Buck Sholwalter needed to make a change. Before recording his first save of 2014, Britton allowed just two earned runs in 21 1/3 innings. This was all Buck needed to in order to make the swap.
Since being moved into save situations Britton has continued his excellence. He has ten saves in 12 opportunities with a 2.14 ERA. Overall this season, Britton has allowed just 26 hits in 42 1/3 innings and has a whip of 0.92.
5. Dellin Betances, New York Yankees RHP, 0x All Star
Betances might be the best non-closing relief pitcher in baseball right now. In his first full season, Betances is the middle innings against the Yankees into a nightmare situation for hitters.
Betances has thrown 48 innings in just 35 games. More than half of his appearances have been longer than one inning. This is because of his absolute dominance in the middle and late innings. In his 48 innings Betances has 76 strikeouts, 19 more than any other relief pitcher in the American League. He has struck out nearly four-times more batters than hits allowed. If he keeps that up Betances could be on track for something more than just an All Star appearance.
6. Dan Otero, Oakland Athletics RHP, 0x All Star
In stark contrast to Betances, Dan Otero is making an impact without strikeouts. Last year, Otero pitched 39 innings and struck out just 27 hitters. In 2014 he has taken these numbers to another extreme.
In his 51 1/3 innings, a league high for relief pitchers, Otero has just 25 strikeouts. With so few strikeouts it is amazing that he has been so effective. He has a 2.10 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP. He has walked just seven of the 203 batters he has faced this season, minimizing the potential damages. His different style, and ability to eat innings could be very useful in the midsummer classic.
7. Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays LHP, 0x All Star
The lefty for this team will come from Tampa. In a year where nearly everything has gone wrong with the Rays, McGee has been a bright spot out of the bullpen.
In 37 1/3 innings, McGee has allowed just five runs and only 3 extra base hits. Despite throwing left handed, McGee has been far better against right handed hitters. In 88 plate appearances against McGee, right handed hitters have just 12 hits and a .136 batting average while lefties are hitting .225 in 40 at-bats. With his versatility, he should have a spot on the American League bullpen.
8. Darren O’Day, Baltimore Orioles LHP, 0x All Star
With his unconventional throwing motion, Darren O’day could be the Pat Neshek of the American League squad.
Similar to Neshek, O’day is having a career year. In 34 innings, O’day has allowed just five earned runs. His 1.32 ERA is third in the league among relievers with 30 or more innings. O’Day also pitches to contact, recording less than a third of his outs with the strikeout.
Who do you think should come out of the bullpen for the AL in 2014?