Tampa Bay has an excellent bullpen, third best in the AL using ERA as the measure. Even playing without a DH, only two NL teams, the Phillies and the Dodgers, threw to a lower ERA than the 3.55 posted by Rays relievers.

The Tampa Bay bullpen was not overused. They threw just 484 1/3 innings, which was ninth of the 14 AL teams. Lefty JP Howell was tied with Texas’s Josh Rupe for innings pitched as a reliever in the AL, throwing 89 1/3. Nobody else on the Rays was in the top 20.

Four righties and three lefties out of the Tampa Bay bullpen look likely to impact in the World Series. Here’s a look at what the four righties did during the regular season this year:

 
2008 Regular Season

Pitcher

IP ERA Ratio K vs L vs R
Dan Wheeler 66.1 3.12 0.99 53 215/282/387 163/230/340
Chad Bradford 59.1 2.12 1.25 17 313/380/418 255/289/295
Grant Balfour 58.1 1.54 0.89 82 120/196/169 159/260/274
Edwin Jackson 183.1 4.42 1.51 108 295/379/415 268/326/471

Wheeler and Balfour were just outstanding. Eighty-two strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings for Balfour is particularly impressive. Both were good against lefties as well. Bradford split his year between the Orioles and the Rays, throwing to a 1.42 ERA with Tampa Bay. He was not as effective as Balfour and Wheeler against righties and doesn’t strike anyone out.

Jackson started 31 of the 32 games that he appeared in this season. It appears there again will be no room for him in the rotation with Kazmir, Shields, Garza and Sonnanstine taking the starts for the Rays.

Here’s what those righties have done in the post-season:

  IP ERA Ratio K
Wheeler 6.0 6.00 1.50 6
Bradford 6.0 1.50 1.17 3
Balfour 5.2 7.94 2.12 5
Jackson 2.1 0.00 0.86 4
         
Total 20 4.50 1.50 18

Balfour and Wheeler both got hammered in game five of the ALCS. They combined to allowed seven runs in two innings. Excluding those two innings, the group has been charged with three earned runs in 18 innings this post-season (1.50 ERA). The Balfour/Wheeler duo got combined to get just two outs in games six and seven of the ALCS.

Here are the three left-handed relievers:

 
2008 Regular Season

Pitcher

IP ERA Ratio K vs L vs R
JP Howell 89.1 2.22 1.13 92 188/286/248 197/290/315
David Price 14.0 1.93 0.93 12 158/200/158 188/270/313
Trever Miller 43.1 4.15 1.36 44 209/305/308 286/383/400

The Rays relied heavily on JP Howell this season and he was fantastic. Howell faced 138 left-handed batters this season and allowed five extra-base hits against them. Price is an elite prospect that Tampa Bay took with the first pick overall in the 2007 draft. They seem pretty comfortable with him in the game, as evidenced by his presence on the mound in the ninth inning of a 3-1 contest in game seven of the ALCS. The 35-year-old Miller serves up some walks and gets hit hard by righties. Miller hasn’t seen much action this post-season — here’s what the lefties out of the pen have done for Tampa Bay:

  IP ERA Ratio K
Howell 9.2 1.86 1.03 12
Price 2.1 0.00 0.86 4
Miller 0.2 0.00 4.50 1
         
Total 12.2 1.42 1.18 17

They’ve been really good. Howell, especially, although they have called on him to throw a huge number of innings, 9 2/3, in nine appearances. I think it’s safe to say we will see Price’s role expand in the World Series.

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