Cleveland Guardians offseason outlook: The bullpen
Guardians Bullpen Performance in 2022
The Guardians bullpen was dominant in 2022, led by All-Star closer Emmanuel Clase, who saved 42 games with a 1.36 ERA in 72.2 innings over 77 games. Clase was supported by a bevy of young, talented arms.
James Karinchak has been the Guardians’ poster boy for bullpen stat fluctuations. After posting an ERA of 2.67 in 2020, it ballooned up to 4.07 in 2021 before he posted a dominant 2.01 ERA across 39 innings in 2022. Lefty Sam Hentges was converted from a struggling starter into a reliever this year and dominated with a 2.32 ERA in 62 innings before dominating as a multi-inning option in the playoffs. Trevor Stephan was 6-5 with a 2.69 ERA and three saves in 66 relief appearances with a K/9 of 11.6. Nick Sandlin was 5-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 44 innings pitched before suffering a re-injury of his teres major muscle in Game 2 of the wild-card series.
Overall, the Guardians ranked fifth in bullpen ERA at 3.05, and that ranking improved to second in MLB after the All-Star break. This came after MLB.com in their ranking of the 10 best bullpens in baseball entering 2022 described the Guardians' relief unit as “young and thin and honestly, might not be any good.” This description just highlights how difficult it is to project bullpens, especially ones stocked with young pitchers.