Who has the best late-inning relief core in the National League? Well, according to ESPN's Jim Bowden that title belongs to the Redlegs. They top the list in Bowden's recent piece entitled "Ranking contenders' late-inning relievers". And here's a very small excerpt of what the former Reds executive had to say about the backend of the Cincy bullpen in particular:
The Reds have one of the top two closers in the NL in Aroldis Chapman, and a number of great options before him. This is the league’s best bullpen, and Reds’ best since the “Nasty Boys," a group that helped them win the 1990 World Series.
Yes, Bowden is spot on. Dusty Baker has had the pleasure of utilizing the top 'pen in the senior circuit. A huge thanks for that should go to GM Walt Jocketty who assembled it. The Reds bullpen currently ranks first in the NL in ERA (2.75), BAA (.222), saves (47), WHIP (1.23), and K/9 (10.05). That's a vast improvement for a unit that ranked 9th, 7th, 15th, 11th, and 16th in those categories, respectively, just one season ago.
It's even more impressive when you consider they have been without the services of several arms they figured would play a huge role coming into the year. Free agent signee Ryan Madson and Nick Masset will end up not throwing a pitch all year long after succumbing to season-ending injuries. And left-handed specialist Bill Bray has made all of 14 appearances and posted a 5.19 ERA in what has been an injury-plagued year for him as well.
The guys that have been healthy though have certainly proved their mettle. Aroldis Chapman is having an individual campaign worthy of Cy Young Award consideration (1.23 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 35/39 SV, .132 BAA, 62g). Sean Marshall (2.96 ERA, 18 holds, 61g) has been as good as advertised since coming over from the Cubs in an offseason trade. Jose Arredondo is having a mighty fine season pitching primarily in 7th-inning situations (6-2, 3.00 ERA, 58g). Sam LeCure (3.10 ERA, 40g), Alfredo Simon (2.47 ERA, 31g), Logan Ondrusek (3.42 ERA, 54g), and J.J. Hoover (2.35 ERA, 21g) have also contributed to the tremendous success of the Reds relief core.
Simply put, you can pretty much chalk up a win for the Reds if they can hand a lead over to their bullpen in the seventh inning or later. Their record this year when leading after seven innings is 64-6, and 69-2 when leading after eight. A word of advice to future foes: score early and often against Cincy or you will most likely lose.