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Indians bullpen on pace to shatter record for most appearances

So many relief appearances...

Duane Burleson

The Indians have had one of the better bullpens in baseball this season. Their combined ERA of 2.93 ranks 3rd in the American League, behind only Seattle and Oakland, and when you adjust for park factors and such by using ERA+ (or ERA-) they're tied with Oakland for second in the league.

Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, and Scott Atchison have pitched the most relief innings for the team, and each of them has done very well, as have semi-LOOGY Marc Rzepczynski, Carlos Carrasco, and Kyle Crockett. Among the nine guys with 20+ innings out of the bullpen this season, the only guys who didn't do very well were John Axford and Josh Outman, neither of whom is on the team now.

The bullpen hardly existed in the early years of the tam's history; there have been 77 seasons in which Tribe relievers pitched at least 200 innings. AMong those 77 bullpens, this season's ERA ranks 4th and its WHIP (1.20) ranks 3rd. I think most fans tend to remember the blown saves more than the completed ones, but this year's relief corps has done a great job.

They're also being worked like crazy.

Indians relievers have pitched 395.67 innings already, an average of 3.30 per game, highest of any bullpen in baseball. They're on pace for 534 innings, which would be the fourth-highest total in franchise history, behind only 2001, 1993, and 2004, three seasons in which offense was at a higher level than it is this season.

It's not just the innings though, high as they are, it's the sheer number of pitchers Terry Francona is using per game. Indians relievers have made a total of 423 appearances (an average of 3.52 per game), far more than any other team in baseball. (The Rockies, who of course play half their games at Coors Field, are a distant second, with 397 appearances.)

Allen and Shaw are both on pace for 77 appearances, which would put them in a tie for second most in franchise history, behind only Bob Howry in 2005, who appeared in 79 games. Atchison is on pace for 74 appearances, a total reached only four times in team history.

The Indians are on pace for 571 combined relief appearances. The American League record is 540, and only five teams in AL history have ever reached even 500 (relief appearances are more common in the NL, due in large part to the pitcher batting). I hope the Indians have a good data plan for the phone in the dugout, because it's getting an unbelievable workout. Second place on the appearances list (for now) is 522. That was a new record when the Yankees reached that total in 2007.

It was only last year that the current record of 540 was established. Which team set it? I'll give you a hint, they're from Cleveland.