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Braves Bullpen Becoming a Problem?

The Braves bullpen has been dominant for most of the season but have not been as effective lately.

One of the Braves' biggest assets this season has been a quality bullpen, with effective relievers against both left and right-handed batters. Peter Moylan and Takashi Saito have been the best righties, and Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty have provided value as lefties. Billy Wagner has been solid in the closer role but has blown seven saves. His numbers are terrific though and his troubles seemed to have come in bunches -- one being early in the season and one being a bit after the All-Star break.

Lately, the Braves have been having some problems in the 'pen, which is easy to say on the dawn of that awful nine run collapse. The once dominant group has seen struggles from Moylan and newly acquired Kyle Farnsworth, -- plusTakashi Saito is now battling with night vision problems.

In 16.1 innings since the All-Star break, Moylan has a 4.41 ERA with ten walks to just nine strikeouts. Farnsworth has been even worse, posting a 9.00 ERA with five walks in seven innings since being traded from Kansas City. These two right-handers are expected to be quazi-setup men for Billy Wagner. With neither of them being productive, Saito is left as the only solid righty, and his vision problems just cost them an opportunity to win a game on Tuesday night.

The final 35 games is no time to have worries about who can bridge the gap to your closer. Venters has thrown a ton of innings since his call-up, which may explain why he has given up five runs in his last 4.2 innings. This is a small sample size, but it is a tad worrisome.

Thankfully, the Braves should get some bullpen help when the rosters expand. Craig Kimbrel and Michael Dunn are expected to be recalled, and both were solid when they were with the team earlier in the season. Both had problems with control, but also have very impressive minor league numbers. Neither will be called upon in extremely high leverage situations, but they should be able to milk some innings and give the other relievers some rest. Stephen Marek is also a right-hander that may get a look, but that is yet to be determined.

It is too early to call the bullpen a true problem, but it is a place where the Braves have been struggling as of late. I expect them to perform better, especially when the September call-ups arive.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.