The Phillies currently lead the NL East by three games over the Marlins and 4.5 games over the Braves. With the Phillies starting rotation being pretty much everything it was advertised to be and with their offense waking up over the past week or two, there's little doubt that the Phils are seen as the favorites to win their fifth straight NL East crown. However, no one is expecting the Braves or Marlins to suddenly drop out either. Both teams figure to stay in the race until the end.
So if this race stays close into the fall, the NL East race could come down to something like the freshness of a bullpen. So what teams are beating up their bullpen now and could regret that later in the season? Specifically, it's the Phillies' NL East rivals.
Buster Olney ranked the NL bullpens in terms of usage and found that the Braves were going to their pen more than any other team in the NL. Their three top relievers are all on pace to dramatically eclipse their career highs in both appearances and innings. Plus, Braves' reliever Jonny Venters has thrown more innings than any reliever in the majors and is on pace for just shy of 100 innings.
Coming in at #4 on the list of the most abused bullpens is the Florida Marlins. Like the Braves, all four of Florida's top relievers are on pace to break their career highs for innings and appearances.
All the way at the bottom, you'll find the Phillies, who trail only the Cardinals for the least used bullpen in the NL. With a rotation that routinely goes deep into games and leads the majors in complete games, this is no shock. However, it is notable considering that Brad Lidge has missed the whole season and Jose Contreras has been on the DL that guys like Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo have still not been overused. Olney says that this could be a real advantage for the Phils down the stretch.
One of the benefits of having a deep rotation is that the relievers are not required to do a lot; the Phillies ranked only 22nd in bullpen innings. The Phillies have Brad Lidge on the disabled list, and only two relievers who have 20 or more appearances so far. The Philadelphia bullpen has a chance to be very fresh down the stretch.