The Atlanta Braves boasted the majors' most feared bullpen last season. In 2012, every regular member of the Braves' relief corps sports an ERA under four, with several also posting strikeout rates better than one per inning.
Closer Craig Kimbrel paced the Braves with a jaw-dropping strikeout rate of 16.66 per nine innings. Now 25 years old, Kimbrel has developed an amazing amount of control to combine with the mileage on his pitches.
The Braves' set-up crew looks to be even more fearsome. The trade of Tommy Hanson to Anaheim brought reliever Jordan Walden to Atlanta. Walden brings a K/9 rate over 11 to the Braves. He may prove to be as fearsome to right-handed hitters as Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters were to left-handed hitters - O'Flaherty posted an ERA under 2 and leads the majors in holds the past two years, while Venters' own K/9 rate was 10.6.
Put them all together and it's a lot of heat coming at opposing hitters.
Despite injuries to the rotation, the bullpen really held it together, allowing the Braves to rally many times during 2012. Much of the same crew is back for 2013, as manager Fredi Gonzalez hopes to once again be able to shorten ballgames thanks to his overpowering relievers.