But who is No. 1? And for that matter, who are the top five bullpens in the game?
Glad you asked.
Why: The Padres dumped Adam Russell, Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb but still have the best bullpen in the business. Heath Bell is one of the best closers in the game while Gregerson and Adams would close for many clubs. Thatcher may not total many innings (35 in 65 games) but it's hard to find a better situational reliever.
Why: Soriano and Rivera will form one of the best one-two punches to close out a game (although every other team on this list can make a similar claim), but the real strength comes in depth. Chamberlain isn't the same pitcher he once was, but still has talent while Robertson could one day close. Feliciano isn't a top-end left-hander, but is a durable workhorse that should rack up plenty of appearances.
3. TEXAS RangersCloser: Neftali Feliz
Setup: Alexi Ogando, Frank Francisco
Others: Darren Oliver (L), Arthur Rhodes (L), Mark Lowe
Why: It's easy to overlook this bullpen because it's full of aging left-handers (two of them!) and players that have toiled in relative obscurity, but Feliz led all closers in saves as a rookie, Ogando threw up a 1.30 ERA and Francisco is a former closer -- who could close for many clubs.
Why: A late-season injury kept Bailey under 50 innings pitched, but not before the reigning Rookie of the Year winner announced his arrival among the elite of closers. Grant Balfour vaults the A's onto the top five list and will pair with the submariner Ziegler. They lack a top left-handed option, but the returning Devine (Tommy John surgery) and slider specialist in Wuertz will give batters fits.
5. ATLANTA BravesCloser: Craig Kimbrel (pictured) or Johnny Venters (L)
Others: Scott Linebrink, Peter Moylan, Scott Proctor, George Sherrill (L)
Why: Kimbrel and Venters are simply very filthy pitchers. Kimbrel, in 20 2/3 innings, struck out a staggering 40 batters (although that came with 16 walks) and is the favorite to close. He'll be rivaled by Venters, who hurled 83 innings in his rookie year, punching out 93. It's not every day a club has two relievers capable of punching out over 10 batters per nine. The middle relief corps is fairly weak, but Linebrink should eat innings and and Moylan is a quality arm.
You may notice that the Red Sox were left off the list -- if this was a top six list (hint: it's not), Boston would have ranked sixth. Jonathan Papelbon will be set up by the dangerous Daniel Bard, and the additions of Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler should deepen the club. However, Papelbon's volatility and lack of a top-end left-handed reliever hurt. You could make a case that the Braves belong sixth given the lack of experience in the closer and setup roles. Boston does beat Atlanta in middle relief, but a closer and setup men is more important to your bullpen.
-- Evan Brunell