Nasty stuff

RYAN MADSON. Nick Masset. Bill Bray. After those three fell to injury this spring, it would've been easy to write off the Reds. After all, the Rangers and Cards showed the importance of bullpens last October. And here was a team without its closer and two of its other top relievers.

That narrative was wrong. Led by Aroldis Chapman -- who, with 35 saves, a 1.61 ERA and 118 strikeouts, might be having the best relief season ever -- the 2012 Reds bullpen (2.73 ERA) isn't just better than the Rob Dibble and Randy Myers-led Nasty Boys from the 1990 Series-winning Reds (2.91 ERA), it's also one of the best pens in the modern-reliever era. Its ERA is 33 percent below the league average; only seven teams in the past 30 years have posted a better mark over a season. Zero bullpens have struck out batters at a higher rate.