Power arms in even more powerful bullpens have become the norm across Major League Baseball. It used to be frowned upon for young pitchers to carve out bullpen roles, “failing” to truly reach their peak value as a starting pitcher.
Over the past few seasons, that narrative has changed. Bullpens have never been as important, games now even starting with relief pitchers. Playoff games, too.
However, the 2018 postseason, as kind as it’s been to the Boston Red Sox, has seen their game plan serve as an outlier to a lot of bullpen-dominated baseball.
Two wins away from a World Series championship, you could argue that the Red Sox entered the postseason with the worst bullpen among the eight teams.
Let’s look around the league at the other postseason teams.
The A’s used a flurry of trades to boost their bullpen and started reliever Liam Hendriks in the Wild Card game at the Yankees. Speaking of the Yankees, they have composed arguably the greatest bullpen ever. (If only Aaron Boone dared to use it.)
Colorado’s bullpen was impressive on paper but didn’t meet expensive expectations. The Cubs, too, had a lot of issues in the pen, none bigger than an injured Brandon Morrow.
The Braves relied on a lot of young arms and their depth of young starters while the defending champion Astros power trio of Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Ken Giles were non-factors this time around.
The Dodgers have a recovering Kenley Jansen, a credulous Pedro Baez and then a lot of question marks ranging from veteran Ryan Madson to sophomore Dylan Floro.
Then there’s the Red Sox, who have gotten nothing out of a chronically injured Tyler Thornburg. Carson Smith got hurt in May throwing his glove harder than the ball. Flame-throwers like Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes haven’t been trustworthy and All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel has not been his usual self.
That’s left significant outs in the latter innings of games to be had by starting pitchers Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and in Games 1 and 2 of the World Series “setup man” Nathan Eovaldi.
Eovaldi also picked up a hold in the clinching Game 5 against the Astros, pitching 1.1 innings with just one hit allowed.
He’s pitched both eighth innings in the World Series, lighting up the radar gun with two hitless frames. For the 2018 postseason, he has given up just three runs in 16.1 innings with an 11:2 K:BB rate.
Two wins away from glory in Boston, Eovaldi has proven one of the biggest acquisitions of this baseball season.
I know a baseball website is the last place you want to hear someone talk about how long baseball games are.
However, I can’t help but notice that other sports —that have timed contests and are bound to end in due time regardless— are making strides to speed up the pace of play.
The NBA has shortened timeouts last season and trimmed the shot clock this year on offensive rebounds. The NFL thankfully doesn’t stop the clock on first downs like college football.
Game 2 of the World Series lasted 3 hours and 12 minutes. That’s over an hour shorter than most of the Championship Series games and 40 minutes shorter than Game 1.
Game 4 of the ALCS took 4 hours and 33 minutes. The game did not go to extra innings.
A pitch clock has worked wonders in the minors. It’s time for the MLB to wake up and at least try to get with the times. Start with a pitch clock. Please.
I love baseball. But when games are making James Cameron or Quentin Tarantino movies look like TV episodes, we have a real problem.