It's been a very tough week for baseball and for all of us trying to understand the forces that control not just the sport, but all of us. Let's try to keep moving forward.
The success of a starting rotation is directly linked to its bullpen. If a bullpen can't hold a lead, the starters can't get a win. If opposing players know a team has no good relievers, they may take more pitches to facilitate the earlier exit of the starter. And conversely, starters may be asked to stay in games longer for fear the relief staff will quickly give up the lead.
After a week there is only limited data, but perhaps we can see some trends. Let's look for warning signs of bad bullpens which could mean trouble for their starting rotations.
Another problem is bullpen overuse -- generally defined as pitching an appreciably higher amount of innings than the league average -- that's likely a symptom that starters aren't getting the job done. However, if overuse continues, the bullpen can tire as the year goes on and deteriorate, making it harder for the starters to win games.
Currently, the average bullpen stint per game is about 3.2 innings (that's two-tenths of an inning, not two outs), or an average of 3.01 in the AL and 3.34 in the NL. In '08, the MLB average was about 3.2 innings, so we're right on track this year. However, a few teams have already shown signs of overuse.
Lastly, sometimes bullpens are just plain bad. Here are three that I haven't mentioned yet, but have been other-worldly run machines so far.
During the baseball season we get so caught up in pitching wins and losses, we tend to forget what those terms really mean. While the deaths of
Every week I comment about pitching and have watched players succeed and fail, but I'm humble enough to understand that I can't totally fathom the commitment and sacrifice it takes to get to the pinnacle of any professional sport. To be so close to enjoying the fruits of that labor and have it taken away by someone not even worthy of a driver's license creates equal parts anger and sadness in me that cannot be reconciled. It will be with a heavy heart that I watch the '09 season as the words of