Cleveland Indians: Long Rest Will Help Bullpen Management
The Cleveland Indians have a long break between the American League Championship Series and the World Series, granting them more bullpen management flexibility.
This postseason has turned out to be quite the adventure for the Cleveland Indians. Although they won the American League Central quite handily and finished the season with the second-best record in the American League, injuries to Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco crippled their starting rotation. With two of the Tribe’s three best starters gone, many doubted their ability to play deep into the postseason.
Since then, the Cleveland Indians swept the Boston Red Sox and defeated the Toronto Blue Jays in five games. Part of this stems from the remaining starting pitchers and offense stepping up, but much of the reason for the Indians’ success has been their bullpen. Most notably, Andrew Miller has dominated the postseason with his elite firepower.
But the bullpen gave much more value than its greatness in the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays – it ate up a lot of innings. During the entire series, no starting pitcher made it through more than six innings. Trevor Bauer, in fact, only lasted two outs during his one start after cutting his finger on a drone, leaving the ‘pen to bear the burden of over eight innings of baseball.
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This perpetual usage of the bullpen especially taxed Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, the Cleveland Indians’ two best relievers. In just that one five-game series, Miller pitched nearly eight innings and Allen contributed another 4.2. Placing a heavy burden on an elite pitcher is nothing new for postseason strategy, but it is not sustainable. These are pitchers who are used to pitching 70 innings or so over 162 games, or roughly half an inning each game. Now, they are doubling or tripling that average in hopes of making it further into October.
Given the increased strain on the bullpen as a whole, the large gap between the ALCS and the Word Series will prove to be vital to any potential success against the National League champion. When the game is on the line, manager Terry Francona wants to have as many options as he can, and the five days of rest will allow the relief corps to recharge. Instead of entering what should be a tough fight with a major handicap, the Cleveland Indians should be able to seriously contend for their first crown since 1948.
Not only will the extra flexibility in bullpen management help win later on in the games, but it will also allow the starting pitchers to rest a bit more. The Cleveland Indians have been using more or less a three-man starting rotation, although Ryan Merritt did make a spot start in Game 5 of the ALCS. Allowing these pitchers to not go as deep into games will be vital if they are to be expected to pitch on short rest.