Cincinnati Reds' manager Bryan Price shows ignorance of new age bullpen ideas
The Cincinnati Reds’ manager Bryan Price has come out talking about trying to use a playoff style bullpen in the regular season, but clearly doesn’t understand what that means.
Two things happened in the MLB playoffs that the Cincinnati Reds have expressed interest in replicating, shorter outings by the starters and longer outings by the relievers. For the latter to work, the former must not be a focus. The starters need to be treated as traditional starters for the new age bullpen to work over the course of a 162-game season.
Pulling starters early happened because both managers knew that hey had a seven game series with a need to win four games. That meant Corey Kluber had to start three of seven games to give the Indians a chance. Throwing a number four starter out there wasn’t even an option.
So the starters need to go as deep into games as is reasonably possible given their talent and stamina. That hasn’t changed. Teams are changing the construction and usage of the bullpen.
In examining the Reds’ shortage of pitching heading into last season, a college rotation of 3×3 would have made sense. Three pitchers, each pitching three innings, every third day could have made sense. This new age bullpen idea is just a variation on that.
How can the Cincinnati Reds take what the Cleveland Indians did in the playoffs and make it work at GABP?
So here’s the secret about pitching that has been public knowledge since roughly 2013. There are only two splits at the MLB level that are fairly consistent across teams and leagues, lefty-lefty and time through the order. Left-handed batters have lower number generally speaking vs. left-handed pitchers.
Time through the order is more complex. Each time a pitcher faces the same batter an additional time the results favors the batter. The first time through the entire order favors the pitcher against each batter, relative to facing the same batter a second time.
That means that marginal starting pitchers battle nine batters per appearance as reasonable middle relievers in MLB games. Tim Adleman and Cody Reed suddenly become valuable aces in the bullpen. Blake Wood and Tony Cingrani become “get ya through an inning” specialists.
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Most of all for our older fans, this seems more like the same old than anything new. Yet, this is exactly the way that teams put together bullpens for years. Multiple inning relievers composed bullpens and may again soon. Finally, mediocre starters find their new homes.
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