Carleton: Slouching toward ‘bullpenning’

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on December 13, 2017:

Every year during the postseason, some new trend “appears” in baseball and people proclaim it to be the future of the sport. Remember the Royals and their royal blueprint for success? This year, the magic word was “bullpenning”—the idea that best way for teams to win a game is to rely on their relievers. What began as something that mostly involved “doing what the Indians did with Andrew Miller” has developed into a full-blown “strategy.”

In some ways, this is what the sabermetric movement had been hoping for. Rather than the rigid one-inning method of using pitchers out of the bullpen, if a good reliever can get five outs, why not use him, especially if the score is close? And if you have a bunch of good relievers, why let the starter toil out there into the sixth inning if he doesn’t have to?

Since it’s Hall of Fame time, it’s time to cue the people who long for the days of the complete game, even though it’s been almost a century (1922) since even half of MLB games were completed by their starter. Baseball has always had a bullpen aspect to it, but the trend line for what we expect out of starters has slowly drifted downward. With that said, there’s evidence that something specific might be happening in the game.

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Originally published: December 13, 2017. Last Updated: December 13, 2017.