Lindbergh: The biggest problem with bullpenning

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on October 11, 2018:

On Tuesday night in New York, the Red Sox beat the Yankees for the third time in four games, ending a division series that was pitched primarily by bullpens. For the second straight game, the Yankees’ starting pitcher lasted only three innings, capping a series in which Yankees starters combined for only 13 innings—the second-lowest team total ever in a division series that lasted at least four games, trailing only the 11 ⅓ innings Red Sox starters mustered in their own losing effort last year. Yet the consensus after the ALDS said that Yankees manager Aaron Boone left his starters in too long—and the consensus was correct. That’s the latest indication of how quickly the evolution of pitcher usage is reducing the role of the starter, particularly in the postseason. And while there’s a sound statistical basis for the sport’s ascendant, bullpen-centric style of play, it’s in some ways less satisfying in a narrative, aesthetic sense.

In his 1970 treatise on punishing pitchers, The Science of Hitting, Ted Williams advised aspiring sluggers that their first time at bat in a given game is “a key to effective hitting, a key to the day you are going to have and therefore a key to your baseball life.” For Williams, the primacy of the first plate appearance was simple. “You figure to face a pitcher three or four times in a game,” he wrote. “The more information you log the first time up, the better your chances the next three. The more you make him pitch, the more information you get.”

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Originally published: October 11, 2018. Last Updated: October 11, 2018.