Commentary

A battle of the bullpens

With the Rangers' and Cardinals' potent offenses, the World Series may be won in relief

Updated: October 17, 2011, 11:01 AM ET
By Dayn Perry | ESPN Insider
Jason Motte, Neftali FelizUS PresswireJason Motte (left) and Neftali Feliz will likely have the ball when the Fall Classic is on the line.

If both League Championship Series are any guide, the bullpens of the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers will play important roles in determining the World Series champion.

The Cardinals' bullpen weakened the powerful Milwaukee Brewers lineup in the NLCS, posting a 1.88 ERA for the series. Even more noteworthy is that in the NLCS, the Cardinals' bullpen worked more innings (28 2/3) than and threw almost as many pitches (431) as the St. Louis starters (24 1/3 innings and 450 pitches). St. Louis' rotation yielded zero quality starts, only one outing of at least five innings and only one win. It's a minor miracle that despite such lousy starting pitching, the Cardinals won the series in six games and outscored the Brewers 43-26. Their story, rare though it may be, is not unlike Texas'. In their six-game ALCS triumph, the Rangers also benefited from uncommon bullpen excellence (1.32 ERA) and an uncommon bullpen workload (27 1/3 innings and 391 pitches). Viva la pitching changes!

There's also a flip side to all of this: The Rangers are moving on despite an ALCS rotation ERA of 6.59 and the Cardinals despite an NLCS rotation ERA of 7.03. If the Philadelphia Phillies' early exit didn't kill off the "starting pitching uber alles" strain of postseason thought, these LCS outcomes surely will. At least for 2011.

All of these improbabilities raise a question looking forward: Who has the bullpen edge in the World Series?


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