Monday, August 23, 2004

October Bullpen Importance

In my previous article, I insinuated that a solid bullpen is important in October without providing any proof. Rather than clearing things up in the comment section, I decided to put together a little more information for you.

Tom Tippett at Diamond-mind wrote an article in early 2003 that for some reason or another stuck in my mind. (You can read it at http://www.diamond-mind.com/articles/bprankings.htm) Within this article, Tom talks about the importance of starting pitching, offense, and relief pitching in regard to making and having success in the playoffs. Among the things Tom points out, he includes that among playoff teams between 1998 and 2002:

-Of the ten teams that led their league in bullpen OPS, eight made the postseason, three reached the World Series, and two won it all.

-Of the ten teams that finished second in their league in bullpen OPS, six made the postseason, four made the World Series, and two won it all.

-Of the ten teams that finished third in their league in bullpen OPS, seven made the postseason, two made the World Series, and one of them won it all.

-Twenty-seven of the last forty postseason teams finished in their league's top five in bullpen OPS.

-All five World Series winners since 1998 finished in the top three of their league in bullpen OPS.

-Only seven of the last forty postseason teams were in the bottom half of their league in bullpen OPS, and none of them made the World Series.

There are more details in the article, which is a good read, but you get the gist. A solid bullpen doesn’t guarantee anything, but it is an important factor.

How do the Cardinals stack up in 2004? Currently, the bullpen has a 636 OPS allowed. That’s tops in the NL, and quite frankly, it’s not even close. The Dodgers come in 2nd with a 661 OPS allowed, and they play their home games in a park that favors pitchers slightly more than Busch stadium. Among playoff contender’s, the bullpens stack up like this:

Cardinals 636 (1st)
Dodgers 661 (2nd)
Braves 712 (4th)
Cubs 722 (7th)
Padres 724 (8th)
Giants 830 (16th)

Obviously, this doesn't mean the Cardinals are automatic World Series favorites. However, it does put into perspective just how good the bullpen has been this year. Using the importance of bullpens in the 1998 to 2002 timeframe, Cardinal fans have one more reason to be optimistic as the playoffs come closer.

(For more thoughts from Tom Tippett in regard to the above subject, go to http://www.diamond-mind.com/weblog/2003_05_18_archive.htm and read the May 22nd post.)

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