Jun 26, 2019 - Sports

The MLB's year of bad bullpens

Data: Fangraphs; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Fangraphs; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

As we pointed out last week, the current MLB season has been dominated by home runs and strikeouts. Now, another major trend is beginning to emerge: bad bullpens.

Why it matters: Modern baseball is "based on the premise that a phalanx of power-armed relievers is a better option than a starter facing a lineup for a third time," writes SI's Tom Verducci.

  • Yes, but: What if that premise is wrong? What if, after years of starters being yanked earlier and earlier, baseball's elite relievers are beginning to wear out?

By the numbers: For the first time since 1973, relievers have a higher ERA (4.50) than starters (4.44). And this comes at a time when bullpens are being used more than ever (a record 3.62 innings per game).

What they're saying:

"Look at it this way. If you bring four or five relievers into a game every night, what are the chances that one of them is going to have a bad night? Pretty good, right? And if you do use four or five relievers every night, there's going to be an attrition factor. As hitters, we've gone back to the idea of 'Let's get into their bullpen.'"
ā€” Freddie Freeman, Braves 1B, per SI

Go deeper: Baseball's season of extremes

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