Jun 26, 2019

The MLB's year of bad bullpens

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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.'"
— Freddie Freeman, Braves 1B, per SI

Go deeper: Baseball's season of extremes

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 1,252,265 — Total deaths: 68,413 — Total recoveries: 258,495Map.
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  5. States updates: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is "literally going day-to-day" with supplies.
  6. Work update: Queen Elizabeth II urges the British people to confront pandemic with "self-discipline" and "resolve" in rare televised address.
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Queen Elizabeth addresses U.K. amid coronavirus crisis: "We will meet again"

In a rare televised address on Sunday, Queen Elizabeth II urged the United Kingdom to respond to the coronavirus pandemic with the "self-discipline" and "resolve" that have defined the British people in moments of crisis.

Why it matters: It's just the fifth time that the queen, who traditionally speaks to the nation once a year on Christmas Day, has addressed the British people in this way during her 68-year reign.

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Why it matters: New York City has become an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, facing mass quarantines and stay-at-home orders. Cuomo said Saturday that New York reported 630 new deaths in 24 hours — an "all-time increase" that beat the previous day's record of 562 deaths.