The Indians reliever talks about the pressure of pitching late in games and other aspects of working out of the bullpen.
Chris Perez knows all about pressure and expectations. Once looked upon as St. Louis’ closer of the future, the 24-year-old right-hander now holds that distinction in Cleveland, where he is caddying for the it’s-only-a-matter-of-time-before-he’s-gone Kerry Wood.
The Yankees still control the World Series, but will their decision to use just three starters prove a critical miscalculation?
The Phillies hit 224 home runs during the regular season, and another 14 through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Through the first four games of the World Series, they added seven more, but they didn't get so much bang for their buck, as all of those homers were solo shots. That changed in the first inning on Monday night, when Chase Utley crushed an A.J. Burnett meatball for a three-run homer, erasing a 1-0 Yankees lead in a potential World Series clincher and sending the Citizens Bank Park fans into a towel-waving frenzy.
In the latest exercise in pairing up in threes, a trio of starting staffs that haven't met their forecasts.
Starting pitching is supposed to be the fundamental building block of success for a ballclub. It's not rocket science to note that a good rotation depresses the opposition's scoring, keeps the lion's share of the team's innings in the hands of its better pitchers, and allows a manager to deploy his relievers to best advantage late in the game, where the outcome may turn on a single matchup. Nonetheless, for today's episode of "Pair Up in Threes," we examine a trio of teams whose place in the standings bears no resemblance to the quality of starting pitching they're receiving. Such anomalies won't last forever, but so long as the small sample freak show is in town, you might as well buy a ticket.
Scaring up tomorrow's relief heroes on today's pile of the overlooked or undervalued.
Game Five of the 2008 World Series will long be remembered for its umpires' Beatles-inspired belief that, as John Lennon sang, "When it starts to rain, everything's the same," a philosophy which prevented sundry sodden millionaires (and Carlos Ruiz) from seeking shelter until the middle of the sixth. Despite the headlines garnered by this debacle, however, an equally intriguing story lay behind the first two relievers that Joe Maddon sent to the mound when play resumed two days later. Why does this tale of two stoppers matter? Because not long before they found themselves charged with holding the Phillies at bay in the highest of high-leverage situations, Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell were readily available. While the Rays made a point of adding this particular pair, the auction for relief help really never ends; by examining two who got away, future bidders may improve their chances of spotting tomorrow's bargains.
That Balfour and Howell were on the spot at that juncture wasn't a surprise given the duo's regular-season performance. They had been charged with similarly demanding duties (and fulfilling them capably) for some time, placing fourteenth and seventh, respectively, among major league relievers in WXRL. The farther back we go, however, the more unlikely it appears that anyone could have predicted the tandem's development into the two-headed anchor of a pennant-winning bullpen. Exactly a year before their pressure-packed outings in the World Series, the pair were coming off of disappointing 2007 campaigns followed by almost four weeks' worth of offseason. Both had posted impressive lines in Triple-A (Howell, a starter prior to this season, led the International League in strikeouts), but ERAs near eight in the majors led to the ominous appearance of labels like "journeyman" and "Quadruple-A pitcher" in their BP2K8 player comments. PECOTA wasn't especially optimistic, either; each hurler handily exceeded his 90th-percentile forecast, though it's important to note that both Howell's and Balfour's projections featured big Improve/Breakout Rates.
The lefty's story only keeps improving with every turn, but will last season's hero build on this year's ALDS dominance?
Jon Lester has made headlines each of the past few seasons, but this is the first year that he's garnered attention due to his performance as a major league starting pitcher. Prior to the end of the regular season, Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy stated that Jon Lester was the best pitcher in the Red Sox rotation, and based on his performance both this season and in the playoffs, it's a tough position to argue against. How did he get to this point, and will he able to keep it up in the future?
Some players are getting shut down, but some are trying to come back and finish their seasons on the field instead of the DL.
Tim Lincecum (0 DXL)
From the sheer volume of emails, it seems that everyone not in the path of Hurricane Ike was watching Lincecum's pitch count. There was an interesting internal discussion about the value of a shutout, his long-term health, and his general Freakness. Let's look at the facts: Lincecum threw 138 pitches, an average of just over 15 per inning, and his single-inning high for the game was 22 in the first. He had thrown a 132-pitch game three starts ago, had followed that high-count outing with a 92-pitch game where his effectiveness was down, but he came right back with an effective 127-pitch game before his most recent outing. His fastball sat at 92/93 all game long, and he did not appear to be reaching back in the later innings. In fact, it seems that he was pitching to contact and trying to go for quick outs rather than strikeouts in the later innings. While I'm not big on the value of a shutout, I'm not sure that Lincecum was taxed by this. Just after the game, I wondered if the Giants might be thinking of shutting him down, and that's still not the worst idea, especially given that Brandon Webb's 20th win likely takes Lincecum out of the Cy Young running. All that said, I completely agree with Gary Huckabay-there was no reason to do this. There's a giant difference between "could" and "should," and apparently Bruce Bochy doesn't understand that.