A quick Google search for “World Series bullpens” shows why the Yankees should have been custom-built for this Fall Classic. From national publications to wire services to completely uninvolved cities, the focus leading into this World Series — the story of how the Cardinals and Rangers got here — is relief pitching.
Didn’t the Yankees spend their offseason building an unbeatable bullpen? Wasn’t that still a unquestioned strength even after injuries to Joba Chamberlain and Pedro Feliciano. Didn’t the Yankees have a bullpen to matchup against any other in the game?
In the division series, the Yankees relievers pitched 23.2 innings — counting Ivan Nova’s Game 1 appearance — and those pitchers allowed a .185 opponents batting average for a 0.93 WHIP. Those are better numbers than the Rangers relievers have this postseason, and only slightly worse than the Cardinals. Dave Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera combined for one run on four hits and no walks through 12.2 innings.
Know which team’s bullpen allowed the lowest opponents batting average this postseason? The Rays. The first team eliminated.
You really can’t predict baseball.
The Rangers and Cardinals played in postseason series in which relief pitching was key. The national narrative is right, those teams wouldn’t have gotten this far without their bullpens.
But that doesn’t mean bullpens make all the difference. Not always, anyway.
The Yankees’ division series didn’t hinge on the bullpen, it hinged on the Yankees needing a key hit in a big spot. Without that hit, all the scoreless eighth innings in the world weren’t going to make any difference.
The Yankees were equipped to follow the Rangers’ and Cardinals’ path to the World Series, but they didn’t go that route. They might have been built for this Fall Classic, but every game is different, and every series is different, and the Yankees are still waiting for that big hit.
Associated Press photo