Allen St. John in the Wall St. Journal about the precious commodity of middle relievers notes Rockies hitters can be patient, too:
- "As the World Series continues this weekend, the starting pitchers for the Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox will bask in the interview-room spotlights before the games, and the closers will get to relive their final outs -- or those they failed to get. But a large part of the fate of both teams lies somewhere else -- in the hands of their middle relievers.
But here's the bigger difference: When managers go to the bullpen these days, they use more pitchers than they used to.
- In the 1970s, each World Series game saw an average of 1.92 relievers.
- Since 2000 it's been 2.95. That means that a deep bullpen is even more pivotal now.
- In World Series games since 1990, the average ERA of winning middle relievers is 3.56.
- For losing middle relievers, that ERA rises to 5.71.
Given that the average margin of victory during those years is just under two runs, middle relief can be seen a hidden key to World Series success.
Another side effect of weak middle relief determined the outcome of the 2001 World Series. Then-Yankee manager Joe Torre asked his closer Mariano Rivera
for a series of two-inning appearances throughout the postseason." (St. John noting Rivera performed 2 jobs--set-up and closer. sm) St John: "
- When it comes to measuring the importance of a deep bullpen, there's also a ripple effect at work that goes beyond the numbers.
- Red Sox fans well know that if then-manager Grady Little had had one more reliable middleman in game seven of the 2003 American League Championship Series, he likely would have taken the ball from a tiring Pedro Martinez, and may well have held on to his job.
That strategy backfired in the most spectacular fashion in game seven against the Arizona Diamondbacks, with Mr. Rivera blowing a one-run lead." (Having also entered in the 8th inning in that game, the 9th being his 16th inning of work in the 2001 post season). sm
- St. John: "If the Red Sox have a hidden advantage, it's their deep middle relief corps.
- Boston has held opponents to a .226 batting average in the seventh and eighth innings, thanks largely to Hideki Okajima (2.22 ERA), Manny Delcarmen (2.05 ERA), and vets such as Mike Timlin (3.42 ERA).
But the Rockies middle relievers are better than you might expect, holding opponents to a .251 batting average, although some credit has to go to MannyCorpas (2.08 ERA), who bolstered those stats before moving into a share of the closer role in the second half of the season with Brian Fuentes (3.08 ERA), who has been moved to a setup role for the playoffs.
- Jeremy Affeldt (3.51 ERA ) and Matt Herges (2.96 ERA) had been, prior to the Series, a more-than-capable supporting cast to Rockies manager Clint Hurdle's dynamic duo.
And in this Series, the middle relievers should get plenty of opportunities because the hitters on both these teams have the patience to run up a starter's pitch counts.
The Red Sox led the AL with 689 walks, and saw more pitches per plate appearance -- 3.95 -- than any other team in the majors.
- And despite playing half of their games in Coors Field, where pitchers are especially reluctant to give up walks,
the Rockies played patient baseball, ranking second in the NL with 622 bases onballs and 3.87 pitches per trip to the plate.
- So as the Red Sox try to become the winningest team of the 21st century and the Rockies try to continue their historic run, remember that the outcome of this Series may depend on which set of middlemen can best shut down a lineup of skilled, patient opposing hitters."
From Wall St. Journal online, "By the Numbers" column, "Going to the Middleman," by Allen St. John