Andrew Miller, who is neither a starter or a closer, was the ALCS MVP. Aroldis Chapman, normally a three-out dynamo, recorded an eight-out save in the Cubs’ 3-2 win over the Indians in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday. Cleveland closer Cody Allen, meanwhile, has, at times, worked the middle innings as well this postseason.
Given how the playoffs have unfolded, are we seeing a bit of a shift in the way managers use their bullpens? Will super-relievers such as Miller pop up around the league in the coming years and create a new normal for how bullpens are constructed and deployed?
“Well, I’m not sure that it’s new,” former MLB pitching coach Dave Wallace said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “It’s probably new to the average fan, but those of us in the game always felt like – and I want to say going back a few years anyway – that if you get those guys in the bullpen, the most important thing is to have a lot of depth. If you have depth, you can go to a Miller, yet you still have the other guys that come in and finish the game. Or you have the other guys that come in and get outs in the sixth, seventh and maybe the eighth inning and then you have a guy to go to. But that comes from having multiple guys down there who embrace those situations. And yeah, I think we’re heading toward that.”
Wallace, 69, was Boston’s pitching coach in 2004, when Terry Francona led the Red Sox to the World Series. Wallace coached five big league teams and knows firsthand the importance of a good bullpen, especially when a rotation lacks a lights-out ace or depth behind one.
“I think it’s evolved over the years,” Wallace said of bullpen usage, “but it’s just come to the forefront much more so now with the way this World Series has gone.”