World Series Preview: Bullpens

As I do not have to tell you the World Series begins tomorrow with the Kansas City Royals hosting the New York Mets. The strength of the Royals team is its bullpen lead by all-world reliever Wade Davis. The Mets’ bullpen going into the 2015 season was expected to be a weakness of the team and was hit by a number of different speed-bumps including injuries to guys like Bobby Parnell and Jerry Blevins and the suspension of Jenrry Mejia. However, the bullpen performed much better than expected especially due to the breakout season of new closer Jeurys Familia. Using my own created metric RWAR as well as several other key metrics lets evaluate the two teams and their top bullpen arms.

Long-Relief/6th Inning: Luke Hochevar vs Bartolo Colon

This will the toughest to evaluate as Colon has only a few innings out of the bullpen this season and just five this postseason. In his limited innings out of the pen Colon has expectedly seen an increase in strikeouts up to over 10.0 K/9 compared to the 6.2 he posted as a starter in 2015. Hochevar was pretty much an average reliever in 2015 posting a RWAR of -0.2 which would have actually been lower if he had pitched more innings of significance. The fact of the matter is that Colon is simply a better pitcher than Hochevar and although he does not have a ton of relief experience under his belt the Mets have the advantage in this particular matchup.

7th Inning: Ryan Madson vs Addison Reed

Reed began the season as the closer for the Arizona Diamondbacks and performed terribly in the role before eventually losing his job. He was then traded to the Mets where in limited work (15 innings) Reed performed extremely well finishing as slightly above average pitcher (0.2 RWAR) with the Mets, improved over the -0.4 he posted with the Diamondbacks. With the Mets, Reed approached 10.0 K/9, an increase from the below eight he posted when he was a D-Back. Madson has had a career renaissance with the Royals this season pitching in the big leagues for the first time since 2011. He was extremely valuable for the Royals bullpen throwing over 60 innings and finishing the season with an RWAR of 1.7. While he does not possess the strikeout ability he once did, Madson posted a career best walk rate 1.99 BB/9. While the Mets’ plan likely including their starters going into the 7th inning the Royals and Madson have a big advantage in this particular matchup.

8th Inning: Kelvin Herrera vs Tyler Clippard

Both Clippard and Herrera posted extremely similar numbers across the board in many key metrics for relievers in 2015. Both pitchers threw just about 70 innings and posted extremely similar RWAR numbers — 1.0 for Clippard and 1.2 for Herrera. Both pitchers struck out just over eight hitters per nine innings pitched and posted walk rates just over three. The main difference between the two pitchers has been that Clippard was more susceptible to the long ball which may not play a factor against the contact first mentality of the Royals. This postseason however, Herrera has been a completely different pitcher doubling his K-rate possibly due to a heavy increase in the use of his breaking ball. According to Brooks Baseball, for every month of the 2015 season, Herrera used his change-up more that 10-percent of the time at minimum and never used his breaking stuff more that 10-percent of the time. That has flipped in October as Herrera has only thrown seven percent change-ups compared to over 20-percent breaking balls. While the regular season numbers are similar for the pitchers, the advantage here goes to Herrera as this complete change in approach has made him an entirely different pitcher.

Closer: Wade Davis vs Jeurys Familia

Both of these two closers were among the best in the game in 2015 with Familia finishing 10th best in the league with his 2.8 RWAR while Davis was tied for the league lead with Dellin Betances with a lofty number of 4.1. Davis has slightly better numbers when it comes to K/9 and HR/9 while Familia has the advantage in BB/9. It is almost impossible to argue against either of the two pitchers especially since Familia has been untouchable in his nearly ten innings this postseason allowing only four batters to reach base. Davis has not been quite as dominant this postseason although the righty still has not allowed a run. Since Davis has the edge in regular season value due to RWAR following up a season where he ranked among the leaders in 2014, the Royals and Davis have the advantage at closer as well.

Due to the nature of the postseason bullpens often play a major role in the World Series and by looking at the most important members of the pen for each team, the Royals have a clear advantage. The Royals built their team this way hoping their rotation of average starters can get through five to six innings and let their three headed monster at the back of the bullpen finish the game. The Mets are built differently behind the strength of their starting pitching but this bullpen is very much improved and actually very underrated by many around the game. While the Royals have the unquestioned bullpen advantage the Mets’ pen can be equally as dominant.


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