The 2016 postseason was one for the ages. It doesn’t get any better than game seven in the World Series between two franchises known for their losing. One of them had to win, right? And the Cubs won big to break a championship drought that lasted more than 100 years. The world celebrated. Now it is Cleveland’s turn, right?
Even casual observers of the 2016 postseason probably noticed something different. Both Terry Francona and Joe Maddon used their pitchers very differently. Do you remember Tito pulling Trevor Bauer in the fourth inning when he was pitching well? Do you remember Andrew Miller coming in to shut down the Cubs in the middle innings? Do you remember looking up at the screen to see either Miller or Chapman in the game all the time?
The 2016 postseason taught baseball a new lesson — the best pitcher in the bullpen doesn’t need to be saved until the last inning. The “save” can happen as early as the fourth inning. Both Francona and Maddon were so eager to bring in their flamethrowing bullpen aces that Chapman told reporters he was misused and pitched too much after the World Series was over. It is pretty rare to see a pitcher complaining after winning it all.
The point is this — the biggest arm in the bullpen may dictate who wins in the playoffs. He can come into multiple games and shut down scoring opportunities whenever they arise. This new way of managing a bullpen just may shift the baseball odds for the World Series.
The bad news for the Cubs is that they lost their big bullpen arm in Chapman to free agency and the New York Yankees. That leaves Miller as the biggest arm on a World Series contending team. But there is one other bullpen pitcher in the American League that could make for a surprise World Series berth — the Orioles Zach Britton.
Statistically speaking, Britton is the best bullpen arm in the game. If Showalter were to use Britton like Francona used Miller and Maddon used Chapman, then the Orioles could be a tough team to beat in October. They just have to get to the playoffs in a very difficult division that includes the retooled Red Sox.
The Orioles have a chance with Britton that is much better than their MLB odds. It’s a smart dark horse bet, especially if you place that bet over at Covers.com.