Jason Motte and Neftali Feliz have led the dominant 'pens of St. Louis and Texas this postseason.
Last year, the San Francisco Giants rode the arms of their dominant starting pitchers to their first World Series title in more than 50 years.
This year, the team with the league’s best rotation -- the Philadelphia Phillies -- was knocked out in the first round. The two teams that eventually advanced to the Fall Classic have done so largely on the strength of shutdown bullpens.
The Texas Rangers starters (5.62 ERA) and the St. Louis Cardinals starters (5.43 ERA) have combined for a 5.52 ERA this postseason. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, their combined postseason ERA so far is the highest ever by the two teams playing in the World Series.
Rangers and Cardinals Pitching
As the starters have routinely failed, the bullpens have picked up the slack. Among all teams, relievers have pitched 226 innings, the most since an MLB-record 273 in 2004, and won 12 games, just three shy of the record set in 2003.
In the National League Championship Series, the Cardinals joined the 1979 Pirates as the only teams to win a best-of-seven series by getting more outs from their relievers than their starters, according to Elias.
Not only have the bullpens been relied on like never before, but they have also dominated opposing hitters. There have been only two blown saves this postseason, and the Rangers and Cardinals both own bullpen WHIPs under 1.00.
THE BULLPENS: A CLOSER LOOK
Let’s use heat maps to introduce you to three of the many relief pitchers you’ll likely see put to significant use in the World Series.
Motte has put together a dominant postseason, as opponents are 1-for-25 against him in eight innings. He throws a 98 mph fastball that hitters have had trouble catching up to. Motte has seven strikeouts, all but one of which have come on high fastballs. This includes the heater that Mark Kotsay swung through for the final out of the NLCS.
Jason Motte’s strikeouts in this postseason
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Dotel was a trade-deadline pickup for the Cardinals. Right-handed hitters are 10-for-73 against Dotel since he joined the team, including 2-for-19 in the playoffs.
He has succeeded at keeping the ball away from righties. Of the 72 pitches he’s thrown to them this postseason, 63 percent have been on the outer third of the plate or further away. Of the 12 at-bats ending on pitches away to righties, six have been strikeouts.
Primary location of Octavio Dotel’s pitches to right-handed hitters this postseason
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Ogando has been a valuable setup man for Neftali Feliz, converting back to the bullpen from the starting rotation after pitching in relief last season. He has an 0.87 ERA in 10 ⅓ postseason innings.
Right-handed hitters have seen Ogando’s slider frequently. He’s thrown 85 pitches to righties, with 40 being sliders. Similar to Dotel, he’s had success at keeping the ball away.
Of those 40 sliders, 30 have been on the outside part of the plate or further away. Righties are 0-for-7 in at-bats ending in a slider thrown to that location against Ogando this postseason.
Primary location of Alexi Ogando’s slider to right-handed hitters this postseason.
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