Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Good Starting brings Good Bullpen

Last night I was watching the MLB network and Bill Ripken said something so astoundingly simple and obvious that I just had to take it further:

"You cannot have a good bullpen without a good starting staff."

Let's consider for a moment, shall well, the last few games for the Yankees.

The Yankees have won seven of eight, losing only to Roy Halladay in Toronto. The starting pitching may not have been perfect, but it's been pretty darn good.

In the past six game winning streak, the pitching has allowed two runs three times, four runs twice and more than five just once (last night).

Now, last night may have been far from a decent pitching performance from the Yankees, but what is perhaps more important is that with the #4/#5 starter on the mound (depending on who you ask), the Yankees took a lead and never relinquished it.

It's not as though the bullpen has had many nights off, as three walk-off wins in a row tend to involve bullpen usage, but last night, the bullpen was still able to get it done and avoid the use of Mariano Rivera.

In the last eight games the bullpen has pitched 22 innings and allowed just five earned runs.

It's probably not much of a coincidence that Sabathia, Burnett and Joba have done some of their best pitching of late while Pettitte has been good enough and Hughes, in his last start, only let three of ten runners score.

Now, the current bullpen is far from a good bullpen. Fans shouldn't have to bite their nails when a team scores seven runs on the basis of the reliever brought into pitch, but still, there is reason to be optimistic.

Brian Bruney should return tonight, and while Bruney, Alfredo Aceves, Phil Coke and Mariano Rivera may not be the core of other Yankee bullpens past (excepting Rivera), it's still a starting point.

A closer, a potential long man, a lefty and a righty set up man that can all get the outs they're supposed to is perhaps the minimum for an effective bullpen, but if they can all do their jobs--and there's no reason to suppose they can't, especially when the starting pitching gives you six or seven innings every time out--everything else becomes gravy.

At the beginning of the season, Yankee starters had not been giving the team any length. For the most part, this seems to have shifted of late, and with it comes a more effective bullpen even without Girardi lifting a finger.

It's probably too obvious, the correlation between good starting and a good bullpen, which is why it needs to be said.