Now that the dust has settled after the trade deadline, here’s some quick trivia:
Which team does Zach Duke pitch for?
How about Darren O’Day? Or Seunghwan Oh?
It seemed like every contender wanted to add another arm or two in the bullpen, making the hours and days leading up to last week’s non-waiver trade deadline feel like a giant game of musical chairs for relievers. The importance of relief pitching in the postseason has been obvious for a while now. Last year, the Yankees got just one out from their starting pitcher in the American League wild-card game against Minnesota, but four relievers went the rest of the way, and New York was able to advance.
With so many off days built into the schedule in the playoffs, teams can push their top relievers more. Here are a few bullpens to watch down the stretch.
(But first, the trivia answers: Duke was traded to Seattle, O’Day was dealt to Atlanta, and Oh is with Colorado now.)
Chicago Cubs: If you made a list of the absolute top relievers in baseball, you probably wouldn’t include any of the Cubs, but manager Joe Maddon has a fair number of good options. Steve Cishek (1.93 ERA) is having a fine year, while Pedro Strop and Justin Wilson have been pretty reliable. Carl Edwards Jr. has 53 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings.
Closer Brandon Morrow has dealt with injury problems, but the Cubs have the NL’s best record anyway, and the bullpen is part of the reason.
Cleveland Indians: The bullpen carried the Indians to the World Series two years ago, but it was a weak link earlier this season. With a sizable lead in the AL Central, Cleveland now has plenty of time to get its relief pitching in order. The Indians bolstered their depth by acquiring Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from San Diego, and now Andrew Miller is back from the disabled list. If Miller returns to form, Cleveland’s bullpen could become an asset again, but closer Cody Allen is a concern, with his 4.27 ERA.
Houston Astros: Houston has the best bullpen ERA in baseball despite the struggles of Ken Giles, who was eventually sent down to the minors and then traded to Toronto. That deal was a controversial one, bringing Roberto Osuna to the Astros. Osuna was still serving a suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.
The Astros obviously think Osuna can help them, but they’re in good shape regardless. Hector Rondon has shown he can close, and there are plenty of other solid arms contributing for the defending World Series champions. Will Harris has been better than his 4.24 ERA suggests, and Collin McHugh leads the team in relief innings while holding opponents to a .144 average. Left-hander Tony Sipp is having quite a season at age 35, posting a 1.63 ERA.
Milwaukee Brewers: Milwaukee is one of the teams that apparently believes you can never have too many good relievers. With the trio of Corey Knebel, Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress already having a huge season, the Brewers added Joakim Soria before the deadline. Jeffress is 6-1 with a 1.34 ERA, and Hader has 101 strikeouts, only 10 off starter Junior Guerra’s team-leading total.
New York Yankees: The Yankees blew a three-run ninth-inning lead at Boston on Sunday night, proving that no bullpen is completely foolproof. Still, with Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and David Robertson in the fold, the Yankees have a major league-best 504 strikeouts from relievers this year. (For context, Kansas City’s incredible 2015 bullpen had 502 strikeouts for the entire season.) New York recently acquired former Baltimore star Zach Britton, who isn’t that far removed from a 47-save season in 2016. Since the start of last season, Chad Green has 165 strikeouts in 121 innings and a 2.23 ERA. He’s practically an afterthought in this remarkable bullpen the Yankees have assembled.
Other developments from around the majors:
When Seattle’s Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award in 2010 with a 13-12 record, it was a sign that voters wouldn’t hold a mediocre record against an otherwise worthy pitcher. Jacob deGrom of the Mets can be thankful for that precedent. DeGrom (5-7) leads the major leagues with a 1.85 ERA. In his last seven starts, he’s 0-5 with a 2.82 ERA.
Franmil Reyes of the Padres hit a 477-foot home run in Sunday’s 10-6 win over the Cubs. It was the fifth-longest homer of the season, according to Statcast, and it was a particularly impressive one visually, bouncing off the green batter’s eye at Wrigley Field.
LINES OF THE WEEK
Boston won four straight over the Yankees to take a 9 1/2-game lead in the AL East. The sweep began with a 15-7 win Thursday, in which Steve Pearce of the Red Sox had three home runs and six RBIs . The next night, Rick Porcello pitched a one-hitter in a 4-1 victory.
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