For all intents and purposes, the 2013 season has gotten off to a fine start for the St. Louis Cardinals. Their powerhouse offense is already outscoring the rest of the National League and their starting pitchers are coming off a run of epic proportions. Over the week against Milwaukee and Cincinnati, the Cardinals held their opponents scoreless for 39.1 innings straight, with 32 of those innings coming out of the rotation. Starter Adam Wainwright has been the best of all the birds, throwing 22 innings this year while striking out 24 batters and walking none in an otherworldly display of control.
But St. Louis does have one big issue and that’s shutting the door in the 9th inning. For the past couple of seasons the hard-throwing Jason Motte has taken the mound to turn out the lights for the Cardinals but it appears that he’s going to miss the entire 2013 season to have Tommy John surgery. That’s been bad news in the early going as nominal closer Mitchell Boggs has imploded just about every time his name is called, giving up 8 earned runs in just 6.1 innings of work. His latest detonation job came yesterday in Milwaukee as it took Boggs all of two batters before blowing the lead.
In 2011 we saw the St. Louis Cardinals use a powerful offense while leaning heavily on a revamped bullpen to roll all the way to a World Series title. Having a strong bullpen for the postseason has never been as important as it has during the past couple of seasons, and for good reason. Pitchers throw fewer innings per outing with each passing year, which means a larger part of the 9 inning burden falls on pitchers who throw no more than 70 innings a season normally. Many of these players will be called upon in situations with enormous ramifications, whether it be to match up with a slugger like Joey Votto or to get out of a bases loaded jam. Let’s take a look at which teams’ bullpens are best prepared to enter the war of attrition known as October baseball.