Wallace: "Bullpenning" OK, But You Still Need A Horse

"Bullpenning" isn't going away any time soon, David Wallace says, but teams still need starting pitchers to eat innings

Taz and the Moose
October 19, 2018 - 9:57 am

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In baseball, especially in the playoffs, hitters used to make the starting pitcher work – every pitch of every inning – to increase his pitch count and get him out of the game as soon as possible. These days, though, hitters don’t have to do that. 

Managers do it for them.

Indeed, “bullpenning” is all the rage now, as teams want starting pitchers to go four, maybe five, innings before handing things over to their bullpen.

Is this good for the game?

“I think that’s the way it is now,” Braves Special Assistant to Pitching David Wallace said on Taz & The Moose. “The game evolves, and there’s an ebb and flow to it. You almost build your pitching staff backwards. You almost saw this coming, and now it’s becoming more and more pervasive. I think in a lot of ways it’s good. You’re spreading the wealth. You’re using guys in different ways. I think the key is building the contrasts. Who are the guys you have in the bullpen? Is it power guys? Is it sinker guys? Is it a funky-delivery-type guys? 

Often, it’s all of the above.

“I’ll say this,” Wallace said. “You still need that horse to give you innings. I think that’s the biggest lesson Dave Roberts may have learned from a year ago. When he took Kershaw and a couple of guys out after four innings, I think Game 5, Game 6, Game 7 your bullpen is depleted. In the League Championship Series and the World Series, you’re playing seven games in nine days unless you get rained out. If you use your bullpen and it’s overtaxed, those last few games they’re going to be dead. So you need the horse. 

“Verlander gave (the Astros) big innings last year, Kershaw gave the (Dodgers) big innings the other night, which was huge, and then just last night David Price (gave the Red Sox big innings). As (good) as the bullpen is, you still need that horse to give you solid innings. To me, the most important inning in a game is the sixth. Everybody talks about (getting your starter through) five; if you can get your starter through six, now you’re eliminating one of your lesser relievers and you’re going to your stronger guys late in the game.”

And make no mistake: “bullpenning” will absolutely affect the way teams manage their rosters – and their organization.

“That’s where your 40-man roster comes in,” Wallace said. “If you can develop guys in the minor leagues to come up and help – when you have depth in the organization, that’s when you can start putting together really good pitching staffs. . . . Get your top-flight everyday players, but pitching is still the backbone of everything, whether it’s bullpen usage or starters. The whole key is depth. If you have enough of them, you’re in good shape.”