The Year of the Reliever

by Hannah Begay | Relievers have been the champions on every team. They secure World Series victories like Mariano Rivera and the magic cutter while also providing the team with sure-fire outs like Craig Kimbrel did with the Red Sox. Now more than ever their jobs are crucial. During this wildly unprecedented season, starting pitchers are just not lasting. Outings are becoming shorter and shorter even amongst MLB’s top pitchers. Gerrit Cole only went four innings his last start and even Stephen Strasburg only went four innings in his first start of the season. Now granted, Strasburg is coming off of injury, but there are plenty of other guys around the league not pitching as many innings as they once did. Remember the days where Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver and Pedro Martinez would throw until their arms fell off? Where did that go?!

Now I give today’s pitchers a lot of credit. They quickly got ready on a moment’s notice and teams only had three summer camp games to get themselves together. They didn’t have as many preseason starts as they normally would have, not fully working out every mechanic etc. Starters don’t have as many starts this season to figure out what went wrong and how to correct it. When every game is important, particularly this season, you are not going to stick with your struggling starter. Normally, a bad start here or there isn’t a major cause for concern. There are typically 162 games to be played plus playoff potential. One game won’t hurt. This season, one game matters. You don’t know if your team is going to play tomorrow or an outbreak might cause a 7-inning double header the next day. Think about it, we’re almost halfway through the season already! Bullpen to the rescue!

Relievers Liam Hendriks for the Athletics and Kenley Jansen for the Dodgers are dominating! Over eight games in relief, Hendriks has recorded five saves over six opportunities and struck out 12 in the process. With a 1-0 record and 2.16 ERA, Hendriks has become one of the top relievers in the league and a key asset to the Athletics’ success this year. Jansen is on a war path to helping the Dodgers. In seven games, Jansen has saved all four games to which he has had the opportunity to do so. He has only had three walks and a 1.26 ERA. Not only is Jansen a pitching threat, he can hit! Highly unfortunate that they’re not hitting this year. Once a catcher, Jansen was converted to a pitcher in the minor leagues. Ever since, he has been a dual threat on the mound and in the box. These two are revolutionizing the role of the reliever.

Jansen and Hendriks are just two of the many relievers throughout the league who are single-handedly pushing their teams to victory. Even the not-so-hot relievers are helping out their teams. Some are taking turns being their teams’ fifth starter as they give guys an extra day of rest while others are simply eating up innings that aren’t “as bad” as the three innings their starter lasted. Pitchers making their Major League debuts are being thrown into bases-loaded, one-out situations. Starting pitchers have been creating larger messes for relievers to clean up this year. Relievers will once again be the driving force behind successful teams this season.

Let’s talk! Leave a comment below or on our social media and let us know how your bullpen is doing!

Featured image via Dodger Blue.

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