How Did the Recent Champions Pull It Off?
If we look at World Series champions over the last six years, we generally see good late inning pitching. Last year, the LA Dodgers were the #1 team in both ERA and WHIP when the game went in the seventh inning or later. That bullpen was deep and experienced – Kenley Jansen, Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen, Pedro Baez, Julio Urias – and seemed to play even better in the 2020 postseason.
The 2018 Boston Red Sox may have not had the “best” bullpen in baseball, but they were still pretty darn elite. Their bullpen – led by Craig Kimbrel, Matt Barnes and Astro-hater Joe Kelly – were 8th in ERA and 11th in WHIP in the last three innings during that 2018 campaign.
The 2016 Chicago Cubs, the team that broke the 100-year-curse of that distinguished franchise, also pitched very well in late game situations – ranking 7th in ERA and 6th in WHIP. The 2015 Kansas City Royals, who rode a veteran and dominant bullpen to their first title since the 80s, ended up being 3rd in late inning ERA and 5th in WHIP.
Most of these championship teams had deep bullpens that could shut down offenses late in games. That doesn’t exactly bode well for this year’s Houston Astros, who’s current rank 22nd in late inning ERA and 24th in WHIP. However, there are two recent champions that upon reflection should give the Astros some hope. We fans know these two teams very well: the 2017 Houston Astros and the 2019 Washington Nationals.