Before the National League Division Series began, Brewers manager Craig Counsell stressed that his staff was "trying to get away from what the words 'starter' and 'reliever' mean."And from the first pitch of the series, Counsell cast aside conventional wisdom by naming Brandon Woodruff as his "initial out-getter" for a
Before the National League Division Series began, Brewers manager Craig Counsell stressed that his staff was "trying to get away from what the words 'starter' and 'reliever' mean."
And from the first pitch of the series, Counsell cast aside conventional wisdom by naming Brandon Woodruff as his "initial out-getter" for a bullpen game in Game 1 of the NLDS in lieu of a traditional starter to begin Milwaukee's first playoff campaign since 2011.
Whatever they were called, however they were called upon, the Brewers' relief corps shone in their NLDS sweep of the Rockies. After holding Colorado scoreless in nine of 10 innings in Game 1, Milwaukee relievers combined for 8 1/3 shutout innings in Games 2 and 3 to send the Brewers to their third Championship Series in franchise history. For their efforts, the Brewers earned the title of Bullpen of the Week presented by The Hartford for the 2018 Division Series.
As part of the MLB Prevailing Moments program, MLB.com has named the Bullpen of the Week presented by The Hartford throughout the 2018 season. An industry-wide panel of MLB experts, including legendary stats guru Bill James, constructed a metric based on James' widely renowned game-score formula to provide a weekly measurement of team bullpen performance.
Here's how the Bullpen Rating System was compiled for each week during the regular season. For reference, a weekly score of 100 is considered outstanding:
• Add 1.5 points for each out recorded
• Add 1.5 points for each strikeout
• Add 5 points for a save
• Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed
• Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed
• Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed
• Subtract 1 point for each walk
• Subtract 5 points for a blown save
Similar considerations are being used to measure bullpen performance during the postseason.
Woodruff's initial out-getting aside, Milwaukee relievers threw 15 1/3 innings in three games with 22 strikeouts and three walks, allowing only two earned runs -- both by closer Jeremy Jeffress in the ninth inning of Game 1 -- for a 1.17 ERA during the series. Rookie Corbin Burnes turned in a pair of scoreless two-inning outings, while Corey Knebel, Josh Hader and Joakim Soria made scoreless appearances in all three games of the series.
The unexpected: For all the questions and scrutiny that Counsell received for opting for a bullpen game in the series opener, just about everything was going according to plan in Game 1. Woodruff started with three hitless innings, and Burnes, Knebel and Hader followed with five shutout frames to hand a 2-0 lead to Jeffress in the ninth.
"I mean, look, it worked the way we wanted," Counsell said. "I mean, it worked beautifully. Any time we can get [Jeffress] into a game at the end of the game, or [Knebel] or [Hader], the game has worked."
But Jeffress, who was unavailable for the NL Central tiebreaker three days earlier, allowed singles to Gerardo Parra and Matthew Holliday to open the frame. Charlie Blackmon followed with an RBI single to cut the Brewers' lead in half, and a fielding error by shortstop Orlando Arcia loaded the bases with none out. Nolan Arenado then hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
How they prevailed: As it turned out, that second run was the final run the Milwaukee pitching staff would yield in the series. With the go-ahead run on third and one out, Jeffress induced a ground ball that eliminated the runner at third in a rundown and escaped the inning with a strikeout of Trevor Story. Soria entered to pitch a scoreless 10th, and in the bottom of the frame, Mike Moustakas came through with a two-out, walk-off single that gave the Crew its first playoff win in seven years.
"We took that blow and a bunch of guys kind of gutted it through," Counsell said. "And [Jeffress], too, especially [Jeffress], that inning could have fallen apart really bad after we gave up two runs with first and third and one out, and they're looking really good still."
Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark.