Keuchel questions sustainability of bullpenning

October 15th, 2018

HOUSTON -- "Bullpenning" is a silly, short-term non-issue that will soon be a thing of the past. Or, it's a baseball trend that has been proven to work, and it's here to stay.

Perspective on this recently developed phenomenon varies, depending on who you ask.

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So let's ask. , what say you?

"I don't like it at all," Keuchel said on Monday. "I think it's kind of a fad."

Given the trajectory of his career, it's not all that surprising that Keuchel, who will start Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox on Tuesday, would have this viewpoint. He has had a fruitful career as a starter, reaching the 200-inning plateau three times in his six full seasons in the big leagues. He reached a career high in 2015, the year he won the AL Cy Young Award, throwing 232 innings over 33 starts.

Traditionally -- dating back to the stone ages of three years ago -- if a team had a starting rotation full of pitchers who couldn't get past the fifth inning, it was widely understood the bullpen would be burnt out by August, and the team would be, quite frankly, just really bad.

This year, though, several teams in the pool of 10 who made the postseason not only defied that philosophy but made their way to playoff berths using their relievers in more innings than their starters. That doesn't even include the Rays, who nearly cracked the postseason by spending the last half of the season using a three-out "opener."

Keuchel, a soon-to-be free agent, said he understands the concept of bullpenning in the short term, but he questioned its sustainability over the course of a full season.

"You're going to get some guys hurt who aren't used to throwing as much," Keuchel said. "You can't couple six or seven relievers in one game and expect them to last 162 games. That's just not the way it is.

"I think the 25-man roster, maybe a 30-man roster, throughout the course of 162 games is an ancient artifact now, where teams are more willing to just do whatever it takes, no matter the cost. But I don't like that."

Proceeding with caution

, whose torrid second half thrust him into the AL MVP Award conversation, has become a hitter opposing pitchers want absolutely no part of.

That's unsurprising, given what Bregman, who had a record-setting regular season, did to the Indians during a three-game AL Division Series sweep. He went 5-for-9 with two homers and four walks, producing an absurd 2.048 OPS, while slugging 1.333.

In the first two games of the ALCS, Bregman has produced one of the weirder stat lines. He's hitless, but he has also had only three official at-bats. The rest of his 10 plate appearances have come via walks (six) and plunkings (one).

The Red Sox have, obviously, studied up on Bregman. Is it now up to the third baseman to adjust as well?

"The challenge more is not to adjust," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "He's had a couple of pitches to hit that he's fouled off. You can tell they're going to pitch him carefully. I don't blame them. Their game plan is smart. He's a guy that can do a ton of damage."

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said he is, so far, pleased with how his pitchers have been able to somewhat contain Bregman, one of the toughest hitters to strike out.

"So far we keep throwing to the edges, and he's not swinging," Cora said. "He's taking his walks. But we'll stay with our game plan. We still are attacking him the way we feel. And I'm not saying, 'So far, so good,' but there's not too much damage done from that spot right now."

Home sweet home 

Because the Astros and Red Sox split the first two games in Boston, Houston is guaranteed to host all three scheduled ALCS games this week at Minute Maid Park. The roof will be closed for the duration.

Game times are as follows: 4:09 p.m. CT on Tuesday, 7:39 p.m. Wednesday and 7:09 p.m. Thursday. Gates will open at 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.

The Astros also announced the plan for pregame ceremonies. On Tuesday, country music singer Cody Johnson will perform the anthem, and country music singer Neal McCoy will perform "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch.

Former first baseman/outfielder Lance Berkman will throw Tuesday's ceremonial first pitch to former teammate and current Astros TV broadcaster Geoff Blum, and Houston rapper Slim Thug will call "Play Ball!" just before first pitch.

On Wednesday, country music artist Tracy Byrd will perform the anthem, and Tauren Wells, who performed at this year's Faith and Family Night, will return to perform "God Bless America."

Chris Burke, 2005 National League Division Series Game 4 hero, will throw the ceremonial first pitch to former pitcher Brandon Backe, who was a key piece of the Astros' success during their 2005 World Series run. Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will call "Play Ball!"

Thursday's pregame ceremony will feature country music singer Clay Walker, who will perform the anthem. Native Houstonian and 2014 Miss Houston Isis Smalls will perform "God Bless America." Former second baseman Jeff Kent, who hit the game-winning home run in Game 5 of the 2004 NLCS, will throw the ceremonial first pitch to former first-base coach and Astros fan favorite Jose "Cheo" Cruz. The Astros TV broadcast team -- Todd Kalas, Blum and Julia Morales -- will call "Play Ball!"