This article is part of our Mound Musings series.
Last week we took a look at some potential end game shake-ups in the American League, and this week we'll do the same for the National League. I've always enjoyed looking at bullpens and the pitchers who toil there throughout the season. For one thing, if you can stay one step ahead of the other owners in your league, bullpen analysis can return a very nice dividend for your research, if you can predict the new roles in those bullpens as they evolve – and perhaps more than ever before, they are evolving.
Bullpens in the age of specialization
Probably the biggest challenge is identifying roles within a bullpen. In many cases different pitchers are asked to fill fairly specific roles based on their skillsets. This helps identify the most likely candidates to gather saves should an opportunity arise. The most recognizable are lefty or righty specialists, often facing just a batter or two of the same hand. In many cases, these won't be top candidates to close since the ninth inning could include hitters of the opposite hand, therefore creating a volatile scenario. Closers typically prefer to start an inning with no baserunners to deal with, while some relievers are groundball specialists and frequently enter games in the middle of an inning with the opposing team threatening. Sinkerballers, by trade, are less likely to have dominating stuff, and while a double play could be huge in the mid to late innings, they are also unlikely to fill the closer's