This is where teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, a World Series favorite, and the Indians have an advantage. The Dodgers led the majors during the 60-game regular season with a 3.02 E.R.A. and the Indians were second with a 3.29 E.R.A.
The Dodgers’ main five starting pitchers, led by Clayton Kershaw and Dustin May, all had figures under 3.45. After Bieber, the Indians have Carlos Carrasco (2.91 E.R.A.) and Zach Plesac (2.28 E.R.A.) — both of whom have pitched better than the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka, their Wild Card Series Game 2 starter, or J.A. Happ.
The teams with stronger rotations may lighten the strain on their bullpens, which may be forced into more duty than usual anyway. During the 2019 and ’20 regular seasons, only once has a Yankees reliever — Chad Green, earlier this month — pitched three consecutive days. That, if not more days in a row, may become the norm in multiple rounds this postseason.
“It’s definitely going to be tricky,” Mike Harkey, the Yankees’ bullpen coach, said earlier this month. “Teams that have deeper starting pitching are probably going to benefit from it more. We’re hoping that with the addition of Cole that will clean some things up for us and hopefully give us a chance to get the kind of rest needed for relievers to win a World Series.”
Teams could end up depending on their best relievers too much. Brandon Morrow, for example, pitched 14 of the Dodgers’ 15 postseason games in 2017, including all seven World Series games in the span of nine days.
Morrow, 36, has not been the same afterward: he appeared in 35 games for the Chicago Cubs in 2018 and hasn’t pitched in the majors since because of injuries.
“The bullpenning will be more strategic than just lining guys up knowing that you have that day off,” Britton said. “We’ll see as it goes. Obviously the bullpen is one of our strengths. It’s going to be a challenge for everybody.”