Typically, when things go good, the manager gets the credit. When things go bad, the manager gets the blame. I've seen it happen like this everywhere. But being the outside-the-box thinker I try to be, and mindful of the lack of long outings by our starting rotation, I decided to do a little investigating.
Of course Joe Maddon would go with what's worked in the past. But it's not his fault his bullpen has been failing him.
It's Jim Hickey's fault.
I had to do a considerable amount of digging in Baseball Reference to research this. First, compare the starting pitching IP for each of teams currently in the playoff hunt, and compare them to the Rays.
Rays: 840 2/3 IP
(Keep in mind the Tigers and Angels have played two fewer games than we have, and the Red Sox and Rangers have played one fewer. The Yankees have played one more than we.)
Our starters have sent the equivalent of 31 2/3 more innings to our bullpen than Boston's starters. That's about 3 1/2 games worth of extra pitching our bullpen has had to do. Our bullpen has also pitched 111 1/3 IP more innings than the Yankees. That's more than 12 games extra that our bullpen has had to pitch.
We have only three team shutouts, and 34 team saves, the fewest of any of the playoff contenders.
No wonder our bullpen has been failing in spots where normally they would work out. They're totally gassed!
Another interesting note is how many different starting pitchers have been used by each team:
Red Sox: 10
The correlation between starter IP and making the playoffs is strong. Last year, our starters had 1046 2/3 IP, compared to 1005 for Boston, 1014 for Anaheim and 1055 2/3 for Cleveland. (The Yankees had 1012 2/3 IP last year for their pitchers, so sometimes there's a blip. Take into account that Boston has Papelschmuck.)
In 2007, our starters only had 977 1/3 IP. So our starters sent 88 2/3 fewer IP to the bullpen between 2007 and 2008.
There is really only one person to blame: Jim Hickey. He is the one responsible for the maintenance of our pitching staff. If he gets the bullpen gassed because our starters can't go deep, then we end up floundering down the stretch, and we end up where we are now.
One can say that trading Edwin Jackson was the root of our problems, but it hasn't been one single pitcher. It's been a systemic problem. How often have our starting pitchers made it into the 8th inning?
Not very many deep outings. A lot that didn't make it out of the sixth either. Way too many.
The fact of the matter is, the problem is our starting pitching. It is the root of all of our problems. They have the capability: 2008 proved that. We may need new leadership.