The game of baseball has given way to specialization like so many everyday things in our lives. And while this has increased our skill and knowledge in certain areas of the game, some others are just tried and true.
A great example increased specialization in the game is having a multi-tiered bullpen that can shut the door late in games to close out wins or give the offense a chance to win a tie game or come from behind. One-inning closers are a fairly new phenomenon. So are LOOGYS -- Left-handed One Out Guys. While there are no 100 percent absolutes in baseball, or any sport, what can often makes a good bullpen great is terrific starting pitching.
When a manager knows he knows he has three starting pitchers who can regularly reach seven or eight innings and two back-of-the-rotation guys who can take their clubs into the sixth or seventh innings, he can build a bullpen with very specific roles and place particular pitchers in situations where they can produce the best results.
Case in point, here were the Top 8 teams in order for lowest starting pitching ERA from 2016.
1) Chicago Cubs
3) N.Y. Mets
5) San Francisco
6) L.A. Dodgers
If you recall last year's 10 playoff teams, every single one of those listed above were in the postseason. Texas ended up 16th in ERA and Baltimore was 24th, and both were quickly dismissed from the playoffs.
This is not to say this will happen every year, because it certainly will not with the ebb and flow of change and various aspects altered over time. Nonetheless, with the end of the Steroid Era and fascination with home runs, there has been a massive crop of pitchers who have tremendous heat on fastballs with movement, along with way better-than-average secondary pitches.
While it is impossible to forecast injuries, when looking at the starting staffs today we will pull out the Magic 8-ball and go with Top 10 list for 2017 and hope the god of MLB odds does not take us down. Please note this is in no particular order, just how they popped into my head.
N.Y. ork Mets
All told, I would expect at least seven of these teams to reach the playoffs as long as the pitchers starting the year are around for the majority of the season. As anyone knows, making MLB picks in March is an inexact science. But if you are making bets on futures wagers for division or league titles and the World Series, having a fully-armed staff places the odds more in your favor.