ST LOUIS, MO: Chris Carpenter #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks towards the catcher for the pitch signal against the Milwaukee Brewers during Game Three of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The big story of the National League Championship Series was Tony La Russa's ability to somehow win four out of six games when his starting pitchers were routinely getting driven to cover by Milwaukee's hitters. And as it became apparent during Game 6 that the Cardinals would advance and face the Rangers in the World Series, there was some skepticism in the booth about the Cardinals' ability to survive against the Rangers' better hitters.
Which is a fair point. It's also fair to point out, as Tyler Kepner does, that the Texas starters weren't exactly gangbusters in their LCS, either:
If the story lines from the League Championship Series hold up, expect a furious bullpen showdown when the World Series starts on Wednesday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
The Texas Rangers survived against the Detroit Tigers despite a 6.59 earned run average from their starters. The Cardinals' rotation was even worse against Milwaukee, with a 7.03 E.R.A. Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa got more outs from his relievers than his starters.
My guess: The story lines will hold up ... or they won't, depending on how you keep score of the storylines, and also how well the starting pitchers actually, you know, pitch.
Obviously, the starting pitchers are highly likely to pitch better in the World Series than they've been pitching lately.
St. Louis starting pitchers finished the regular season with a 3.81 ERA, and that was with Jake Westbrook.
Texas starting pitchers were even better in 2011: 3.65.*
* That 3.65 does come with a caveat. While the Cardinals look better if you remove Jake Westbrook from the postseason starting equation (as they have), the Rangers actually look worse if you remove Alexi Ogando from the postseason starting equation (as they have).
But even though both managers must (or should) know their starting pitchers are a lot better than they looked in the LCS's, managers often have short memories and they've been rewarded by their bullpens with trips to the World Series and their bullpens really are good, both deep and effective. They probably should use their relievers more than they did during the regular season, especially in Games 1 and 2, with everyone rested.
My guess, then? Washington and especially La Russa will continue to lean on their bullpens, partly because they have to but mostly because they want to. And if you've got bullpens like they've got, why not?