You do, however, need more than one or two pitchers who can get outs. The game changes in the postseason, and the middle innings seem to become even more decisive. Starters' outings get shorter in October, and one lost lead can change a series. From 2000-2006, playoff teams got 6.06 innings per start in the regular season, and 5.73 innings in the playoffs.And then there's the simple unpredictability and fickleness of a five- or seven-game series. Sometimes the best bullpen doesn't always pitch the best, and that's when it gets fun. "It's so hard to predict what's going to happen, especially if you have injuries or other things where guys have to do things they're not accustomed to," said Indians closer Joe Borowski. "That also throws it out of whack. It's hard to say, 'We're going to have a great bullpen.' You just can't tell."
A team-by-team look at the playoff bullpens:
Boston Red Sox: This is a deep unit, though the uber-bullpen that the Sox thought they'd assembled hasn't quite worked out. That's because Eric Gagne has been a disappointment since his trade from Texas. Even with Gagne not right, there's a great deal to like. Jonathan Papelbon is overwhelming. Hideki Okajima and Mike Timlin are dependable, youngster Manny Delcarmen has the faithful buzzing and Javier Lopez makes a fine second lefty.Cleveland Indians: If a bullpen is only as good as its closer -- hint, it's not -- then the Indians have some worries. Joe Borowski's save total masks what wasn't a very good season; note the nine homers allowed. The two guys setting him up, though, are dynamite -- righty Rafael Betancourt and lefty Rafael Perez have just been nasty. This group, with talented but unknown youngsters like Perez and Jensen Lewis, bears some resemblance to the '06 world champion Cardinals. Los Angeles Angels: As always, the Angels have a fine 'pen, but this year's group is not quite as intimidating as some of recent vintage. Francisco Rodriguez and Scot Shields have been a little more mortal this season, though veteran additions Darren Oliver and Justin Speier have helped. Depth is still an asset here, but it's not quite like earlier years this decade, when an Angels lead in the sixth meant the game was over. New York Yankees: It's feast or famine, definitely a different look from the days when Joe Torre had four-headed monsters of death in the late innings. This time, it's Mariano Rivera in the ninth, Joba Chamberlain setting up and a lot of question marks. Torre won't hesitate to make sure Rivera and Chamberlain get in games, though, and that's a plus. The starters need to pitch deep, or the sixth and seventh innings could be problematic.
Arizona Diamondbacks: This is the best bullpen you haven't heard anything about. Jose Valverde and Juan Cruz are big-time power guys, both averaging well over 10 strikeouts per nine innings. Brandon Lyon and Tony Pena throw strikes and get outs. There's no lefty-killing lefty, but that never stopped the Angels in recent years, and besides, Valverde and Lyon can get left-handed hitters out.Chicago Cubs: The reputation of the bullpen as the Cubs' weak link is a bit overstated, but this team has had some scary moments. Ryan Dempster has only blown three saves, though, and the right-handed setup relief has been outstanding. Carlos Marmol and Bobby Howry make an excellent late-inning tandem. Scott Eyre is having a decent year but is miscast if he's used as a specialist, but Will Ohman gets lefties out. Oh, and you think Wrigley will go nuts if Kerry Wood gets the call for some big outs in October? Colorado Rockies: Manny Corpas supplanted Brian Fuentes as the guy in the ninth, and it's worked out very well. Corpas has been more reliable in finishing games, and Fuentes has been dominant in the second half -- especially against left-handers. Jorge Julio is a big name but remains somewhat flammable, but Jeremy Affeldt, LaTroy Hawkins and Matt Herges have done solid work. This group is good enough not to hurt the Rockies, but not good enough to change the dynamic of a series. Philadelphia Phillies: The Phils have the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in the National League -- by far the worst of any NL playoff team. It's not just their ballpark that's to blame, either. Brett Myers settled in nicely in the ninth, but beyond that, it was a season-long search for the right guys in the right spots. Some intriguing pieces are here, but Charlie Manuel is going to need to trust the kids rather than going to old hands like Jose Mesa, Antonio Alfonseca and even Tom Gordon.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.