Ken Davidoff of The New York Post spoke with a Rays official in the wake of the team’s close-but-not-quite battle with the mighty Houston Astros, and the Tampa employee believes his team’s ALDS strategy could end up changing the shape of the postseason. “We gave the Yankees a blueprint for how to pitch them,” the official told Davidoff (link).
There’s certainly some merit to that takeaway. Although the Astros have been expected to steamroll their way to the Fall Classic for most of the year (Fangraphs’ playoff odds have tabbed Houston with a 30 percent-or-better chance to win the championship for much of the season), the Rays came awfully close to taking them down within the first round of the playoffs, in part via a bullpen-heavy mix-and-match pitching strategy. As Davidoff points out, just one Rays pitcher–starter Charlie Morton–threw long enough to qualify for a decision in the ALDS, with manager Kevin Cash calling on 11 separate pitchers to tame the wild Astros offense. Houston’s offense mustered just a .700 OPS in the divisional round against this all-hands-on-deck approach, and will now square off with a Yankees team that, for what it’s worth, notched a competent 4.08 collective bullpen ERA in 2019 (good for 9th in MLB). However, Tampa’s approach, it should be noted, may have had something to do with the fact that Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell, two of their frontline starters, were forced to work in limited capacity; the Yankees should be able to sport a more traditional look with their James Paxton/Luis Severino/Masahiro Tanaka starting triumvirate, although Severino’s own 2019 injury considerations could preclude an early dip into the pen by manager Aaron Boone.