Texas ranked second only to Tampa Bay last year in bullpen ERA in the AL. Find a surprise World Series team and often you will find a team that lucked into the right combination of relievers: see the 2010 Rangers, '10 Giants (second in their league in bullpen ERA), '08 Rays (third), '06 Tigers (second) and '05 Astros (fourth). San Francisco's bullpen had a 3.05 ERA last postseason with a typical hodgepodge cast: three pitchers signed as free agents, two July trade acquisitions and just two homegrown pitchers—low-level prospects drafted in the 24th and 28th rounds.
"The bullpen is one of the toughest areas to nail down," Daniels says. "Everybody needs it, and it's perceived as the difference between winning and losing, and yet everybody takes different options in the off-season.
"The data suggest it's one of the least predictive spots in baseball. We try to be as flexible as possible. We prefer strike throwers, but we know relievers come in all shapes and sizes. One thing we try not to do is overextend ourselves there. We like to stay away from multiyear deals."
That approach may be falling out of the mainstream, particularly among teams that have had trouble, as Maddon says, catching bullpen lightning in a bottle. Detroit, for instance, has ranked among the bottom half of AL bullpens every season for the past decade except for the 2006 Series season. Enter setup guys such as Benoit, who turned 60 1/3 superb innings into a multiyear jackpot and will try to bring order to the late innings. They're thrilled that many clubs will keep trying to buy eighth-inning happiness.
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