“Francona’s blueprint might have changed the way postseason baseball is played for the near future.”
This statement ignores a lot of history. There have been several variations of this theme of heavy bullpen use in the postseason in recent years.
The Royals in both the 2014 and 2015 postseasons have often been discussed for their bullpen heavy approach.
The 2014 Giants won the World Series with a lot of Bumgarner, a lot of the bullpen, and not asking other starters to pitch deep in the game. Bumgarner pitched 52.2 innings (including his Game 7 relief appearance), the 3 other starters totaled 49.1 innings (averaging less than 5 innings per start), and relievers pitched 58 innings.
The 2011 Cardinals won the World Series following a somewhat similar model, though it leaned less heavily on one starting pitcher. Chris Carpenter pitched 36 innings, the 3 other starters combined for 56 innings (averaging less than 5 innings per start), and the bullpen pitched 68 innings.
Now, it’s true that the Indians went to more of an extreme than those teams. Some of that is Cleveland having Miller, who is not only exceptionally talented but also was a starting pitcher until he was 27. “Get an Andrew Miller” is probably not a replicable blueprint (or at least not broadly replicable).
But the other part, as Baumann writes, was desperation. Cleveland had an unusual collection of pitching assets by the time of the playoffs. It was decidedly not the collection of assets that you’d count on over a 162 game regular season, because a team needs more starting pitching depth in the regular season.
Great job by Francona being creative to maximize a tough hand after Carrasco and Salazar were injured.
Baumann isn’t considering, however, just how easily it could have gone the other way for Cleveland. Cleveland got the early leads that Miller and Allen could then hold. And one big key is that they swept the ALDS and won the ALCS in 5 games. That allowed Cleveland to set up Kluber for Game 1 of each subsequent series and gave valuable extra days of rest to relievers. But fatigue from overuse could have made the wheels come off very quickly if the ALDS and/or ALCS had gone the full number of games. That’s another big reason that I doubt this idea will prove to be a blueprint.