This article is part of our The Long Game series.
Heading into play Wednesday, the Nationals had the worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 8.24. The Cubs sat fourth worst at 6.92, and the Mets weren't far ahead at 6.37. The Braves (5.54), Brewers (5.40), Dodgers (5.01) and Phillies (4.63) – all expected to be playoff contenders this season – have also been trotting out relief corps that haven't provided much relief. Looking at more advanced metrics doesn't improve the picture, either. Of that group, only the Cubs sneak below a 4.00 xFIP at 3.94.
Meanwhile, Cleveland just lost Mike Clevinger for a month or two to back trouble, the kind of injury that could linger and affect his performance even after he's "healthy" again. The Yankees aren't getting Luis Severino back any time soon, and the Dodgers have three starting pitchers currently on the IL, although that's more feature than bug given how they assembled their roster. The Red Sox have the worst starter ERA in baseball at 8.78, and the Cubs and Brewers (again) also boast ugly numbers from their rotation.
Veteran big-name free agents sitting at home without a team used to be a very rare occurrence in baseball, but suddenly it's becoming an epidemic as MLB front offices become overrun with anti-pacters (Sorry. Im sorry. Im trying to remove it). Those two All-Stars aren't even