Many fans find themselves screaming at the TV over how relievers are used, because they often don’t understand the seemingly random nature to how managers use their bullpen. But believe it or not, there is a method to the madness.
Relief pitchers are typically assigned a pecking order, from the closer down to the mop up guy. This can vary somewhat depending on availability, for example if Bruney pitches 2 days in a row and is not available, the 8th inning can fall to the next guy on the food chain, which on the Yanks would be Marte. Why? Because he’s the next best pitcher on the staff. You typically use your relievers from the least effective early in games to the most effective late in games. Why? So have a better pitcher backing up in case the lesser guy gets in trouble. But if you have a situation where your starter gets deep into a game and leaves with men on base, you’ll go right to your best guy to nail it down. Managers are always trying to save their best guys and get as much as they can out of the bottom four. Why? Because Bruney and Mo can’t give you 3 innings every day. Joe Torre was often critcised (rightly so) for falling in love with a few guys and ignoring the rest, causing the top relievers to break down and the bottom guys to atrophy. Spreading the workload around keeps the lesser guys sharp and keeps the top guys healthy. Its tough for fans to accept that game by game, but in the long run (which is what a Baseball season is) you’re better off.
Here’s the current pecking order on the Yankees:
1-Mo-Closer, used whenever you have a save situation or if you get in trouble in the 8th.
2-Brian Bruney-8th inning guy, first Righty out of the pen. Typically used to start the 8th, but will also be used earlier when needed.
3-Damaso Marte-First lefty out of the pen. Can get lefties and righties out, so he can be used situationally or to start the 8th.
4-Jose Veras-7th inning guy. Good stuff but spotty control, so you want him backed up by better pitchers.
5-Edwar Ramirez-3 outcome pitcher. Strikeout, Walk, or double. Messy, but effective. Best used to start an inning. Used in low leverage situations because his mistakes tend to get hit hard.
6-Phil Coke-2nd Lefty out of the pen. Used in low leverage situations or to get a lefty out when its early or Marte isn’t available.
7-Albaladejo-Sinker-slider pitcher. Can be used to get a ground ball or for a few innings in blowouts.
Once you know what these guys roles are, Girardi’s moves start to make more sense. For instance, in yesterday’s game he started the 7th with Veras (his role). Veras got in trouble, so he backed him up with Marte (his role). That’s textbook managing, there’s nothing to argue with about either move, they simply didn’t do their jobs.
Second guessing bullpen moves by a manager is the easiest thing for fans to do in the world, since we all get to do it AFTER the fact. Girardi doesn’t have a crystal ball, so he has to use guys where it makes sense. If the relievers don’t do their job, the manager is the one who gets killed. But so far, I have have few complaints about how he has used the bullpen. Again, the pitchers simply didn’t do their job.
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