One of the more annoying things about Baseball is fans who approach it with what I call “The Football Mentality”. They think you play to win the game, every game and fail to see the big picture. Baseball is a long grind, and early in the season managers are often testing guys out to see how they respond in various situations. The easiest thing for anyone to do is second guess bullpen decisions, especially after they don’t work. Twitter and the blogosphere was abuzz with geniuses after the fact last night, and most of them in my opinion, were dead wrong. Here’s some of the arguments they offered up-
Dont bring in Soriano there-Huh? Don’t bring your 8th inning guy into…the 8th inning? He has that title for a reason, and that’s because he’s your best option before your Closer. There was nothing in his history suggest he would have such a bad outing. In 336 innings as a reliever, he had NEVER walked 3 batters in an inning (h/t Joel Sherman). Some went on to argue that he had pitched 2 of the past 3 days so you had to figure he needed some time off, which is simply wrong. He threw 14 pitches on March 31st and 19 pitches on Monday night’s game facing the Twins. So he’s unavailable because he threw less then 20 pitches the day before after having three days off? If I’m a manager, one of the things I want to find out is how a guy responds to working back to back days. Is he better or worse? Does his stuff or location suffer? I’d rather find these things out now in April, than in a pivotal game later in the year. I wouldn’t make up my mind after one bad game, but it is something to stick in the back of your mind. A manager’s job is to put his guys in situations where they’re most likely to be successful. Usage patterns for relievers is a key piece of info.
Let Joba/Robertson start the 8th-Wreaks of second guess, but I will say this does fit into my template for good bullpen management. You always want to have someone better backing up the guy on the mound. That’s why there’s pecking order in bullpens and your Closer finishes games for you, and you live or die with him. Joba had just pitched the night before, so a day off for him is in order. Robertson walks too many guys and tends get into jams of his own, so he’s not an ideal 8th inning candidate with a 4 run lead. That being said, I wouldn’t have had much issue with letting Robertson start the 8th, but that assumes I have Soriano backing him up. Given the fact that Soriano had nothing it’s difficult to argue the result would have been any different had D-Rob got into any trouble, and again he tends to allow baserunners.
Leave in CC, he’s rolling-You got 7 solid innings out of CC, and he threw 104 pitches last night. If this was June or July, they’d have a good point. But in April, pitchers are still building up their pitch counts and arm strength, I’m not having CC throw 120-130 pitches after throwing 106 for the season opener. You let guys build up their pitch counts slowly to protect their health. A rule of avoiding injuries is that pitchers get hurt when they’re fatigued. I’m not extending CC past a point that he’s comfortable with.
Bring Mo in for the 4 out save-Folks, when a 42 year old Mariano Rivera is healthy, relatively fresh and pitching effectively 6 months from now (in the middle of October) a big part of the reason will be because Girardi didn’t bring him in for 4 out saves in April. It may be the reason he’s pitching at all at his age, the fact that the yanks have been so careful not to abuse him. Mo only throws about 8 innings in spring training to get himself ready, and as with CC I don’t want to push him too hard this time of the year. As a rule, at his age, I don’t bring him in for four out saves unless there’s a playoff berth or post season game on the line. There are too many other guys out there who should be able to get the job done.
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