Pardon me if this makes little sense (and excuse the pity party), but I had one of those ten-and-a-half-hour-without-a-break-work-days.
To seal last night’s victory, Derek Lowe notched a four-inning save. The last time a Yankee pitcher did that was in 2009 when Alfredo Aceves did it against the Blue Jays on July 5. Like Lowe, Alfredo pitched four scoreless innings while striking out five and allowing just one hit. So this all got me thinking about reliever usage. This is something I at least think about a lot and mention semi-frequently in my writing. And whenever there’s a pitcher that gets a 3+ inning save, I want reliever usage to change.
I hate to get all Goose Gossage on everyone, but wouldn’t it be nice if there were more relievers who could do what Lowe did–or something like it–with any sort of frequency? Having a guy with that ability could possibly allow teams to carry one fewer pitcher and one extra bench player. Having two guys like that would be a practical godsend. Something like that would require a few things, the most important of which would be a team willing to experiment with reliever patterns, usage, and development and I don’t see anything like this happening. Hell, it’s beyond unfair, even, to expect some team to do that. If there’s one place where I’d like to see this implemented, though, is in player development.
It’s popular for teams to break in their young starters as one inning relievers so they can get a taste of the Majors and not overtax themselves in terms of innings. While that’s all well and good, it doesn’t allow young starters to do the one thing they desperately need to do at the ML level to prove they belong: turn over an order even once. Expecting a young guy to turn a lineup over multiple times is a bit unrealistic, but giving him the test of getting through the lineup once as a mutli-inning reliever is something he can handle. It gives him a chance to use all of his pitches, instead of two, while facing Major League quality hitters and allows him to pitch more innings at the highest level possible.
In the more immediate future, I wonder if Lowe will get the opportunity to get a “long” save the next time David Phelps starts. Of course, Phelps will probably be able to go longer next time out and won’t be out after five innings; perhaps he’ll pitch six next time and Lowe can grab the next three, or even just two. After that, Phelps won’t necessarily need a caddie and that’ll free up Lowe to pitch as the long-man in relief of anyone. If it turns out that the Yankees don’t want/need Lowe for that role when CC Sabathia comes back, perhaps David Phelps could do the long-man thing.
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