Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Pointless Question

Posted by JD on April 17, 2010

Last night, Felipe Lopez (hmmm, where have I heard that name before?) came to the plate with the bases loaded. Jerry Manuel reacted by bringing in Raul Valdes to force Lopez to hit from the right side. I suppose this was because something in Jerry’s game preparation indicated that Lopez is a weaker hitter from the right side. I suppose you could say he is: a look at his career splits shows that he has a 98 OPS+ from the right side, which is significantly weaker than the 101 OPS+ he’s posted from the other side of the plate. Never mind that he has three times as many at-bats from the left side (or that his home run rate is almost exactly the same from both sides), bring in your situational lefty! And sure enough, after messing around for a few pitches, Lopez deposited a hanging curve in the visitor’s bullpen in left field.

Here’s my pointless question: why isn’t Jerry using Francisco Rodriguez in that situation? He foolishly lifted Oliver Perez (who just had his best start since 2008 and had only thrown 97 pitches) and watched Fernando Nieve (who made his seventh appearance in only ten games) load the bases. Is there going to be a more important moment in the rest of the game? Why are mess around with Raul Valdes when K-Rod is available? Wouldn’t you rather lose the game with your bullpen ace rather than your fifth best reliever?

Ryota Igarashi would also have been a better choice than Valdes, but my point is this: there was no bigger spot in the game than that bases loaded situation in the bottom of the seventh. Perez had just made the last out of the inning: the pitcher’s spot wasn’t due up again for eight batters. K-Rod could’ve thrown more than one inning, and the Mets might have one the game instead.

If you’re going to be unconventional, do it large. Don’t take halfway measures like throwing an untested 19 year-old or unknown 31-year old lefty out there. Go all the way: use your closer in high leverage* situations! Sure, K-Rod isn’t comfortable unless he’s starting an inning, but this team can’t afford the luxury of comfort. Manage like you have no tomorrow Jerry, because it’s only a matter of time before you don’t.

*This is as good an example as you’ll ever get. Take a look at the Win Probability Chart on Baseball Reference’s game page. See that giant cliff? That’s the Holliday walk followed by the Lopez home run. Now look at the top 5 plays. See the wWE column? That’s the Winning Team Win Expectancy after any given play. Basically, the Lopez grand slam left the Mets with a 6% of winning the game. And Raul Valdes was given the responsibility instead of K-Rod?

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4 Responses to “Pointless Question”

  1. Paul said

    You’ll never see a closer come in for the seventh inning in the major leagues. They’re conditioned to pout if they’re not being used in “save situations.”

    I didn’t “first guess” the move because Valdes had looked decent in his other outings, but in retrospect I think Igarashi would have been a smarter choice.

    I still agree with Jerry’s call to pull Oliver Perez. Considering his history, I think it was important get Ollie out on a positive. It’s better that we’re ripping Jerry for his bullpen management than blaming Ollie for another blown game.

  2. JD said

    As an Oliver Perez fan, I’m definitely glad he didn’t shoulder any more blame. The thing is, after watching his reaction in the dugout, I’m not so sure that it was a positive for him. For the first time in a long, long time, I got the sense that Ollie was disappointed that he didn’t get the chance to finish what he started. I’m biased, and who knows what’s actually going on in his head, but I would’ve sworn that’s what I saw.

    As for the bit about closers not being conditioned, I actually agree. That’s why I used the “Pointless Question” title. I do think you could train a closer to be that adaptable, but I doubt very much that K-Rod is that guy. He’s too set in his ways and would probably rebel. Just spittin’ in the wind…

  3. Excellent point. In my “Stupid Manager Tricks” series on my blog, the plan for my third installment is scheduled to be, “Closers Pitching Only the Ninth Inning.” It is absurd to throw a close game away because a generally overpaid closer is uncomfortable (!) pitching anywhere but the 9th inning. Your example is perfect. Nice job, Bill (The On Deck Circle)

  4. That’s because they all manage by the book. 30 years ago a manager would have brought in a Goose Gossage, or a Rollie Fingers, or a Kent Tekulve in the 7th inning ….and left him to finish the game. The only manager today who doesn’t make push button moves is La Russa. The rest are lemmings.

    Manuel’s move was particularly gutless since Ollie had only thrown 97 pitches and had not been in any real trouble since the 1st inning. Taking him out was like giving the Cardinals a gift. Manuel managed not to lose and he got what he deserved.

    I agree with you — if he had to make the pussy move of taking Ollie out, then K-Rod was the only person to go to.

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