Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Willie and Jerry's Bullpen Mistake

Matt Meyers of ESPN the Magazine had a great article yesterday, in which he showed the down fall of the Mets last season was bullpen management by Willie and Manuel, and not the bullpen itself.

Essentially Tom Tango developed a metric that measures the importance of a situation in which a pitcher comes into the game. Every possibility based on inning, number of men on base, number of outs, and the score, is given an importance rating between 0 and 10.9. The toughest being entering a game up 1 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the bases loaded, which can only come on the road.

Meyers found that the only 21.8% of Billy Wagner’s appearances came in high leverage situations. While Aaron Heilman’s high leverage appearances accounted for 39.7% of his total appearances. Overall Joe Smith, Pedro Feliciano, Scott Schoeneweis, and Duaner Sanchez all had greater than 30% of their appearances come in these high leverage situations.

So it begs the question, if Billy Wagner was the best relief pitcher you have then why isn’t he pitching in the toughest and most important situations. How often is it said that your best reliever should pitch in the most important situation in the late innings. So if you are facing the heart of the order in the 8th bring him in then, don’t wait to use him in the 9th against your opponent’s bottom of the order just so he can get the save.

Now Minaya has certainly addressed the bullpen situation with the acquisitions of K-Rod and JJ Putz, but how well Manuel use them. Will K-Rod and Putz only pitch the 9th and 8th, respectively, or will they be available to pitch in crucial situations in the 7th and possibly 6th innings.

It comes to no shock that Billy Beane is ahead of the curve on this as usual. Oakland who this off season traded away close Huston Street as part of a deal with the Rockies to get Matt Holiday was left without a ‘true’ closer. Instead of going and getting someone to be their permanent closer, the A’s will be using both Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler, in addition to others if the situation warrants it.

The A’s not being locked into a high priced, huge ego closer, means that manager Bob Green can focus on getting out of tough situations, and not worry about whose feelings he’s going to hurt, or dealing with phone calls from complaining agents.

To avoid the collapse of the previous two seasons Jerry Manuel needs to be willing to bring in both K-Rod and JJ Putz into the most crucial of situations, not just those that will end in a statistical save.

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