Thursday, April 29, 2010

Managing by the save rule

Managing by the save rule has increasingly become a problem for baseball. Managers find a "closer" and stick with him in save situations, almost no matter what. Yesterday's Phillies/Giants game was a perfect example.

Much has been made in the media, good and bad about Ryan Howard's $125 mil. extension, so his righty/lefty splits have been re-hashed all week. Coming on the heals of the 2009 World Series, where the Yankees beat the Phils in part by throwing a lefty at Howard every chance they got, every manager in baseball should know about Howard's splits. This year, his OPS against righties is .932, .568 against lefties. So Giants' manager Bruce Bochy had to know about it. But just in case he didn't, he watched Howard take his ace, two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum, deep earlier in the game. So that's the set-up. (I should also mention that Chase Utley, also a lefty, had hit Lincecum hard all day, but with nothing to show for it.)

So yesterday Lincecum is cruising with a 4-1 lead. The only run being the aforementioned home run to Howard. He's got 11 k's, as well. But then, with one out in the 9th, he walks Victorino on four straight pitches. With a three-run lead, Bochy goes to the "closer" Brian Wilson, a hard-throwing righty who's had a good start to 2010. Predictably, Wilson gets Polanco for the second out, but is hit hard by Utley. Then, he pitches around Howard, and walks him, putting the tying run on base. After a protracted battle with Jason Werth, on a 3-2 pitch, Werth hits a blooper down the first base line that hits the foul line, scores all three base runners, and ties the game.

Had it not been for the save rule, Bochy almost certainly would have brought in tough lefty Jeremy Affeldt to pitch to Utley and Howard. Who knows how it would have turned out, but Affeldt was the better option to face those two guys in that situation. If Utley and Howard did manage to get on, Wilson could have faced Werth with the game actually on the line. Instead, Wilson put the game on the line by giving up a hit to Utley and walking Howard.

"Why do I care?" you ask. Well, I've got Lincecum on one of my fantasy teams and needed the win. But am I upset? Nope. I also have Ryan Madson on that team and in another league, and he ended up with the win, albeit after blowing a save chance in extras.

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