SAVE YOURSELF

If a loved one looks to be drowning, how long do you wait before throwing them a life preserver?

I ask because plenty of Major League managers only believe in saving a game in the 9th inning, when already armed with a lead.

Are games only lost in the 9th inning?  What if your team was up one run in the 7th inning, but the opposition had 2 on and none out?  Managers don’t seem to acknowledge that lead as ‘drowning’.

Why in the above situation would you use anyone but your best reliever?  Instead, saving him for two innings later when you hope to still have the lead—a lead you asked an inferior pitcher to preserve.

Is having a one run lead in the 9th a higher leverage situation than being tied in the 7th or 8th?  The margin for error exists when up a run(s)—but managers routinely pitch their lesser bullpen pieces in tie games, when the margin for error is…[hits calculator]…zero runs.

“But the last three outs are the hardest to get.”

Really?  Why?  Do they use 100-foot bases in the 9th?

What if the due up in the 8th is a team’s 2-3-4 hitters?  Logic says those three outs will be harder to get than those one inning later.

Are they the hardest to get when you’re up 6-3?  Because managers love to use their closers up three runs in the 9th.

Because “Saves”.

Last night in Chicago, the Reds had a 6-4 lead heading into the bottom of the 8th.  The Cubs had their 2-3-4 hitters due up, in Rizzo, Soler, and Coghlan.  Soler had already homered in the game.  Rizzo and Coghlan are left-handed, and good.  So is Reds closer Aroldis Chapman.

Instead, the Reds summoned righty Jumbo Diaz to the mound. He walked Rizzo.  Soler homered.

After Diaz, the Reds threw JJ Hoover, Manny Parra, and Burke Badenhop.  The Cubs won the game in the 10th, despite never managing a hit off of Chapman.

Because he never pitched.

The due up in that 10th inning? Rizzo, Soler, Coghlan.

In 2013, Atlanta lost a playoff series to Los Angeles.  Fredi Gonzalez’s Atlanta pitchers were called upon to throw 34 innings.  The Braves’ Craig Kimbrel threw just 1.1 of those innings—or 4 of the 102 outs.  The Dodgers scored 7 runs in their four 8th innings during their 3-1 series win.

All Kimbrel did in that 2013 season was strike out 98 batters in 67 innings.  But he only faced four more batters in the playoffs than I did.

Last year, with their season on the line in a road elimination Game 4 vs San Francisco, Matt Williams’ Nationals were tied 2-2 facing Buster Posey with a runner on in the 7th.  Williams let his lefty stay in to face Posey, who obliterates left-handed pitching.  Did I mention that the Nationals’ *season* ends if they don’t win this game?

Posey singled—which is beside the point.

Here comes Hunter Pence, another righty.  Tyler Clippard and his .126 average against vs RH hitters was available. “Closer” Drew Storen was available.  A guy named Stephen Strasburg was available.  As the Nationals were drowning in the 7th inning, Matt Williams threw a rookie life preserver to the mound named Aaron Barrett, who threw a couple wild pitches.  One was during an intentional walk.

Williams was quoted as saying that Strasburg was available “only in an emergency”.  I guess a tied elimination playoff game isn’t an emergency.  Maybe with a 2-run lead in the 12th

He also said post-game:  “We are certainly not going to use our closer in the seventh inning.”

He didn’t get to use him in the the 9th either.

Because there ended up being no bottom of the 9th that night.

(Had the Nationals (managed to) win this game, by treating it like an elimination game, the 5th and deciding contest would’ve been back home in Washington, vs Peavy–not Bumgarner, with Strasburg and/or Zimmermann pitching.)

Matt Williams was voted 2014 Manager of the Year.

Baseball managers continue to hope their lesser players can create a lead for their better players to protect.

 

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