I promise this is not “hindsight is 20-20” analysis; had you been in my basement watching last night’s game with me, you would have heard me yelling all the things I’m about to say.
I have a real problem with Riggleman’s bullpen management last night. Now, perhaps the off-day on Monday 4/11 enabled all the relievers to get enough rest to enable what we saw last night.
Here’s the sequence of events i’ll be commenting on:
- Livan Hernandez starts the 7th with a 4 run lead and having only thrown about 75 pitches at the time, but is facing the top of the Phillies order.
- We see Brian Broderick warming up. (see comment #1)
- Suddenly Livan gets into trouble. We see Tyler Clippard jump up and start throwing.
- Livan loads the bases, looking as if he had run out of gas. Clippard comes in and gets out of a bases-loaded jam.
- We look back and Todd Coffey is warming up. (see comment #2)
- To start the 8th (by which point the Nats have scored again, giving the team a FIVE run lead), Clippard comes back out! (see comment #3)
- He can’t get out of the inning though, so Riggleman brings in his closer Sean Burnett to get out of an 8th inning jam. The score is now 6-3 though.
- The Nats score another run in the bottom of the 8th to make it 7-3. That’s a 4 run cushion going into the 9th inning.
- Riggleman leaves Burnett in! (see comment #4). Burnett gives up another run but finishes the game, getting a save for his troubles. (see comment #5).
Comments in order:
- Ok, I was happy to see Broderick warming up. This was the perfect game to bring him in; a 4 run lead on a colder night when the Nats seemed frisky. Unfortunately, Livan got into trouble so quickly that Clippard had to be pushed into service.
- Why did Coffey warm up? He clearly wasn’t going to come into the game, since the dangerous hitter in the Phillies lineup is Ryan Howard, and Slaten is the loogy.
- Why did Clippard return for the 8th inning?? Coffey had warmed up, as had Broderick. You have a 4 run lead. I suppose the reasoning was because the meat of the Phillies order was coming up. But its a 4 run lead with 2 innings to play; the odds of a team coming back from that deficit are relatively small (remember, teams score 0 or 1 runs in an inning and no more a very large percentage of the time; 86% per this 2007 study).
- See point #3: why bring back your closer, who you’re going to need for the next 6 days, with a 4 run lead in the 9th inning??
- General point about the uselessness of the save situation: Burnett came into the game in the bottom of the 8th inning and allowed 2 of the 3 base-runners he inherited to score. That’s the definition of a failure as a reliever. Then, given a 4 run lead in the 9th he allows another run but eventually closes out the 9th and gets a save. Yes, by virtue of the bases being loaded with a 5 run lead, the tying run was on deck therefore it was a save situation by definition. But how exactly was his performance on the night worthy of any “positive” statistic whatsoever? I have a post coming up about the use of relievers in general where I touch on the definition of the Save, and this game highlights everything I can’t stand about the stat.
In summary, in a game where the Nats held the lead by 4-5 runs most of the night, we pitched 2 of our 3 best relievers, both throwing more than an inning. Burnett threw 28 pitches, enough for 2 innings. We also warmed up Coffey and Broderick (which may not show up in the box score but they certainly were throwing). We never bothered to use our LOOGY against one of the most susceptable lefty-lefty matchup hitters in the league (Ryan Howard). We have two more games against the Phillies, games in which we face their two aces and certainly would expect the games to be closer. Does this mean that Clippard and/or Burnett won’t be available later this week because they pitched on tuesday? Wouldn’t you want to save these guys for better opportunities?