Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bullpen strategy

Some thoughts on baseball, having just returned from Jacobs Field (yeah, you heard me) in Cleveland where I watched my Yankees lose 4-3 to the Tribe and a one out single on the bottom of the ninth:
  • If you go to a ballpark, and they offer you a choice of a "hot dog" and a "kosher dog" it is incumbent upon you as a lover of the baseball experience to choose the "kosher dog." It will be a much higher quality dog and better cooked too, not one of those pale, limp pieces of garbage you get at the normal concession stands. If this is not the case at your local ball park, you should consider some sort of protest. Furthermore, if you happen to be eating your dog in Cleveland, you get to enjoy this superior kosher dog with their stadium mustard, which kicks the crap out of the normal yellow stuff. Simply put, if you are not having this experience with your hot dog at a ball game, it simply means that you are trying to fill the hot dog sized hole in your heart with cheap imitations. I had two. This may not have been enough.
  • The Jake is a great place to watch a baseball game. The park was built with a vertical emphasis, which is how stadiums should be built. It keeps fans close to the action. Tiger Stadium was like this, and unfortunately Comerica Park is not. Between this and the hot dogs, I may start watching the majority of my baseball in Cleveland.
  • Finally, the real topic of this post. This one is real simple. In fact, it's so simple that it blows my mind that every MLB manager does not understand it. It's like this:

    FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, YOU MUST USE YOUR BEST RELIEF PITCHER WHEN GIVING UP A RUN MEANS NECESSARILY LOSING THE BASEBALL GAME.

    For emphasis:


    FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, YOU MUST USE YOUR BEST RELIEF PITCHER WHEN GIVING UP A RUN MEANS NECESSARILY LOSING THE BASEBALL GAME.

    You see, when the game is tied in the bottom of ninth inning, giving up any runs means losing. Always. No exceptions. If you give up a run you will not win. You will lose. It cannot happen any other way. However, many managers prefer to not deploy their best pitcher in these circumstances, preferring to use their closer after they have acquired a lead. There are only two completely fatal, totally obvious, elementary flaws to this thinking.

    First, you may never take the lead, losing with your best pitcher unused. Awesome. Second, you may take a large lead, rendering the use of your best pitcher meaningless.

    Today, in Cleveland, Joe Girardi, like his predecessor, opted to use an inferior relief pitcher, Ross Ohlendorf, instead of Mariano Rivera (or, I should add, Joba Chamberlain, who may have been being rested for other reasons) in the bottom of the ninth in a tie game and predictably lost.

    Let's go over this one more time: if Ross Ohlendorf surrenders even a single run, YOU LOSE. YOU MOTHERHUMPING LOSE. YOU CANNOT WIN. The only reason that you would not use your best available pitcher in the scenario is if you think that using him now will cause him to be unavailable for a more critical situation (which really doesn't exist anyway) in subsequent days. Mariano Rivera can pitch on back to back days. Sometimes, he can pitch three in a row. He was rested. By not using him in this situation, you are essentially betting that you can't use him tonight because you might need him two or three days in a row in higher leverage situations (which really don't exist anyway) immediately after this. This is a nearly impossible bet.

    I just can't get over this. Necessarily, run prevention is more important in the tie game in the bottom of the ninth than in any subsequent inning in which you have the lead. This is fact. This is not speculation. It is a mathematical necessity. The laws that govern the entire universe would have to disintegrate for this to not be true.

    Pitchers exist to prevent runs. They exist for no other purpose. Therefore, the best pitcher should always be used to prevent the most critical run. And no run is more critical than the run that guarantees a loss.

1 comment:

die Amerikanerin said...

Bother. Now I want a hot dog.