Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tony La Russa cannot manage a bullpen

The situation: bottom of the sixth, tie game, runners on second and third, one out. The Mets are about to send up a bunch of lefties who can't hit lefties. Your starting pitcher doesn't look tired, but he is mediocre to begin with. Your move.

As you might have guessed, La Russa opted to improve the Mets' position by intentionally walking the batter, Shawn Green. Surprisingly, he then declined to go to a left-hander in the bullpen, a clear mistake. The Mets have very little bench flexibility, and Willie Randolph has shown a willingness to stick with impotent right-handed batters instead of pinch hitting against the Cardinal southpaws.

As with every decision I tend to criticize, it worked out for the Cardinals, as Suppan retired the next two batters without a run scoring.

In the top of the seventh, Suppan came to bat, to the surprise of many at home and in the booth. The problem with this move isn't that it was terribly costly to let him bat--doing so only costs the Cardinals about .05 runs on average--but that Suppan, after throwing 90 pitches, is hardly a better pitcher than what the bullpen had to offer. In an elimination game with the next day off, the Cards could afford to throw everyone out there.

They stuck with Suppan, he gave them (at least) one more good inning, and now the bullpen is better set up for a potential long extra-innings affair. But that's an unlikely outcome.

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