Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Typecasting Relievers

In tonight's Brewers-Dodgers game, Milwaukee entered the eighth inning trailing by one. Not viewing this as a critical situation on par with--oh, let's say--a three run lead and the bases empty in the ninth, they went to the bullpen for...Carlos Villanueva. Nothing against Villanueva, but the commentators specifically mentioned how the Brewers would likely have instead turned to someone like Shouse, Cordero, or Turnbow if the Brewers had the lead.

It seems that no matter how much research is done on reliever leverage or win expectancy, teams would rather let a meaningless statistic--the save--dictate how they use their bullpen. Down one run in the late innings is one of the most critical spots for a relief pitcher, behind only a tie game and a one run lead. The cakewalk "saves" closers collect these days, in which they protect three-run leads or get one out with the tying run on deck, tire their arms out for when the club really needs them.

I'm not trying to be results-oriented here, but maybe the Brewers can learn something from how the game turned out. Villanueva couldn't find the plate and gave up three runs. The Brewers scored two in the eighth and one in the ninth, but their effort fell short; the hole was too deep to get out of. Get used to this type of loss, baseball fans, for you'll see a lot of them as long as your manager decides he needs to pigeonhole his closer into one type of appearance.

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