If you had five games in the office pool for how many games into the season it would be before I had my first rant about Mike Scioscia’s bullpen use, congrats, you are about to win.
Last night’s loss hurt, it hurt a lot, largely because it seems like it could have been avoided if Mike Scioscia didn’t manage his bullpen poorly. Also because I totally jinxed it since I wrote this piece for The Outside Corner earlier in the day (my bad, everyone). Scioscia does a lot of things right as a manager, but historically speaking, bullpen management is one of his weak spots because his reliever usage is dictated less by the situation and more by what inning it is. Last night’s loss was a perfect example of why this is a very bad thing.
Let’s rewind. It is Wednesday night, the Angels lead by two and the Twins have runners on first and second with nobody out. Left-hander Chris Parmelee is at the plate and the game is on the line. What most of us see is that this is probably the most important situation of the game and thus necessitates the best reliever the Angels have. However, Mike Scioscia sees it is the seventh inning and only that it is the seventh inning, so he will call in a “seventh inning” reliever. That meant Scott Downs, who is left-handed and a groundball specialist and generally speaking the most effective Angel reliever and thus the ideal pitcher for this situation, did not get the call. No, the call instead went to Hisanori Takahashi who is left-handed, but not that great against left-handed batters, a flyball pitcher and, this is the important part, not nearly as good as Scott Downs.
So what happened? Taka grooved an 0-2 pitch that Parmelee stroked down the line, resulting in a game-tying two-run triple and a Not So Top 10 Play of the Week faceplant from Torii Hunter. It also set the Twins up perfectly to plate Parmelee for the game-winning run a few batters later. Game. Set. Match. Twins.
In case you didn’t notice from that brief recap, Scott Downs did not pitch. At all. He never entered the game. The Angels had a two-run lead and lost it but never used their best reliever. And it was all because it was the seventh inning. Not the eighth. If it had been the eighth inning we definitely would’ve seen Downs emerge from that bullpen. If that sounds horribly arbitrary and stupid, it is because it is horribly arbitrary and stupid to only use a reliever according to the inning but that is what Scioscia does all the time. Have I beaten that to death enough yet? Good.
End of rant. Until next time, anyway…