September 16, 2005

Grumblings In The Pen?

On Tuesday, Mike Myers spoke with the Globe's Gordon Edes about Terry Francona's use of Mike Timlin in the seventh inning of Monday's game:
There was a lot of scratching of heads down there [in the bullpen]. No one had any pre-warning of what was going on. They've got three lefties in a row coming up and I don't get up. You put Foulke in there, then you bring in Timlin, who hasn't seen the seventh inning in a long time without letting him know early on that you're going to do this? I know they've said before that they would bring him in any time, but there were times where they could have done it and they didn't, and all of a sudden now you do? Everybody was shocked down there, trying to figure out what was going on. With Mike doing well in the ninth inning, and having Papelbon down there to set up, it was very shocking for everybody.
Timlin said that he was "kind of surprised, but they've said they were going to use me whenever. Terry felt that was the crucial part of the game. ... You've got to be able to do your role when you're called on, whether you're called in the sixth, seventh, eighth, or ninth."

It's an unconventional approach, bringing your closer into a game in the seventh inning, but it is consistent with a philosophy espoused by Sox senior adviser/statistical analyst Bill James and embraced by general manager Theo Epstein and Francona: Use your best reliever to snuff out a rally when he is most needed, regardless of the inning. The Sox tried the so-called "closer by committee" approach in 2003 with disastrous results, but the organization believed -- and still believes -- that the theory was sound, the execution bad.
The C-by-C is viewed as a failed experiment because Grady Gump had no clue about how to do it. It was simply beyond his old-school baseball mind. However, at the time, no one in the media pointed out that whatever Gump was doing wasn't what the Red Sox had in mind -- so everyone thinks the C-by-C idea was one of bigger failures in recent Red Sox history. It wasn't -- and isn't.

The next day, Myers cleared the air with Francona. Myers:
He wanted to make sure that there were no hard feelings and that I wasn't taking potshots at him and Dave Wallace – and I wasn't. I was asked what I thought down in the bullpen [on Monday] and I said I was surprised. There were no hard feelings from me. There's no controversy. Terry just wanted to make sure there were no hard feelings. I want to apologize to Terry publicly for putting him in that spot, and if it made him uncomfortable, because there was no [second-guessing] behind that whatsoever.
One of my grievances with Francona last night was his failure to bring Myers into the seventh inning to face Eric Chavez. Tito had Myers warmed up, yet did not call on him in the one spot in which it would sense to pitch him.

Then, when Myers did come into the game, Francona let him pitch to Nick Swisher in the eighth, rather than going with Chad Bradford. Myers has allowed an 1.180 OPS to right-handed hitters this year; Bradford has allowed a .597 OPS.

However, Swisher is a switch-hitter, so if Bradford had come in, he would have batted lefty. Bradford's OPS against LHB? .950. Swisher does hit righties (.794 OPS) better than lefties (.608). Myers allowed a double to Swisher.

Bradford came in after that and wasn't much better, allowing a double and single. So maybe it wouldn't have worked out anyway, but I wonder if part of Tito's leaving Myers in was related to his comments.

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