April 29, 2009

A Terrible Decision Often Leads To A Terrible Result

What I surmised as Terry Francona's thought process for choosing Javier Lopez over Jonathan Papelbon for the bottom of the ninth inning last night was likely correct (not that it required much brain power).

Stephen Ellsesser, MLB.com:
Both Lopez and closer Jonathan Papelbon were warming up in the Boston bullpen in the top of the ninth, but with Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Youkilis coming to bat in what would have been the top of the 10th inning, Francona went to Lopez.
Amalie Benjamin, Globe:
Both Jonathan Papelbon and Javier Lopez were warming. The easy choice would have been the closer, at least for most teams. But Red Sox manager Terry Francona rarely uses Papelbon in tie games on the road, so Lopez it was, trying to steer last night's game against the Indians through the bottom of the ninth, to get to a 10th inning in which the Sox could come through for their 12th straight win.
I know that Playoff Assassin Tito cannot rule the roost for every single game of the regular season, but Francona made not only a risky choice, but a terrible choice.

At least two better options were staring him in the face. Why not look to Manny Delcarmen, who had thrown only 11 pitches the night before? Choosing Lopez over Papelbon (it feels insane even typing that) did not put the Red Sox in the best position to win, or even in the best position to get to the tenth inning.

It would be impossible for the Red Sox to score the go-ahead run if they never got another chance to bat. Making that opportunity possible should have been Tito's main goal at that point. Instead, Francona was charting his pitching plans for the bottom of the tenth inning and, seemingly like clockwork, his poor strategy backfired.


Patrick said...

Let's drop him and bring up one of X better pitchers we have stewing in the system, and make this a moot point. If it was Bard instead of Lopez, we would have a bullpen of closers and 8th inning quality pitchers.

Barth said...

Love the site, which I have recently discovered.

I do think Terry manages for 162, and that sometimes that means taking a chance which does not work. His choices were fairly limited last night, it seems to me and, let's face it, we lost because our team was acting like the Keystone Kops muddling around in the field all night. We did not lose because Lopez was pitching, but because he fielded as badly as his teammates did all night.

Paps is clearly not Paps at the moment. He has not descended into Gagne territory to be sure, but remembering how much of a strain it was to watch, say, Tom Gordon or Byung Hyung Kim (I don't remember how to speel it) close a game, I am not sure ho wmuch more of this anybody----Terry included---can take right now. Let's not bring him out when we don't have to at this point.

Were I to be challenge any decision at all, it would be the somewhat FO-influenced decision to start Lugo who, as always (at least it seems that way), made an unbelievably grotesque error at a critical moment. That's all the clearly not fully recovered Penny needed to fall completely apart, instead of almost completely apart.

And, of course, there is nobody who did not see that coming when Lugo is sent out there. In his stellar rehabs in Pawtucket, he began by striking out three times in three PAs (Terry said he "came through that game ok " which meant, I guess, he did not nurt himself running any basepaths).

The next night he made his usual key error, but the Paws recovered and won in extra innings despite Bard giving up a hone run, so that muh of the Nation as paid any attention to this was reasonably happy.

The last night of his three games, Lugo made no errors, which would have been even more significant had he not been the DH that night (a position from which he, and he alone, could probably make a key error, but, mercifully, did not.)

And then there is the one other thought: As badly as Buchholz pitched last year, Penny has been worse. And, really, what is Michael Bowden gaining in pitching for Pawtucket?

9casey said...

I agree with the Lugo comments, you can not have in your lineup batting 9th , a guy you pull for defense in the late innings, it makes no sense....Lopez didn't pitch bad , he fielded bad....We were going to lose sooner or later just a shitty way to lose....

tito should have told Lugo, "things are going pretty well right now, you will play when we lose"

SAMR said...

Hey, let's cut Tito some slack. If Lopez catches the damn ball at 1st, Tito's strategy works. Lopez' *pitching* was fine.

laura k said...

"We did not lose because Lopez was pitching, but because he fielded as badly as his teammates did all night."

I'm not sure about that. We Keystone Kopped our way through the first half of the comeback game against Baltimore, and other games we ended up winning.

Managing for 162 is not incompatible with this criticism. With the game on the line, Francona should have brought in his best pitcher, not his worst. That's not panic - that's not managing for tonight only - it's giving your team the best shot to win. We might have lost with Papelbon on the mound, but that's still who should have been pitching.

Rob said...

It's the age-old question of do you bring in the best guy to get the outs now to give you a chance to go ahead or do you save him for when you might go ahead.

The bigger question is how much second-guessing where there be if Papelbon pitched the ninth, the Red Sox get a run in the 10th, go ahead 9-8, then Lopez pitches the 11th and gives up two runs and loses?

Barth said...

Right, L-girl, but in this instance it was another fielding blunder that lost the game. We cannot play this way and consistently win. When we had all those losses out west (seems like a century ago), many were caused by sloppiness. A little bit here and on ocassion there, we can survive, but last night was painful to watch sometimes. (I have watched in my mind Lugo miss Youk's toss almost 100 times by now.)