August 31, 2016

G133: Red Sox 8, Rays 6

Rays    - 120 100 020 - 6 12  0
Red Sox - 100 041 02x - 8 12  0
Managers are, generally speaking, stupid creatures. Or, if not stupid, then extremely timid and wildly conservative. A manager is hesitant to do anything out of the ordinary, because if the move doesn't work out, he will be grilled and ridiculed. On the other hand, a manager who slavishly follows tradition - even when it absolutely increases his team's chances of losing - will skate away unscathed and never be questioned.

John Farrell managed "by the book" on Wednesday afternoon ... and it nearly cost the Red Sox the game. The fact that Boston's hitters came through in the bottom of the eighth does not excuse Farrell's counter-productive decisions.

Steven Wright (4-7-4-3-3, 84) was  not very good and left the bullpen with five innings to pitch. Robbie Ross pitched two shutout innings as the Red Sox rallied. Hanley Ramirez crushed a grand slam in the fifth and Jackie Bradley hit an opposite field home run that landed atop the Wall in the sixth. (Xander Bogaerts donged in the first inning.)

(Tampa Bay also had what seemed like a key run wiped off the scoreboard in the fourth when Mookie Betts threw out Kevin Kiermaier trying to stretch a single into a double. Tim Beckham had been at second to start the play and should have scored easily, but he slowed up once he was around third and actually failed to touch home plate by the time Kiermaier was called out at second, which ended the inning. The run would have given the Rays a 5-1 lead.)

Matt Barnes and Fernando Abad took care of the seventh and Abad began the eighth. Nick Franklin reached on an infield hit and, one out later, Beckham walked. Corey Dickerson hit the ball well to right, but Betts tracked it down heading towards the corner. Matt Duffy pinch-hit and Abad walked him, loading the bases.

Farrell did not have many options in the bullpen. Brad Ziegler was out with the flu and Clay Buchholz had pitched the last two nights, throwing a lot of pitches. The only options were Junichi Tazawa and Craig Kimbrel (or staying with Abad). Common sense would tell you that this was prime time for Kimbrel. Boston led 6-4, but the Rays had the bases loaded. If there was ever a time that the game was on the line, if there was ever a time to bring in your best available pitcher, it was right now. Yet Farrell did not even have Kimbrel warming up. Why not? Because Kimbrel is the closer and because closers - according to "The Book" - pitch the ninth inning. Farrell did not even consider Kimbrel for a not-all-that-uncommon four-out save. And so it was that Tazawa came in from the bullpen, probably the worst pitcher on the team coming in in the highest leverage situation.

Even if you didn't watch the game, you can probably guess what happened. While Tazawa got ahead of Logan Forsythe 1-2, he then threw a pitch right down the heart of the plate. Franklin lined a single to left-center, bringing in two runs and tying the game at 6-6.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Red Sox faced Erasmo Ramirez. Hanley Ramirez walked to start the inning. Tampa Bay played their infield as though they were not expecting the Red Sox to bunt. And that seemed wise, because bunting is, in almost every case, a stupid move. But bunting is what 95% of managers would do in that situation, and so Farrell indeed had Leon bunt. It was successful, and Ramirez was now at second. But Farrell had, generally speaking, just lowered his team's chances of scoring. Looking at data from decades of games, teams score fewer runs per inning with a man on second and one out than with a man on first and no outs.

Brock Holt pinch-hit for Chris Young and singled to left. The Rays' outfield was playing shallow and Ramirez had to hold at third. Aaron Hill - mired in an 0-for-20 slump - lined the first pitch he saw to right field, scoring Ramirez and sending Holt to third. Jackie Bradley then doubled down the right field line and Holt scored easily. Boston had its two-run lead back, 8-6.

And sure enough, Kimbrel was on the mound for the ninth - and he had no trouble setting the Rays down in order.

Hey, let's add an extra level of idiocy to the proceedings. Guess who was the game's "winning pitcher"? Yep, Junichi Tazawa!

The white-hot Dustin Pedroia collected three hits, as did Bradley. Since moving into the leadoff spot on August 10, Pedroia is batting .463 (37-for-80). Pedroia is also 18-for-his-last-24 (.750!) at Fenway Park.
Drew Smyly / Steven Wright
Pedroia, 2B
Bogaerts, SS
Ortiz, DH
Betts, RF
Ramirez, 1B
Leon, C
Young, LF
Hill, 3B
Bradley, CF


allan said...

Farrell was asked (!) when he did not use Kimbrel for four outs:
"After we got him an inning of work last night because he had not pitched in six days, was not going to go with a quick turnaround and look to get four outs from him. Being his sixth day without getting on the mound, that was part of the plan to get him to the mound [Tuesday] night. Knowing it was a day game following a night game, that was still taken into account. But with the off-day following, he was not going to throw more than two days consecutively. You take every day individually. The fact is that Craig needed to get to the mound [Tuesday] night. I can't say that he would've been as sharp today having pitched on his seventh day rather than an inning [Tuesday] night."

That's not really a good answer at all.
So Farrell did a quick turnaround and looked to get three outs. Is one more out that much more of a workload? Maybe if it was getting only 1 out and not asking him for 3, that would be somewhat of a difference, but between 3 and 4, I'm not so sure.

And if he was being radical, have Kimbrel get the last out of the 8th and the first 2 outs in the 9th. There's his 3 outs. Then use Taz for the final out (with luck, the bases are empty).

Maxwell Horse said...

The rant I had all typed up for the game thread went along these lines:

I know Lou Merloni isn't liked by some, but one thing he does very well is, when he criticizes John Farrell for his bullpen management, he's very specific and actually makes a lot of logical, concise points.

One thing Merloni likes to point out is that many times when Farrell's hands are seemingly tied regarding which bullpen arm to go to (i.e. I can't bring out Kimbrel for an extra out, because Kimbrel threw a lot of pitches yesterday), it's because Farrell himself caused his options to be limited in the first place.

So knowing you have a day off on Sept 1, why would you throw Kimbrel out yesterday? Worst case scenario, you don't need Kimbrel yesterday or today, so you use him TODAY to get him some work regardless of the score. Because of the off day tomorrow, using him frivolously today's not going to bite you. Whereas using him frivolously yesterday could (and did) bite you.

But Farrell apparently has no ability to plan outside of the context of the game he's currently managing. So he pitches Kimbrel yesterday. Just enough pitches, I guess, so that he's unavailable today for 4 outs (but 3 is okay).

Now you have O'Brien and Remy in the booth, already making excuses (before Tazawa has officially blown the lead), acting like, "Hey! What can John Farrell do? His hands are tied! Kimbrel did, after all, pitch a lot yesterday!" For them, too, each game exists in a total vacuum. They acted like Kimbrel pitching yesterday was this foregone thing, some natural occurrence like Halley's comet.

Dr. Jeff said...

Do they ever put stuff like this in their contract? Prohibitions on 4-out saves the day after pitching an inning?

hrstrat57 said...

Moncada called up