Friday, April 24, 2009

Today in Improve Relief Pitcher Usage

Last night Joe Torre used Jonathan Broxton to record a five-out save. Torre brought Broxton into the game to preserve a 2-0 lead, with speedster Michael Bourn on first base and Hunter Pence at the plate to pinch hit. Pence, a righty, would face a platoon advantage over the Dodgers traditional 8th inning pitcher, Hong-Chi Kuo, leaving Torre with a choice between Broxton and weaker right-handed options. Under these circumstances, where one good swing leads to a tie game, the correct decision is to use the most effective pitcher available, regardless of his pre-defined role. Torre's decision is bad for fantasy owners (as Broxton is probably unavailable to pitch tonight, or if he does, will certainly be unavailable on Saturday) but he's not in the business of pleasing them.

Elsewhere, I continue to be puzzled by the rising trend of teams carrying twelve and thirteen man pitching staffs, especially in the American league. With 13 pitchers, teams can only carry a starting 8, a backup catcher, an a measly three fielding substitutes. This almost requires the designated hitter to be someone who can at least passibly play one position in the field; to wit, only Cleveland, Chicago, Boston, and to a lesser extent Oakland carry a full-time DH. The continuing obsession with the 100 pitch limit at the decline of multi-inning relievers has reached the point where it impacts the offensive side of the equation. Some day, an inventive American League GM will go back to the four-man rotation (while reducing the number of 110+-pitch outings seem to have improved pitcher health and effectiveness, the extra day of rest does not) and bring back the long relief man, making even a DH Platoon a possibility. But that day seems to be far in the future.
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