Insta-reaction: Pitching to Valencia
Tl;dr version: There was no reason to pitch to Valencia with a base open, yet Kevin Cash decided to do so. Doubling down on the bad decision, he went with a guy serving up homers on the reg of late against a guy who has crushed the ball all series.
If you care to read more into this, go below the fold.
It is a bit of an understatement to say Danny Valencia was hot this series. Perhaps it was the fact his parents were in town to watch the entire series. He saved the game Friday with his glove where Longoria was looking to tie the game with a double and had wrecked the baseball all series with 4 homers before the 9th inning at bat.
For his career, Valencia has been a bit of a lefty killer so the move to yank Xavier Cedeno is defensible. The move to replace him with Geltz was not. Geltz has struggled to command his pitches of late and has missed locations into the nitro zones of a few guys of late. In this case, Curt Casali set up low and outside for the pitch and Geltz missed the target by a foot right into the same spot where Valencia hit his home run off Matt Moore in the 5th inning.
Geltz has now served up the go-ahead home run to the other team in three of his last four appearances. He does not have the pure stuff to get away with missing his spots as badly as he did today and in recent outings, but continues to get the baseball because the bullpen remains incomplete. This, despite the fact the pen has had seven to eight arms in it all season. Today, Matt Moore’s five-and-dive outing led to Cash going to the pen early with Erasmo Ramirez to keep the game in check. He then made a wise move using Alex Colome in the 8th for the middle of the lineup, but Colome was anything but sharp throwing 10 of 19 pitches for strikes and missing his location badly on a number of pitches.
Xavier Cedeno began the 9th for the lefty-lefty situation for Coghlan and then turning Coco Crisp over to his weaker side. He was left in for Billy Burns, who has better numbers off lefties in his career and Burns went shopping at the gap for a double bringing Valencia to the plate.
Valencia has historically been better against lefties his entire career, but began to hit righties better in 2015 and that has continued into 2016. Cash was apparently stuck on the RH vs RH matchup as he brought in Geltz and let him pitch to him despite the recent struggles. Cash’s hand was forces as the only other righty in the pen was Ryan Webb. This was due to the fact the team inexplicably DFA’d & then traded away Jhan Marinez the other day in order to keep a third lefty, Dana Eveland in the pen who has done nothing to justify the roster spot he’s held onto this long.
Using Marinez would have allowed Cash to exercise some velocity at Valencia that Geltz does not have. Not only does Marinez throw harder, he has also been excellent against righties throughout his minor league career holding them to a .196/.299/.321 line over 588 plate appearances. For his career, Valencia has hit .194/.262/.269 against the 525 pitches he has faced 95mph or higher and .183/.230/.269 off such pitches from righties. The low success rate of Valencia against high velocity begged for even Enny Romero to come in there and let Valencia try to win the game against the best heat in the pen. Mano a Mano and may the best man win. Instead, Cash went back to the Geltz well and Geltz served up his 5th homer of the season in just 13.2 innings of work.
This loss was one that was avoidable. It was the denouement of a week where the team jettisoned the wrong reliever to protect one serving little strategic purpose while using another one in high leverage that has no business in those situations in his current form.