Will That Be Enough? | The Process Report

Will That Be Enough?

By Jason Collette //

If not for B.J. Upton, Joe Maddon would be the most polarizing person in a Rays’ uniform. If you tune into any one of the three sports talk radio stations at any time during the day, either a host or a caller is railing on Maddon’s workmanship. He has earned the nickname “Merlot Joe” because he is so easy going and seems not to care about about what is going on at that moment because apparently, a manager has to act like Lou Pinella in order to be taken seriously. That is not even the most ridiculous criticism of Maddon.

620’s Steve Duemig has said many times that the Rays win in spite of Maddon  not because of him. It is too bad that Marc Benarczyk no longer has a show in this market (actually, it is not) because he would often say just that Girardi and Maddon were not even in the same class but anyone who watched the Rays’ win this evening understands just how laughable a statement that is.

In the game tonight, Maddon gave up the Designated Hitter spot for at least the third time in the last week, pinch ran for his starting catcher after using his back-up to pinch bunt earlier in that inning, used three different players at multiple positions in the final innings, and most importantly, brought his closer in for the ninth inning in a scoreless ball game.

Tradition says that closers only pitch when the club is ahead and a save is at stake but Maddon is anything but traditional. The book he reads says this about using your closer:

Managers should strive to bring in their aces with a leverage of at least 1.50, even in the 8th inning, and (if at all possible) make sure they don’t waste them in games where the pitcher has limited impact on the outcome.

David Price was at 114 pitches after the eighth inning and despite some pleas to leave him in, Joe Maddon went to his book and brought in Rafael Soriano to pitch the ninth inning. The Leverage Index when Derek Jeter came to bat in the ninth was 2.37 – well over the 1.50 threshold to justify the situation. Soriano proceeded to retire Jeter, Cano, and Teixeira in order.

Girardi was presented with the same situation in the bottom of the ninth when Crawford came to bat with a 2.30 Leverage Index and went to Kerry Wood. The use of Wood was defensible because Wood had been red hot of late and had not been scored upon in fifteen consecutive outings. Like Soriano, Wood retired the Rays in order.  Through nine innings, both managers did well but in extra innings, Maddon and Girardi headed down different paths.

Maddon had to get creating with the roster after Crawford was ejected so he moved the athletic Sean Rodriguez to left-field whose impact was immediately felt as he made a good catch on a ball hit by Alex Rodriguez.  Maddon also brought in Joaquin Benoit, his second most effective arm, to pitch this inning. Benoit walked Lance Berkman and Girardi immediately pinch ran for him with the speedy Brett Gardner but unfortunately for Yankee fans, it would be one of the last good move Girardi made on the night.  He put Gardner in motion on the bases with Jorge Posada at the plate and Gardner safely stole second. With his speed, any base hit by Posada at that point plates the go-ahead run.

With two  out, Girardi either gave Gardner the green light to take third in case Benoit threw a wild pitch as he is prone to do  or failed to signal in for Gardner to stay put. Either way, Girardi’s decision proved costly as Gardner ran into the final out of the inning nullifying the Yankees’ best chance of scoring since the eighth inning.  Girardi compounded that mistake by then bringing in Chad Gaudin to pitch the 10th inning with one out after Boone Logan easily retired a struggling Carlos Pena. The Leverage Index for that situation was 1.87 and yet Girardi went to one of his most ineffective relievers rather than Mariano Rivera or David Robertson and the Rays nearly made him pay dearly for that mistake loading the bases before Hawpe ended the inning striking out.

Maddon brought in Grant Balfour to pitch the top of the eleventh inning and in doing so, using his relievers in order of effectiveness (Soriano, Benoit, Balfour) and Balfour got his job done moving the game to the bottom of the frame where Reid Brignac was due up with a 2.30 Leverage Index. With Rivera, Robinson, Chamberlain, and even Javier Vazquez available in the pen, Girardi instead went with Sergio Mitre. Mitre has the lowest strikeout rate of all Yankee relievers this season and over the past 30 days, has struck out just 3.2 batters per nine innings. Mitre, simply put, is the Yankees’ version of Lance Cormier.

In a situation where it was perfectly justified to use his hall of fame closer, Girardi instead sent his mop-up man into the game to pitch in a high-leverage situation and Reid Brignac made him pay for it.

The next time a local media type wants to say the Rays are being held back by Maddon’s antics, they need to be strapped into a chair and forced to watch this game on a loop until they get it through their thick skulls that the Rays are where they are because of Maddon, not in spite of him.



8 Comments

  1. wtbudlight wrote:

    I couldn’t agree more. This is a great writeup about Maddon’ thinking.

    I used to always think that people are blind to the “process” and only focus on the outcome. But here we sit marching towards 100 wins and the skip is still getting bashed. Like nothing I’ve ever seen.

  2. cbjones4 wrote:

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Joe Maddon fan, but how is he a genius for bringing in Soriano in the 9th in a tie game? Doesn’t every other MLB manager do this? Without even looking at the leverage indexes and advanced metrics, isn’t it a common baseball practice for the home team to bring in the closer in the 9th in a tie game and for the away team to hold the closer until they have the lead?

    I do like the analysis of using your best pitchers in descending order of effectiveness.

    • wtbudlight wrote:

      I think Girardi specifically indicated he would have brought Mo in if they were up.

      I don’t watch a lot other than the Rays, but bringing in your best closer seems to be something most managers won’t do unless it is a true “save” situation.

    • wtbudlight wrote:

      Also, I think the tone here is more the moves he made with pinch hitters, pinch runners, and our bullpen in general. Not just that move in particular.

      As I watched the game, whether it worked or not (the Navi bunt), I felt like the right moves were being made around to not only get us in position to win, but keep us in position to win beyond loading up for a quick strike inning.

      • cbjones4 wrote:

        Oh, I absolutely agree with the post in general. I think Maddon made some great moves throughout the game. And bringing in Sori in the 9th is a good one, too, but I also think it’s a pretty common one.

    • Jason Collette wrote:

      I think it was genius because he did it for the moment, not for the save. I don’t think it is common enough for the home manager to bring in the closer for a tie game (sadly). He could have used Balfour or Benoit right there but he used them in reverse order and played for the moment rather than by the traditional book.

      • cbjones4 wrote:

        I don’t know where to find more info on when the home team brings in a closer in the 9th in a tie game, but last night there were 3 extra inning games (Yanks@Rays, Jays@Orioles, and Pirates@Mets). All of these games were tied going into the ninth inning, and the home team’s closer (Soriano, Uehara, Takahashi) pitched the top of the ninth in every game.

        I feel that this move is a fairly by the book, because when else is the home team’s closer going to come in? There can’t be a save situation for the home team after the 8th in a tie game, so it makes sense to bring him in when the game matters.

        Again, I’m really just nitpicking here. Good post in general, that one point just stuck out at me.

  3. […] the majority of his innings in the most important situations. Jason Collette of The Process Report can tell you more about Maddon, Joe Girardi, and Relief Aces. • You should take note of how James Shields’ […]

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