First Pitch: The Pirates Should…But the Pirates Will…

There is no reason to have John McDonald on the roster. Photo Credit: David Hague
There is no reason to have John McDonald on the roster. Photo Credit: David Hague

I was talking with David Todd on Twitter earlier today, discussing the potential Jordy Mercer move. Yesterday on the Bucs Dugout podcast, David talked about what the Pirates will eventually do, and noted that he would rather see the Pirates send Mercer down to receive regular playing time in Triple-A. I’ve been writing for the last week — including last night — that Mercer should remain on the roster, the Pirates should give him Brandon Inge’s playing time, and they should cut John McDonald.

David is arguing that Mercer should go down, and I’m arguing that Mercer should stay up. Surprisingly, that’s not the key difference between our arguments. The key difference is how we’re approaching each argument.

Most of my arguments on this site are based on what I think the Pirates should do. In this case I think they should release McDonald, make Inge the new McDonald, give Mercer all of Inge’s playing time, and give him a few starts a week between second, short, and third (all positions that he’s played in the minors). The main reason for all of this is that Mercer has always started slow at each level, and this would allow him to ease into the majors, aiming at taking over at shortstop full-time in 2014.

David’s argument is based on what the Pirates will do. In this case he feels that if Mercer was on the roster, Clint Hurdle probably wouldn’t give him the playing time I’d like to see above. Therefore, he’d be better off in Triple-A getting regular at-bats, rather than wasting away on the bench.

I agree with David here. That’s probably how it would go down. I feel like the difference between our approaches highlights the real problem here: who is running the show in Pittsburgh?

It almost seems that Clint Hurdle has more control of the Pirates roster than anyone else, even to the point where Neal Huntington has no say in how each player is used. I don’t think that’s the case. I think it comes across that way because Hurdle is the manager, so he’s going to get credit/blame for any usage. Hurdle does have some pull, but at the same time if you ask anyone in the organization if Player A could be an option to take over at shortstop, you’re going to get a “Clint Barmes is our shortstop”. I know that from experience the last two years. Everyone seems to be on the same page, whether it’s a group decision, or they’re all in line with the decision once it’s made.

The thing about the “What the Pirates should do” approach is that it’s all subjective to the individual person’s thoughts. The best example I could give is Gerrit Cole. A lot of Pirates fans would have wanted him in the majors on Opening Day. Then you’re going to have more who want him up right when he gains that extra year of control (which has already passed). There’s also the group that wants him up after the first good start of the season, or the first time Jonathan Sanchez can’t make it out of the third inning. Finally there’s the group I’m in, which feels the Pirates should take their time, let him develop in Triple-A, and focus on making him the most valuable pitcher he can be for his entire career with the Pirates, rather than focusing on getting a few extra starts in 2013.

Each of the above groups will think they are right, and anyone (the Pirates included) who disagrees is wrong. But that doesn’t mean the people who disagree are wrong. It’s just a difference in opinion. As I said, my approach on this site is to say what I think the Pirates should do. A lot of times I disagree with their approach. Sometimes I’m right (suggesting trading Hanrahan as early as July 2011 to get max value), and sometimes I’m wrong (saying that Wandy Rodriguez wasn’t a good acquisition with concerns that he might not have anything left at this stage in his career).

That’s going to be the case for a lot of people. At the same time, there are a few topics where Pirates fans are almost unanimously on one side of things, and where I feel the Pirates are absolutely wrong. It’s a game I like to call “The Pirates Should, But the Pirates Will”. Side note: In my head it was sounding like Louis CK’s latest joke “Of course, but maybe”, which led to me watching hours of Louis CK videos on YouTube.

The Pirates Should…

…release John McDonald. In the post-game quotes tonight from Rob Biertempfel, Clint Hurdle said the team wanted to keep McDonald and will probably send Mercer to Triple-A, because you want to maintain all of your assets. My immediate thought was probably the same thing that others were thinking: John McDonald is an asset? He’s got a .276 OPS on the season. He’s 2-for-30 at the plate, and his defense hasn’t been that great in his limited time on the field. He’s not an asset, and he provides no value to the team. They have a strong defensive shortstop in Clint Barmes, so you don’t need a strong defensive backup on the bench. They’ve got the veteran leadership route with Brandon Inge. They also have backup middle infielders who aren’t great, but are much better than McDonald. Even if you don’t want to keep Mercer on the roster, there’s Josh Harrison, Ivan De Jesus, and Chase d’Arnaud when he returns from his injury. There was never any reason to have McDonald on the roster, and even if Mercer doesn’t stick around, the Pirates will be fine without him.

But the Pirates Will…

…keep John McDonald. And there’s no reason why. And that’s frustrating that a small market team would trade for prospects like Pedro Ciriaco, Argenis Diaz, and Ivan De Jesus — who profile as strong defensive backup middle infielders — then barely play those players and give a guaranteed roster spot to someone like McDonald at $1.5 M. That’s not how small market teams should operate. It also makes you question what Neal Huntington is even doing trading for those players. I don’t mind a veteran starter like A.J. Burnett or Wandy Rodriguez. I don’t mind a veteran catcher like Russell Martin. But veteran bench players? That’s a prime area to use younger talent and ease them into the majors. Don’t think that can be done? Check out the history in St. Louis.

The Pirates Should…

…ignore all the rules about managing a bullpen, and manage based on leverage. Sixth inning, two on, no outs, and up by two runs? Time for Jason Grilli. Seventh inning, two on, one out, up by one run? Bring in Mark Melancon early. It’s insane that every team in the majors manages their bullpens in the same automatic, no thinking required, role-specific way. We have so much data on leverage, and evidence that pitching in a certain inning requires no magical skill. Yet every team goes by the book. The first team that gets away from this will have an advantage. They’ll be mocked every time the bullpen blows a lead, and that’s inevitable no matter what system you use. But I guarantee that a team focused on using their best relievers in the highest leverage situations will have more success than a team using their best relievers only in the 8th and 9th innings.

But the Pirates Will…

…do the same thing every other MLB team is doing. That means if the game is on the line in the sixth inning, we’re left to hope that Justin Wilson can get out of a jam and get the lead to the eighth inning. Otherwise, Mark Melancon isn’t pitching that day. It’s a situation full of irony. You don’t want to use Melancon in the sixth because you can’t use him in the eighth. But because you don’t use him in the sixth, you’re less likely to see him in the eighth because you will no longer have the lead. It’s also extremely frustrating that you can’t use Jason Grilli anytime outside of the eighth inning, but you can warm him up and bring him in to get the final out in the ninth inning of a 7-2 game, all because the tying run is on deck and that qualifies as a save situation.

The Pirates Should…

…never bunt again. Maybe in those rare cases where the team is tied or down by one run in the final inning, and they’re only playing for one run. But take the situation Thursday night in the 7th inning. Jose Tabata starts off with a pinch hit single. Starling Marte then bunts him over to second. That leads to the Mets bringing on a lefty with Travis Snider, Andrew McCutchen, and Garrett Jones due up. The only one who can hit lefties is McCutchen. The Pirates countered by bringing in Gaby Sanchez, which isn’t a bad move. Sanchez flew out, McCutchen was intentionally walked, and Jones strikes out swinging against the lefty. The problem here is that you took the bat out of your best hitter so far, Starling Marte. Maybe they go to a lefty no matter what. But then again maybe Marte comes up with a hit and you’ve got first and third with no outs. Either way, when you’ve got a runner on first and no outs, the run expectancy is 0.85. When you’ve got a runner on second with one out, the run expectancy is 0.6492. On average you’re less likely to score a run after the sacrifice bunt than you were after the leadoff single. And when your hottest hitter is the one doing the sacrifice bunting? Well that just makes no sense at all.

But the Pirates Will…

…continue playing small ball that flies in the face of advanced statistics. Sacrifice bunts early in the game, and with no regard to who is bunting? Check. Playing for one run on a team that is built for the big inning and the long ball? Check. Having Marte bunt in that situation in the seventh, but hit in the same situation in the ninth (where it made more sense to bunt, since it was a tie game in the 9th, and playing for one run in that situation makes more sense)? Check. This is similar to the bullpen usage. It’s not just people reacting and second guessing a situation. It’s people knowing that a situation is a bad move before it even happens, because there’s tons of data telling us so. The Pirates have an entire department that looks at advanced statistics. You would think that group would speak up about some of these things and try to find a competitive advantage. We lived with the “No Doubles” defense and the “Give Away All the Stolen Bases” pitching staff. So why not go with an unconventional approach that already has the data to support it?

I don’t know if these things are the fault of Hurdle or Huntington. You’d think the game moves would be Hurdle, for obvious reasons. The McDonald acquisition could be Hurdle. He did talk about how he received many phone calls praising the pick up. At the same time, Huntington is Hurdle’s boss. So even if Hurdle is making the calls, it falls on him. Giving away free outs, using the bullpen in the same ridiculous way that every other team uses their bullpen, and keeping useless veterans on the roster…none of these are good small market approaches. Someone is doing something wrong here. Is it the stats department? Are they not pointing out that you shouldn’t give away outs, that you should focus on leverage with bullpen usage, and that John McDonald’s OPS wouldn’t even be a great batting average? If they are pointing out these things, then who isn’t listening? Is is Hurdle? Is it Huntington? Is it both?

There are a lot of situations where you could play the “The Pirates Should” game. You can even play that game when talking about firing Hurdle, Huntington, or both. Some of those situations only boil down to a difference in opinion. But there are situations like the examples above where the Pirates are doing something that is obviously wrong, and for whatever reason they continue to take that action. These kinds of things make you question who is running the show with these decisions. And if these decisions ultimately lead to another losing season, or cost the Pirates a shot at contending, they make you question whether the people who are making these decisions should still be making the decisions.

It’s easy to say that it’s Hurdle who is making the call in all of these cases. But again, Huntington is Hurdle’s boss, and should have the power to release McDonald, order the bullpen to be used in a smart manner, and avoid playing small ball. Maybe that’s just my love for the Billy Beane approach showing, where the manager is basically a yes-man, and the GM runs the show. It certainly doesn’t seem like that’s the situation in Pittsburgh.

Links and Notes

**The 2013 Prospect Guide and the 2013 Annual are both available on the products page of the site. If you order them together, you’ll save $5.

**Check out the new episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 3: What To Do With Alvarez, Gomez, and Mercer; Casey Sadler Interview.

**Prospect Watch: Taillon and Glasnow Get All the Strikeouts.

**Jameson Taillon and Neil Walker lead Curve to Mother’s Day victory.

**Minor League Schedule: 5/13/13.

**Draft Prospect Watch: Bryant Homers Twice, Wahl Starts Again.

**Injury Notes: Charlie Morton, Jeff Karstens, Chase d’Arnaud.

**Tony Sanchez Sent Back to Indianapolis.

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Steve Zielinski

Question: “…who isn’t listening?” Answer: Nutting, Coonelly, Huntington. Nutting allegedly likes Hurdle. Who would fire the boss’ favorite? That would likely be a career-killer for Huntington.


How do you know who is listening? Where is the info published that Nutting likes Hurdle? What does this have to do with Mercer?
Huntington runs baseball operations, that is a fact. Hurdle is the field manager, that is a fact, who listens does not make much difference. They do their jobs, Huntington gets the players, Hurdle does what he can or wants to with the material he gets. Huntington is on record as saying he does not tell Hurdle who to put in the lineup, that is strictly up to Hurdle.
If Nutting did not, does not like the direction of the team, he could and still can fire someone.
Where do you come up with this Nutting stuff?


I agree with steve. NH should be telling Hurdle who to play on a regular basis. NH is the strategic operations lead for the team. Identifying regular players and starting pitches, is part of the team’s high level strategy.

Hurdle is the tactical level leader. He makes up the lineup based on the guidance given by NH. At least that’s how it should work. Hurdle is responsible for precisely where hitters hit, what the rotation is, and in game changes. If Hurdle is making decisions on who should be on the team, he is wrong, that is strategy, not tactics.

If the Pirates organizational operations are letting Hurdle make these decisions, then they are wrong. The FO decides who is on the active roster, with input from Hurdle. Input does not equate to decision making, however. I think steve has it right. Hurdle is out of his lane and the FO/owner seem to be letting him do it.

Steve Zielinski

It’s easy to come up with a list of who isn’t listening to the stats department. It’s the rest of the operations staff and their bosses. We know this because the operations staff makes decisions that advanced metrics would never support.

By the way, this ESPN insider article recounts the troubles the geeks had while working for the Red Sox:

Dumb is as dumb does. The geeks got the door and the Red Sox began to flounder.


You can’t be talking about the Pirates, aside from Oakland, they are the most geek oriented organization on the planet. As far as listening, stats are very important, no doubt, but the stats the Pirates have are far beyond what the average fan sees or finds on websites. I am sure if they wanted to they could probably reply to anyone that brought up a stat they did not listen to with a stat that counters that stat. You don’t want to go toe to toe with Huntington and gang of geeks into the stat world.
One of the big problems we all have with the Pirates is that they are not marketed very well or available for discussions, there are no TV or Radio programs that they are available for and not many media outlets know how to talk with them, they talk a different language.
They have had a lot of success with players brought in with advance metrics as the criteria.
Think about it, you can’t call into a radio station or TV Station and ask someone in Pirate management a question or get into a discussion with someone from Pirate management.

Steve Zielinski

“You can’t be talking about the Pirates….” Actually, I am talking about the Pirates. A stats driven organization would not hire Hurdle and let him do what he wanted. Nor would it bring in space wasters like Inge and McDonald.


Its likely that you and I have never been in more agreement. I agree that the Pirates should dump McDonald. I also agree that they won’t. They won’t because their idea of asset management and asset value are completely wrong.

First, Hurdle is a dope for speaking about a subject of which he knows nothing. Hurdle does not understand asset management. No one keeps an asset just to keep it. Assets must add value to the process or the product. McDonald doesn’t do that.

If there are limited asset options, then then asset that adds more value to the product or process must be maintained. In this case, if the options are Mercer and McDonald, McDonald must go.

That gets us to the second problem. It could well be that the Pirates just don’t understand asset value. If they are keeping McDonald because he provides value, or provides more value than Mercer, then the problem isn’t asset management but how the evaluate player value.

Even if the Pirates subscribe to the theory that more of anything is better than less, keeping McDonald on the active roster still doesn’t make sense. If they DFA’d him, he would likely pass through waivers. Even if he doesn’t, he’s fungible in that, no-hit/decent glove shortstops are easily found.

Finally, I think much of this discussion is that they want to avoid future embarrassing discussions. If they keep Mercer, they don’t want to have to deal with the discussion about why a weak hitting Barmes continues to play ahead of Mercer. They also don’t want to be held accountable for giving a player over $1M, only to release him 6 weeks into the season.


Oh…and bunting. I believe in bunting, IF you can be good at it, and you aren’t a very good hitter. Barmes bunting in a tie game or down a run with a pinch hitter on deck, GREAT IDEA! If only Barmes could bunt…. Tabata bunting makes sense IF he could bunt. Marte bunting for a hit is even okay because of his speed, but an all out sac bunt is a poor move from someone hitting 5th in the NL.

While i’m at it, McCutchen is driving me nuts with his failure to run on obvious running situations. Tie game, right hand reliever. He stands on first base….pitch after pitch. Obvious off speed counts he stands on first base, only running…finally on a 3-2 count. What ever happened to coaches giving steal signs? Eventually someone needs to say….hey….look, Alvarez/Jones is up and its a 1-1 count. There’s a 50% chance at least this is going to be an off speed pitch, RUN!



1. I respectfully disagree with the bullpen usage argument. Its correct statistically, but not in real life application which is a problem I have with a lot of advanced metrics. Set-up men and Closers TEND to be more effective when used in the roles that have been created for them. I’m sure there are some numbers you can tabulate that will bring up every closers stats when used in a save situation vs. every other situation, and it may be more difficult for 8th inning guys, but a hold situation vs a non-hold situation is a start i guess. I bet you’d see a wide margin of difference, and maybe there’s an article in that somewhere.

2. I completely agree with your Mercer/McDonald debate. What the Pirates will do, is a worthless argument and its self defeating. What we should do is focus more on WINNING and less worrying about Mercer’s value next year. Its finally time to do that. If he can’t be effective being used 3 days a week and in multiple positions, oh well. If he hurts his development oh well……it doesn’t seem like him sitting on the bench for long periods of time last year hurt his development based on his AAA numbers this year, so putting him back down there does what exactly? Keep him from rusting? Mercer>McDonald so McDonald goes away, that is what teams that win do!


I don’t think the Pirates see Mercer as a better SS than Barmes or McDonald any more than they see better players on this team like McCutchen as a better SS option. Yes, Mercer might be a better “player” than either one of these guys much like McCutchen is, but not at SS. The Pirates categorize players by position. If they traded for Trout, he would not beat Barmes out because he is an outfielder.
As I wrote in an earlier post, I don’t believe the Pirates think Mercer’s future is at SS.


If they got Trout and had no place else to play him, I would play him at short before Barmes.


Your number 1 is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Set up men and closers are more successful in their roles, because their roles are easier. Its always easier to start an inning clean than to clean up someone’s mess. Take any other reliever and put them in the other two roles, and they will be more successful than their current roles because the other roles are lower leverage situations.

Using saves situations and hold situations as data points is almost irrelevant because the assumptions that every situation is the same, are highly flawed. If you want an example of this, look at how successful closers are with 1, 2, and 3 run leads. Nearly every closer is less successful when he assumes a smaller lead.

Finally, what made Grilli a closer this season? He certainly didn’t have the experience for it. He had 5 career saves coming into this season. If the argument is that he was groomed for the job last year, I would point to a very long list of good setup guys who failed as closers.

Tim is right about closer usage. All managers get it backwards, Hurdle just gets it more backwards than most.


I think the Pirates plans are far reaching and not as simple as sending Mercer back or keeping him in the majors. If I know what they have in Mercer, they know what they have in Mercer. They are aware of the Plus’s and minus’s of McDonald and there are plus’s. One fact that I can’t get out of my head is that at Indy, Mercer played so much 2nd base, even when D’Arnaud was out. Huntington made a statement about Mercer playing 2nd base at Indy and that statement was that Mercer is playing 2nd because D’Arnaud needed the reps at SS. However, when D’Arnaud went out with an injury, Mercer still played 2nd, he even played 2nd base when Harrison played SS. For a team that is grooming a SS for next year, this does not register with me.
IMO, they are grooming a 2nd basemen and Walker could be a prime trade chip down the line. At this point in time, I believe the Pirates think they have two capable starting 2nd basemen and the logic of it is to send Mercer down to keep playing him because of two reasons. 1. Walker needs to play and stay established as a starting 2nd base value. 2. He is a proven starting 2nd basemen and the Pirates are in a pennant race.
The big tip off to all of this is going to be what position the Pirates play Mercer in when he goes back to Indy.


Playing Mercer at short this year, doesn’t preclude them from trading Walker next year. Danny Espinosa played short while in the Nationals minor leagues. He moved to second in the majors.

I agree that Mercer should be playing at short this year. But he should be playing there in the majors, not AAA.


The point is that the Pirates are not playing him at SS.


The point is that it doesn’t matter where they play him this year. Walker can be traded anyway. As I stated, Espinosa played short throughout the minors and was still able to play very good defense at second in the majors. If a guy can play short, he can play second.


I agree with your thinking on the leverage situation use of the bullpen, but my only concern is your not dealing with robots. Just as much as every major league manager is stuck in the mindset of using your setup man in the 8th and your closer in the 9th, my guess is that is the same way every reliever thinks because that’s the only way they’ve known their whole baseball experience. Is it something that can be changed with one thought of clint hurdle or would that be met with a ton of uncertainty and confusion from relievers on knowing what their role and expectations are in the bullpen.

I would love to see the pirates transition to the leverage situation use of the bullpen but I feel it would take the right relievers who buy into the idea and that may take a few years of implementing it in your farm system and convincing FA relievers coming to your team that this works and we’re not so crazy that it’ll ruin your career to come to pittsburgh. Or maybe you could convince the bullpen right now but its hard to tell how guys would receive it. I’ve heard there’s a few superstitious players out there who might be worried about changing things around.

Love that article and hope the pirates do think about how they could implement some of these ideas.

NorCal Buc

MANY REASONS to send Mercer to Indie…….

McDonald is the 25th man on the roster.
He is meant to play in case of injury. Mercer will NOT take that role

Hurdle will NOT replace Mercer for Pedro or Walker against a lefty.
That belongs to Inge, with the experience to play either position. EVEN Russell at 3rd is a better option than Mercer, against an occasional lefty.

Mercer will NOT have to focus on playing THREE infield positions with the Bucs.

Mercer IS a SS. Bucs would damage his potential were they to make him into a utility IF at his age, with his promise.


“EVEN Russell at 3rd is a better option than Mercer, against the occasional lefty.”
You seriously believe that? Third base is a hitting position, not a defense position, so you put in a guy who absolutely cannot hit? I disagree there.


I agree with high leverage bullpen usage….however, given how much value “The Closer” has around the league, I d rather see the Pirates continue to use Grilli in the 9th mostly. Trading closers is the closest thing to free money for a small market team. That being said, Melancon should currently have no inning restrictions.


The Pirates are not a good enough team to be doing things their way. They need to do things the statistically demonstrated correct way. What exactly is Dan Fox’s role in the front office? Do they have him locked in a corner cabinet and ignore him regarding things like bunting and the value of walks? It seems he has some impact as we see them shifting on defense a lot more and valuing defense in their acquisitions the last two years.


i think theres nothing wrong with having veterans as bench players. I would rather see the young players playing every day in the minors than riding the pines in the show. unless, of course, its guys like Harrison or Presley whom are what they are: backups or utility types.
mercer is our best shortstop option behind barmes. having him play everyday before his callup may have helped his performance. his sitting on hurdle’s bench may have hindered his performance. if mercer has any potential to be an everyday player then he should play nearly everyday, not become ciriaco 2.0
david todd is right in his assessment. i don’t believe mercer is going to be a regular player but he could be useful playing a few times a week. his sitting next to hurdle doesn’t help.
a young player on the bench is the same as a veteran on the bench except when it comes to paychecks. neither one will likely put up any real numbers. they are backups because they cant crack the lineup. st Louis wins because of pitching and star STARTERS, not because of the success they have had with young bench players in the past.


The 1971 Pirates had four starting players, 24 years old or younger. Sanguillen was 27. The average age of their bench was 28 years old.

The 2013 Pirates have 3 players in their lineup, who are 30+ years old, just like the 71 Pirates. Yet, the 2013 bench team has as an average of 31, why?

Last year, the Nationals had 3 players in their everyday lineup, who were 30+. Their team average age was 27, a full year younger, than the Pirates. The average age for last year’s Nationals bench was 25. The Nationals won more games than any team last year, in the regular season. They won their division. They did it without that veteran presence.

With that information, why is veteran presence, necessary on the bench? There is no statistical data to support that idea.


But it’s like a bad (unfunny) joke that the same people who are unwilling or not creative/intuitive enough to find Mercer playing time are the ones trying to explain their logic by simply saying he won’t get enough playing time. They’re kinda acting like their hands are tied, or it’s out of their control. Hilarious.

Mercer can sub for Barmes against a righty, Walker against a lefty, Pedro against a lefty and be a bench bat, all things that John McDonald has proven he cannot do.

That’s 3+ starts a week, and playing a role in 4-5 games a week, if you handled it intelligently.

An eternal part of the Pirates’ problems – the fact that there always seems to be a discussion around what they will do and what they should do.

joe g.

I don’t think they see Mercer as a “platoon” option for Walker and Alvarez, which would cut down on his playing time. My guess is that they see him as the future SS after Barmes, so they put him in Indy to get every day reps.

joe g.

I disagree with the bench comparison to St. Louis. The Cards are in a different place. They traditionally have high priced veterans as starters on their team. The veteran leadership is on the field. They don’t need to add veteran leadership to their bench.

Lee Young

Hurdle easily ‘outweighs’ NH in the pecking order.

Don’t let Hurdle’s ‘aw shucks’ manner fool you. He’s the boss.

Why do you think all these former Rockies come thru here? NH? Yeh Right.


Ian Rothermund

Haha, while I think in general Hurdle just is that kind of aw shucks kind of guy, I’m also very sure that there’s another aspect of his personality that the cameras and media people never see. You don’t make the majors and struggle to hold on your entire career by having this passive, hippie attitude everywhere you go.


Tim, I like the way you think about the game. I agree with you on virtually the entire article. I would disagree about using your premium bullpen arms before the 7th inning though. To me anything in the 6th or before is automatically disqualified as high leverage due to the fact it’s still the middle of the game.

My question, is why do you think Oakland, or another one of the “Moneyball” philosophical organizations fail to apply this approach to their bullpen use? Not enough data? Concerns with how a “closer” will adjust to being used earlier?

My take is generally a closer comes in with a clean slate, whereas in your philosophy they would most likely be used to prevent runners in scoring position from scoring. A different mindset. And I would imagine, these two approaches are vastly different, and thus the closer may not be the ideal man to use with runners aboard.

What do you say?

Scott Kliesen



I agree with you that the on the bullpen usage for some of the reasons you mention. I’d rather bring in my best reliever in a situation where they are likely to be successful and produce the most value, preserving a lead over three outs, rather than cleaning up someone else’s mess earlier in the game where they are much more likely to fail. For me, that is what matchup specialists are for. If I’m a Mets fan, I prefer to bring in a guy like Randy Choate in a high leverage situation against Alvarez yesterday than Parnell. If you need one out, get your best matchup on the hill, not your best pitcher. I want my best pitcher facing more batters.

BTW, I would also argue that the saves are the second most overrated statistic in baseball following wins. To me a save is no better than a hold. I would have no problem with using my best reliever in the 8th if the heart of the opponents lineup is coming up.


So you bring in the lesser talent, who is more likely to kill the potential save situation later? What is the point of saving the best reliever for a situation that may not happen?


Not really the point. I think you have a better chance of it happening IF you are playing the matchups earlier in the game. Again, most talented pitcher isn’t always the best in a given situation. See Parnell vs Alvarez. If the roles were reversed, I’d rather see Wilson against Duda or Davis than Grilli with a tie game.


Truth is, the numbers don’t support your conclusion. Since 1950, teams going into the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings win at the same rate as they always have. Relief pitching and especially, specialized relief pitching hasn’t changed a thing.

More talent on the field is always better. Matchups are very overrated. Especially since a pinch hitter changes the match up.

Even if I bought into the myth of matchups, Grilli since he’s been with the Pirates has been more effective against lefties than both Watson and Wilson.

Which gets us back to the only salient point, why use a lesser talent, who are very likely to kill the very save opportunity that you are waiting for.


so if nothing has changed since the 1950’s, then bullpen use is a matter of taste and preferences. my preference is for more specialized relief. yours is for less. it doesnt matter either way. kind of makes the entire conversation pointless.


no. it defies logic to save your best pitcher for a hypothetical situation, such as a save.


I would argue that the A’s might be doing this. There is statistical data that shows Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle are better than Grant Belfour. I could make a less convincing argument that Jerry Blevins is better than Balfour. The A’s may well be using their 3d best pitcher, in lower leverage situations.

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