When your starter goes 6 or less, managing the pen becomes a problem, especially in the NL where the pitcher’s spot is certain to come up. The priority is on several relievers that can go complete innings, and are versatile enough to get lefties and righties out. The Rockies have been burning through 3 or 4 relievers in every game, and you need more guys to bridge innings.
Things are a bit more complicated because of how bullpens are constructed these days. There are usually plus-side guys who protect leads and target critical outs, and minus-side guys who try to keep their team in the game and tend to go a bit longer. In the Rox pen, only Axford and Betancourt have been used purely plus-side.
When your starter goes 7, so many things change. One of them has to be the manager mindset. The problem is now reduced to a critical 8th inning – and Walt Weiss messed it up last night. He didn’t make a change from complete-innings mode to batter-matchups mode, probably still trying to preserve arms thinking he could pick a complete-inning guy. But, that guy doesn’t exactly exist right now.
A few games ago, we saw Don Mattingly get sucked into batter-matchups mode in the 9th on a night Kenley Jansen was down, and every reliever he brought in lost every matchup. It happens, and when it cascades like that it is tough to stop if the offense does its job. Mattingly didn’t factor in his pen how badly his pen was worn by the end of the series, but under normal circumstances the approach probably should have worked.
Instead, Weiss opted for a complete inning. In his defense, had a healthy Betancourt or even Hawkins been down there, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. In theory, the next most experienced arm who should be able to handle a whole inning is Boone Logan. But the stats are frightening:
R: 56 faced, 18 hits (.353), 17 K, 5 BB, 3 HR, 10 runs allowed, WHIP 2.03, K/9 7.15
L: 38 faced, 3 hits (.103), 9 K, 5 BB, 0 HR, 1 run allowed, WHIP 0.96, K/9 18.36
Boone Logan’s picture should be next to LOOGY in Wikipedia. Yet, he has faced more righties.
He comes in with a 2-run lead. Admittedly, it’s the bottom of the lineup, with Bourjos and a pinch-hitter due up, then back to the top of the order with left-handers Wong and Carpenter. Bourjos is not supposed to jack a ball over the center field wall, especially first pitch, but he does. Logan messes around with Tony Cruz, falling behind 3-0, getting two strikes, then loses him. He then screws up his one job and hits Kolten Wong ahead with 2 strikes. Fortunately, Matt Carpenter was having a rough night and fans again.
Oberg comes in and Ks Peralta, walks the strikeout machine Mark Reynolds, and gets Molina to fly out with bases loaded, escaping with his life.
One correct play would have been Brown or Kahnle for Bourjos and PH, Logan for Wong and Carpenter, and Oberg if needed.
Does Walt not have enough confidence in Kahnle for the 8th? Is Brown seen as only a minus-side guy? If both are true, then he should have gone straight to Oberg, then Logan. The problem is if those two didn’t do the job, the only option left was Axford for 4 or more outs. (Oberg isn’t great on lefties: 34 faced, .303, 2 HR.)
Walt can only pick horses he has, but it is telling that he is willing to misuse Logan hoping for the best. Part of that may be salary and years of service, and part of it may be trying to see if Logan is worth keeping around in this player development phase – perhaps he is trade bait as a LOOGY.
I’m also left wondering what it means if our best hope is Betancourt and Hawkins returning.
All that aside, the Bourjos HR was inconsequential, Logan gets an H, as does Oberg, and Axford gets his 11th save – all is well, for the time being. The spotlight hasn’t gone on the pen since the early season where they were working miracles in bad situations. Now, with the starters stepping up, we risk the pen becoming the weakest link – the price of early, forced overuse.
To today’s contest, with the Holliday-less Cards facing the Tulo-less Rockies. We have our ace-in-waiting Chad Bettis going. Interestingly, Walt has Rosario in over Paulsen – maybe the youngster is sitting taking notes on Yadi Molina’s throwing capability. Look for Blackmon and LeMahieu to do damage early, along with another daylight showing from Arenado.
St. Louis Cardinals
2B: Kolten Wong
3B: Matt Carpenter
SS: Jhonny Peralta
1B: Mark Reynolds
LF: Randal Grichuk
C: Yadier Molina
RF: Jason Heyward
CF: Peter Bourjos
SP: Carlos Martinez
CF: Charlie Blackmon
2B: DJ LeMahieu
3B: Nolan Arenado
RF: Carlos Gonzalez
1B: Wilin Rosario
SS: Daniel Descalso
C: Nick Hundley
LF: Brandon Barnes
SP: Chad Bettis