There’s been a lot of baseball chatter on the baseball stations about what is now being called “bullpenning,” this knee jerk over-reliance and over-use of the bullpen.
Dave Roberts defended the use of his bullpen by pointing out that he won 104 games during the regular season this way and he isn’t going to change now.
Many of the talkiest of the talking heads defended him as well. Look how far he has gotten, why would he do anything differently?
The trouble is, that’s not true.
Yes, he won 104 games. But he didn’t do it by allowing Rich Hill to pitch brilliantly for just four innings before removing him, like he did in Game 2 with a 3-1 lead, only to watch it evaporate at the hands of his overtaxed bullpen.
In those four innings he gave up three hits and walked three, but struck out seven. And allowed just one earned run. One.
Rich Hill started 25 games during the regular season. He won twelve of those. He went fewer than five innings just five times. One time was because he had a blister and was removed after three innings, having allowed only two runs. But the other four times he gave up three, five, six, and seven runs.
So, Dave Roberts never removed Rich Hill during the regular season when he was cruising. Dave Roberts is managing differently.
Alex Wood went 16-3 during the regular season. He made 27 starts. In Game 4, he pitched 5.2 innings. Then he committed the unpardonable sin of giving up a solo home run to George Springer that was, up to that moment, the only run of the game. It was also the Astros only hit.
Dave Roberts never took out Alex Wood during the regular season after giving up just one hit. Dave Roberts is managing differently.
After he pulled Wood, a parade of Morrow, Watson and Jensen needlessly followed. They needlessly threw pitches they didn’t have to throw. Which led to Game 5. When they were all out of gas.
This post-season, Brandon Morrow has pitched in 12 out of 13 games, something he never did in the regular season. He pitched three days in a row, something he never did in the regular season. He gave up a home run, something he never did during the regular season. He gave up four runs on six pitches, something he never did during the regular season. Because Dave Roberts is managing differently.
Why would Dave Roberts panic the minute a starter gives up one baserunner after the fourth inning, yet sit there and allow Brandon Morrow to crater they way he did? That is just bad managing.
During the regular season, Kenley Jansen pitched in 65 games. In 47 of those he went just one inning. In just one of those 65, he pitched two innings, or 0.02 percent of the time. In just one of those 65, he pitched 1.2 innings, or 0.02 percent of the time. Yet in four games in the World Series, he has pitched 2.0 innings once, or .25 percent of the time. In those four games he has pitched 1.2 innings once, or .25 percent of the time.
He has a blown save and a loss in both of those games in which Dave Roberts managed him differently than he managed him all season.
Analytics matter. But it’s no substitute for in-game management. Yes, you start out the game with a plan. But as Mike Tyson said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
Dave Roberts has taken repeated blows to the face. He is learning the hard way how to get up off the mat.
Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.36) vs Rich Hill (12-8, 3.32)
Game time: 7:08 on FOX