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Post Info TOPIC: Perhaps a trend?.....bullpen usage.
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General Manager

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Posts: 13483
Date: April 11th
Perhaps a trend?.....bullpen usage.
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In the World Series last year, both Terry Francona and Joe Maddon used their bullpens quite different then they would during the regular season.  That scenario would be obvious, as the Series is a sprint rather then a marathon.  Putting your best pitchers in the game for as long as you can is imperative.

Francona especially pushed the envelope in usage.  He has shown in the past in playoffs to not give a hoot about "traditional bullpen usage" (remember how he abused Keith Foulke in the Red Sox first Championship run?).

In this article from CBS, there are two teams that, at least in the early going, are specifically trying to stay away from the "traditional" bullpen roles.  Neither team expects to contend this year, so much like the Rockies usage of starters a couple years back (I believe it was the 60 pitch limit thing), with the roster they have they may as well try something different.

As a sidenote...in my opinion, it is up to the manager/head coach to try to put his team in the best position to win, and the heck with who gets paid what.  Two things come to mind...Earl Weaver used to say the hardest decision he had to make every Spring was who was going to be his 25th man.  I don't remember the exact book I saw it in (maybe a Thomas Boswell book, "Why Time Begins On Opening Day"), but he said Weaver used to throw around every possible scenario that would happen during the season, and try to figure out how his 25th man would help him squeeze out a win or two.

The other....and many of you may laugh....is how John Fox of the then-Denver Broncos made it to the playoffs in 2011, winning 7 of 11 games with Tim Tebow as the starting QB, including a playoff win versus Pittsburgh.  Fox basically junked his standard offense on the fly midway through the season, and went with almost an old-style running attack, letting Tebow throw only when absolutely necessary.  How many coaches would try to shoehorn a guy like Tebow into their "traditional" style offense, and let him get killed?

Anyways, here is the article from CBS.........

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The Athletics and Reds are steering clear of traditional bullpen roles this season

 
 
 
 

Over the last 30 years or so, MLB bullpen usage has evolved (devolved?) into relievers having clearly defined roles. The closer pitches the ninth inning. The setup guy pitches the eighth inning. The left-on-left matchup guy is saved for a specific hitter or two in the opposing lineup. The long man only pitches in blowouts or when the starter gets knocked out early. So on and so forth.

Indians manager Terry Francona guided his club to the World Series last year by breaking away from those norms. He used Andrew Miller in whatever he deemed the most important moment of the game, and often for multiple innings. During the regular season you can’t use a reliever as much as Francona used Miller in the postseason, not if you want to avoid burnout, but breaking away from bullpen norms? That’s doable.

Both the Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds, two rebuilding clubs not expected to contend this year, are steering clear of defined bullpen roles this season. On Monday, A’s manager Bob Melvin used left-hander Sean Doolittle to close out his team’s win over the Royals (OAK 2, KC 0) because Kansas City had a bunch of lefties due up in the ninth. On Opening Day, righty Santiago Casilla got the save against the Angels(OAK 4, LAA 2) because a bunch of righties were due up.

usatsi-10005164.jpg
Sean Doolittle, not Santiago Casilla, got the save Monday. USATSI

Tuesday morning, Melvin confirmed Doolittle and Casilla are essentially co-closers. His ninth inning bullpen usage will be dictated by the matchups. Doolittle is going to face tough lefties and Casilla will face tough righties.

#Athletics Manager Bob Melvin on A's closer role: "It's not that complicated, it's gonna be Doolittle or Casilla depending on the match-ups"

 

Reds manager Bryan Price is taking an even more extreme stance with bullpen usage. He’s getting away from set roles entirely and is instead focusing on putting his team in the best possible position to win, even if it means using a key reliever earlier than usual.

 
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Bryan Price's explanation for how he's using the bullpen: "Don't worry about saves, holds, etc...just help us shake hands after the game" 👍

 

On Monday the Reds beat the Pirates (CIN 7, PIT 1) after both starting pitchers failed to record an out after the second inning. Starter Brandon Finnegan was taken out after two innings, and Price went to righty Michael Lorenzen, his best available reliever, and let him throw three innings. After Lorenzen came lefty Cody Reed, arguably the team’s second best available reliever. He tossed three innings as well.

usatsi-9991130.jpg
Michael Lorenzen tossed three perfect innings Monday. USATSI

Cincinnati’s bullpen strung together seven perfect innings en route to the win Monday. Raisel Iglesias, the team’s bullpen ace, recorded a two-inning save against the Cardinals last Friday (CIN 2, STL 0) because he was the best option to get those final six outs. Rather than three to squeeze three outs from someone else and save Iglesias for the ninth, Price cut out the middle man and went to his best reliever. He did that on many occasions last year as well, then made sure to give Iglesias appropriate rest.

Managers manage to the save stat. We know that. We see managers wait to use their closer, often their best reliever, in that save situation rather than at an important moment earlier in the game. That’s the safe, boring move. Use your closer earlier in the game and it doesn’t work, and the manager opens himself up for second guessing, and they all hate that. All of ‘em.

Some teams, like the A’s and Reds, are starting to break away from bullpen norms. Will it catch on around the league? Well, I suppose only if it works. The players have to buy in too, and that’s the tricky part, because saves still equal big bucks in arbitration. For now, it appears traditional bullpen roles are starting to go away, but they’re far from gone for good.



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