Terry Collins has 17 pitchers to choose from and it only seemed like he used every one of them Saturday night, when he trotted eight different pitchers out to the mound in a game where the Brewers batted eight times. Some of this was unavoidable, as Jenrry Mejia did not record an out in the fourth inning. But some of it was more of Collins’ platoon advantage masturbation, which was unnecessary as always and as hurtful as we’ve become used to here in 2012.
Collins now has three lefty relievers at his disposal, which must be the equivalent of giving a junkie a bag of smack. To be fair, the junkie will go through that smack as quick as he is able while Collins only used two of his three lefties out of the pen last night. But the results were about the same. I have no doubt that Collins got a quick high while chasing the platoon advantage but when it was all said and done, the high didn’t last and the final results were regrettable.
Hampson came on to start the bottom of the fifth inning, as the Brewers were due to bat lefties Taylor Green and Nyjer Morgan to be followed by RHB Jean Segura. Except the Brewers pinch hit for Green with RHB Carlos Gomez. Hampson retired the righty before allowing a scratch hit to the lefty. With another righty coming to the plate, Collins made the switch so that Hampson did not face a guy who came into the game with a .552 OPS.
New pitcher Colin McHugh predictably retired Segura and the Brewers pinch-hit for the pitcher’s slot with lefty Travis Ishikawa. Collins, in his haste to remove a lefty so he didn’t have to face a batter with a .552 OPS, ended up with a matchup of a SP in a relief role facing a guy with an .802 OPS with the platoon advantage. Ishikawa hit an RBI triple to score the inherited runner.
Two innings later, Carson allowed a leadoff walk to Segura, retired two lefty batters before being replaced with the dangerous Rickie Weeks coming to the plate. It has not been a good year for AVG for Weeks, but he still came to the plate with 51 XBH for the season. However, Weeks has a .342 SLG versus LHP this year, compared to a .431 mark against RHP. Collins brought in Elvin Ramirez and the righty served up an RBI double to Weeks allowing the inherited runner to score.
Earlier this year, we saw what happened when Collins used Tim Byrdak in an extreme lefty specialist role. It burned out the rest of the bullpen from overuse and most likely contributed to Byrdak’s season-ending injury. With increased bodies available now in the pen, the likelihood of burning out any pitcher is significantly reduced.
Yet we have to ask if it’s in the interests of either the club or pitcher – both short term and long term – to be utilized in this LOOGY way. If you carry a pitcher all year who contributes fewer than 40 IP – like Byrdak did in 2011 – it requires the other relievers to pitch more innings. And what will happen if Collins gets his wish and carries two LOOGYs in 2013?
If the Mets carry Carson and Josh Edgin next year and Collins uses them in these limited roles, two of his relievers will combine for 80 IP, meaning the other five relief spots will have to pick up around 400 innings. Bobby Parnell leads this year’s relievers with 58.2 IP, so if you do the math you could see how this might be a problem.
Of course, some of the innings will be picked up by September callups but with news in the air about MLB seriously considering changes to how expanded rosters will be handled going forward, it would be a mistake to assume that the Mets will be able to carry 17 pitchers again this time next year.
Plus, as good as Byrdak was in 2011, give me what Bob Myrick did in 1977 or Carlos Diaz in 1983 or Darren Oliver in 2006. Give me a lefty reliever who can toss a full inning in each appearance and one who doesn’t need to be replaced when a RHB with a .552 OPS comes to the plate.
It is not going to get any better as long as we accept the LaRussification of bullpen usage. Enough already with the tacit approval from all corners of our manager employing a C-Y-A strategy of chasing the platoon advantage and thereby eliminating himself from second guessing. Hey, it can’t possibly be TC’s fault – he brought in a lefty to face a lefty and a righty to face a righty!
It makes no sense to remove a LHP because a righty with a .552 OPS is coming to the plate. It makes no sense to bring in a RHP when the batter has a higher SLG percentage against righties. It makes no sense to take out a pitcher who is doing well just because he may not have the platoon advantage. It makes no sense to remove a lefty reliever and then one batter later come up with an unfavorable matchup for your righty reliever. If you think about it a bit you can come up with additional scenarios where this makes no sense.
There are batters who deserve special attention. When Ryan Howard comes to the plate, his career SLG is 184 points higher against a righty pitcher. By all means let’s have a lefty pitcher face him in late and close situations. But Howard’s teammate Chase Utley has a career .855 OPS versus lefties. Let’s get our best available pitcher – regardless if he’s a lefty or righty – to face Utley in those same late and close situations. And if Domonic Brown, another lefty-hitting Phillies player, comes to the plate – he’s not very good so just let whoever is pitching currently in the game stay in to get him out.
It’s not okay to mindlessly chase the platoon advantage regardless of who is pitching and who is coming to the plate. It’s a very useful tool in certain situations but making it your sole deciding factor 100 percent of the time is simply not the right way to go about things. It’s no good for the lefty reliever in question – our last two primary LOOGYs both ended up on the DL with potential career-ending injuries – and it’s no good for the team if it forces every other reliever to pitch extra innings with more unfavorable matchups.
I like both Carson and Edgin and can see them both filling a role in the bullpen for the 2013 Mets. But I want them both to finish the year with more IP than games. If Collins uses them in the opposite direction, it’s a waste of their talent, a waste of two pitching spots and will likely lead to more crappy relief pitching like we’ve witnessed here in 2012 in general and last night in particular.