Monday, April 23, 2007

How Not To Use Your Bullpen

Ron Gardenhire should be ashamed. Last night the Twins and Indians were tied at 3 heading into the 12th inning. Batting for the Tribe was the heart of the order: Pronk, Vic Martinez and Ryan Garko. Minnesota's best reliever, Joe Nathan, was available in the bullpen, having not pitched in the previous day's loss to the Royals. Instead of bringing in Nathan, Gardy stayed with Jesse Crain, who had worked a 1-2-3 eleventh.

The Twins' manager might have been looking to extend his bullpen because his starter only gave him five innings this day; Crain was Minnesota's sixth pitcher of the evening. Still, the failure to switch pitchers was inexcusable. We all know Hafner is good, but look at his splits over the last three years. Against right-handed pitchers such as Crain, Hafner's hit .323/.430/.663 (Avg/OBP/SLG). Against southpaws (e.g., Nathan) he's been held to .280/.398/.514. Still good but not Ruthian.But Nathan is not an everyday lefty righty: In Hafner's nine career at bats against Nathan he could only manage .111/.273/.111 with three strikeouts! [Don't know why I thought Nathan was a lefty, except that he dominates Hafner. Sorry.]

But Crain was left in the game to face Hafner, who in five PAs against Crain had reached base 3 times (a single and 2 walks). Naturally, Hafner led off the inning against Crain with a walk. V-Mart followed with a single, sending Hafner to third. Then Garko singled, Jason Michaels doubled, and the score was 5-3 and the game was effectively over. Finally, the Twins brought in Nathan. Choose the applicable proverb:

a) The horse had left the barn.
b) The cat was out of the bag.
c) Ron Gardenhire screwed up.

Gardenhire couldn't have been waiting to use Nathan in a save situation, since the Twins were at home in extra innings - as soon as they take a lead, they win. These were the best hitters on the opposing team in a pressure situation. The Twins should have had their best reliever facing them. If Gardy was willing to use Nathan at all in this game, why not use him against Pronkey and the heart of the Indians' order?

Maybe some intrepid reporter will ask him in the clubhouse after the game.


Anonymous said...

Joe Nathan is right handed...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, he is.

Quality said...

well there goes that theory!