Blogservations 07/25/09, Dodgers 4, Marlins 3

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I don’t have a whole lot to say about this game, other than it was a disappointing loss. However, there was some good and some definite bad, and we probably should discuss that.

Fredi and his bullpen strategy again.

I believe astute Marlin Maniac reader Adam pointed this out in the previous Blogservations piece on last night’s win. Here’s the quote:

Bottom of the 9th:
We could use Leo here if Fredi believes he is his best reliever. Can’t get to a save situation if you don’t get out of this inning.

I noted the timing of the post, at 12:20 am EST early this morning, while this game was on, in or approaching the bottom of the ninth. Adam, I absolutely agree. Was it really necessary to send out Dan Meyer at the start of the inning instead of going with your best reliever? Admittedly, Meyer is one of the team’s best relievers, so I was OK with the move, but when Meyer struggled and put two men on, Fredi should have gotten Leo Nunez ready and able to assist the team in getting out of the jam, if indeed he feels Nunez is the best relief pitcher on the staff. Instead, Fredi mobilizes Luis Ayala, one of the many examples of replacement-level relievers that are available in the open market. He has him face Manny Ramirez no less!

Where is the logic in this? At that point in the game, the Dodgers’ odds of winning were at 69.6%. The leverage index for that at-bat was a whopping 4.35. Was Ayala the best man for that job? This was the most obvious “save situation” in the entire game, becuase if you mess this jam up, there won’t be a game to “save.” Yet Fredi entrusted a player who wasn’t the best man for the job for this situation. And sure enough, even though Ayala took care of Ramirez, he walked Andre Ethier before allowing the bloop single to Casey Blake to win it for the Dodgers.

Remember last week, when there was a big to-do about Royals manager Trey Hillman sitting closer Joakim Soria out three straight games in which the Royals were tied/held a lead with their opponent in the eighth inning only to see the situation evaporate without Soria leaving his seat?

(By the way, here’s an excellent tutorial on Royals Review on how to use bullpens. While I’m not entirely a fan of the stats used, they illustrate the correct point. Someone link Fredi!)

That’s how I feel right now. The last two nights it has felt like Fredi has defined roles for everyone. “This guy pitches the ninth when we have a lead, this guy pitches the eighth, this guy pitches against lefties only, this guy comes in and walks everyone so we can have a more exciting game (more on THAT guy later)…” and so on and so forth. In a time like this, when the Marlins are short solid bullpen arms (I’m not willing to accept that Ayala and Brendan Donnelly are solid just because they’re “veterans,” i.e. old), it’s especially important that Fredi vary his bullpen usage and try to get his best guys out at the most difficult junctions. We don’t have the luxury that teams like the Boston Red Sox have; those guys have four or five good relievers, including a closer, that can generally be depended on. The Marlins don’t have such players that can be easily interchanged in high or low leverage situations multiple times in the game, so we have to make due with the guys we have. That means better utilizing them, something Fredi has not tried to do.

Can someone get Renyel Pinto away from a close game please?

Renyel Pinto came into the game last night sporting a 3-1 lead that the Marlins mostly-hapless offense scratched out, thanks to some timely hits from Jeremy Hermida and Cody Ross. In 13 pitches, Pinto walked a man and allowed two hits, one of them scoring a run, before exiting and leaving the cleanup to resident cleanup expert and best Marlin reliever Kiko Calero. Calero was unable to get out of the jam at third base and allowed the game to be tied. Let’s look at Pinto’s limited number of pitches through Brooks Baseball’s Pitch f/x tool.

At-Bat vs. Andre Ethier

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At-Bat vs. Casey Blake

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Admittedly, umpire Mark Carlson really tightened up the zone low and as a result it was tough on both sides to get low strikes. In addition, this was the at-bat in which Blake got a walk on a check swing which should have been a strike given what was called earlier on a Hanley Ramirez check swing of the same type. Still, results are results, and Pinto delivered bad ones once again. The Marlins had a 77.5% chance to win this game prior to Pinto entering it. After leaving, the Marlins’ chances were reduced to 53.4%. Pinto’s 13 pitches ate 24.1% odds of victory. To take the leverage context out of the situation, Pinto ate 10.9% of the non-leveraged win probability for the Marlins.

Looking at just this season alone, Pinto has lost 0.83 wins in “clutch” situations, a measure of WPA in high leverage instances minus WPA/LI, the non-leveraged win probability added. He’s done this pretty much his whole career. It’s partly due to his ridiculously high walk rates. Pinto has walked 6.55 batters per nine innings this year, with a career mark of 5.91 per nine innings in just over 187 career innings. Sure, we’d consider that sample pretty small if this was a starter, but so far, that’s a still a starter’s season’s worth of terrible performance. At least Fredi has had the “wisdom” to pull Pinto from later innings and higher leverage work, but the problem is that often times Pinto creates his own excitement by manufacturing high leverage situations.

Marlins Die-Hards has got it right when it comes to Pinto. This is the flow-chart we all need to remember.

Tags: Brendan Donnelly Casey Blake Dan Meyer Fredi Gonzalez Joakim Soria Kiko Calero Leo Nunez Los Angeles Dodgers Luis Ayala Miami Marlins Renyel Pinto Trey Hillman

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