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.

Topics: 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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  • Adam

    Michael,
    Another interesting thing is that Jonathan Broxton has been brought into a game 43 times this year. Of the 43 times, only 25 appearances had been save opportunities. Of the remaining 18 appearances, seven have been with a lead of 4 runs or more, and the final 11 have been in the 9th with the score tied. In those 11 appearances, he has gone on to record the win 5 times, and the Dodgers have won all but one of the games. In fact, in a game where Broxton pitches, the Dodgers are 42-1.

    Perhaps Fredi would have played the game differently if it had been a home game because there would be no save opportunity for Nunez once the game entered the 9th, but Fredi needs to realize that the game is not decided by which inning it is, but by which batters are at bat. It is hard to argue that an inning that has Pierre, Furcal, Hudson, and potentially Ramirez coming up has less a chance of scoring than Either, Loney, and Martin.

  • BigBoynBroward

    I disagree with your point about Donnelly and Ayala not being “solid”. In a Marlins uniform (i know, tiny sample size, but that’s all we’ve got to go on), they’ve been solid. I watch tons of baseball games with the almighty MLB.TV package and relievers everywhere blow things up constantly, even the ones considered solid or reliable. (Durbin, in particular, who is considered a pretty solid reliever in the NL, got crushed on Wednesday, gave up 3 ER to the light-hitting Cubs without so much as ever recording an out.) I do agree with you in that I feel Calero is our top dog, not Nuñez, but you know how that goes: the guy that throws the most gas is usually going to be anointed closer, which I find annoying as well as you do. All in all, call me insane, but I’d put our bullpen against just about anybody, even though we don’t have that lights-out closer that teams crave so much, we have 6 or 7 guys that get outs consistently, which to me makes them “solid”. No need to bash the old guys (Ayala/Donnelly)haha!

  • michaeljong

    Thanks for the responses guys, and eveyrone who frequents Marlin Maniac. I really appreciate your readership. Keep the comments coming. For those of you who haven’t perked up and commented or subscribed, get on it, join in on the fun and such!

    With regards to the old guys in the pen, it isn’t that they’re old that makes me not like them. If we had acquired a good veteran arm, I’d be all for it. But here’s the problem with those two: they’re retreads for a reason.

    FIP is not kind to Ayala, and FanGraphs’ system for win determination has shown that he is exactly a replacement level reliever. He’s pitched 224 innings in the past four years after his injury, spanning four different teams (mostly the Nats), and amassed 0.4 wins above replacement. He is about the same as Tim Wood.

    Donnelly has been a bit better over that time span (around 1/3 a win above replacement per year), but like Ayala, he too suffered a serious injury and never pitched the same again. The Indians gave him 13 innings before letting him go. Perhaps that was too quick, and I’ll give Donnelly a little bit of the benefit of the doubt.

    All I have been saying is that we could have done without the pickups. Getting one guy was probably acceptable given the injury to Lindstrom. But with Tim Wood down there ready to pitch in the majors, I doubt we needed both. Doesn’t cost the Fish anything, and so far they’ve been solid. But as BigBoy says, bullpen’s a crapshoot, you never know what you’ll get. We’ll see as we go forward, though I can say that if Fredi doesn’t manage it better, it won’t turn out pretty.

  • BigBoynBroward

    Agreed, Tim Wood was doing his thing. I went to the game vs pittsburgh that Volstad started and then got rain delayed, and he pitched 3 clean innings. Just count your blessings that we never brought up Scott Williamson, even though we signed him….Now that is a reach my friend!