Tuesday, April 16, 2013

ESPN writer questions Dusty Baker's late-game decision

Our beloved Redlegs put an end to their dreaded 5-game losing skid Monday night with a 4-2 win over the Phillies. But there was a point in the game when it appeared as if the Reds might be heading toward a sixth consecutive loss.

That moment came in the top of the eighth inning when Bronson Arroyo ran into trouble. Up until that point, Arroyo had hurled a gem, essentially blanking the Phils over the first seven frames. However, that all changed when Chase Utley smacked a 2-run home run to tie the game at two a piece.

Luckily, the Reds answered with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning to take a 4-2 lead, but could this nerve-wracking situation have been avoided if Dusty Baker summoned closer Aroldis Chapman to face the left-handed hitting Utley?

ESPN's David Schoenfield seems to think so.

I will, however, call out Baker for leaving Arroyo in to face pinch-hitter Chase Utley with two outs and a man on. It's simple: You have one of the biggest weapons in the game in Chapman. USE HIM. LET THE MAN GET FOUR OUTS. Arroyo was having a fine game. Terrific, go out, tell him he pitched great, pat him on the butt and tell him to give you the ball. Arroyo can give up home runs (26 last year, 46 the year before). Utley can still hit 'em out of the park. Left-handed batters hit .108 against Chapman last year. They struck out in more than half their plate appearances. As Willie Stargell once said about Sandy Koufax, it's like trying to drink coffee with a fork.

But there was Arroyo pitching to Utley and there was Utley smashing a 2-1 sinker for a game-tying two-run homer. There was Chapman sitting in the bullpen and there were Reds fans going crazy and there was Baker, managing by that tired old book. Or the tired new book. Whatever you want to call it, this absurdity of not using your best reliever for more than three outs is growing to epic levels of idiocy. You'd think that after losing a lead in the eighth inning on Sunday, as Baker allowed by leaving in
Jonathan Broxton to give up six runs, and giving up the go-ahead run in the seventh inning on Friday and Saturday, Baker would be sufficiently desperate for a win.

Hey, what do I know, though? Chapman had thrown 78 pitches all season. Maybe he was fatigued. Maybe Baker doesn't think he can get four outs. Maybe Baker trusted Arroyo to get that out and wasn't really just saving Chapman for the ninth.

Schoenfield makes a good point. Why not bring in Chapman in that situation? After all, he was well rested, and the Reds were in desperate need of a win.

Now, I'm neither supporting or criticizing Baker here, just opening the floor for debate. It's impossible to expect even the best of managers to make all the right decisions, but limiting the bad ones is certainly key. And last night could have been a costly one.

You can read all of Schoenfield's piece by going here.

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