Monday, April 12, 2004


Last year the Jays' bullpen was a source of constant consternation. Boston fans who remember last April might sympathise, but it wasn't just the lack of a Proven Closer. It was the lack of a dependable high leverage guy (a Bradford, a Dotel, a Marte, a Mota, a Soriano) to get us out of those late inning jams. You know, those 2 on, 1 out situations in the 8th when you're ahead by a run and Manny Ramirez is coming up. Ricciardi added some arms this off-season, and while the bullpen isn't looking like Anaheim, on paper anyways it certainly looks better than last year.

Let's see how the bullpen was used yesterday afternoon.

So, the Jays stake Curt Schilling and the Red Sox for a 4-2 lead going into the 8th. Woo-hoo!

Righty Terry Adams starts the 8th for Miguel Batista (who's already thrown over 100 pitches so no argument with taking him out) to face lefty Bellhorn and switchy Mueller. Bellhorn walks and Mueller pops out, but the choice of Adams is odd given Mueller hit righties better last year and Tosca fully intended to bring Valeria De Los Santos in to face righty killer David Ortiz. If that's your plan, why not start the inning with lefty De Los Santos or (even better) Jason Kershner?

Anywas, despite a .223 GPA against lefties, Ortiz singles, so Tosca goes to the pen again to bring out former Rockie Justin Speier to face Manny Ramirez. Speier's stuff looks good, but Ramirez singles a grounder past Chris Gomez at short to load the basses. Speier makes another good pitch to the next batter, Kevin Millar, who nonetheless apes Ramirez, and drives in a run. 4-3 Toronto.

I've got to give Tosca credit here. Despite an itchy trigger finger, he stays with Speier to face switchy Jason Varitek. Speier rewards Tosca with a strikeout, and then strikes out Gabe Kapler to end the inning.

So the Jays end the inning still ahead 4-3, and Speier makes another case that he's the 8th inning guy the club was looking for all year.

That's the good news. It's the ninth that's really strange.

Kerry Ligtenberg, former Proven Closer, comes out to start the inning. Tosca's been keeping the whole Who'll Be the Jays Closer thing close to his chest, but I guess those 30 saves he had with Atlanta look pretty good to Carlos. First batter, fearsome Cesar Crespo, and the first thing I'm thinking as I'm watching this is, "I know Crespo's crappy, but aren't Ligtenberg's splits against lefties equally crappy?" Before I have time to look it up, Crespo somehow pounds a solid double off Ligtenberg. Next batter, righty Dave McCarty, and Ligtenberg gets him swinging. Next batter, switchy Bellhorn--ah, here it is: Ligtenberg vs. RH .211/.248/.333 and vs. LH .268/.391/.419--and sure enough Bellhorn singles to right to drive home Crespo. Score is tied. Despite this lefty barrage, Tosca keeps Ligtenberg in to face Mueller, and Mueller works the count to 3-2 before striking out. But even Tosca has his limits, and decides to play the splits again. He brings Kershner in to face Ortiz. Ortiz rockets a ball to the deepest part of the park, but Vernon Wells makes a spiffy catch to rob him of extra bases.

Extra innings.

Righty Aquilino Lopez, who by my watch is about an inning late, comes out to start the 10th, and gives up two hits but allows no damage. He's back out in the 11th, and again holds the Bosox scoreless. But having used up the last of the reasonable options, Tosca brings Lopez back out again for the 12th. Lopez walks Mueller before Ortiz finally ends it with a massive shot to centre. It's 6-4 Bosox.

That's what I call bad management of the bullpen, folks. For every smart move Tosca made (trusting Speier with the game on the line, letting Lopez go two innings), he made about 2 questionable move (wasting Adams to start the 8th, opting for De Los Santos over Kershner in the 8th, playing splits with some players and not others) and 1 plain out bad move (bringing ROOGY Ligtenberg out to "close" the ninth against a string of lefties and switch-hitters, saving his second-best pitcher until extra innings). As Billy Beane will tell you, it's not always about the outcome. It's the process. And even if somehow the Jays had won the game, Tosca's bullpen usage would have been indefensible. This is not the way to get to 90 wins.

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