Jul
02

Unnecessarily pigeonholing relievers

By

When did this whole 8th inning phenomenon start? When did the Yankees, their fans and anyone associated with the team decide that the 8th inning was of such paramount importance that the team needs one reliever dedicated to the 8th inning and only the 8th inning?

Maybe it started with Joba in 2007, Kyle Farnsworth in 2006, Tom Gordon after the 2004 ALCS or Steve Karsay’s injury in 2003 after a very effective 2002. Maybe it started when Jeff Nelson left the Yanks after 2001 and Mike Stanton followed suit after 2002. No matter the cause, it’s an unnecessary obsession that can limit the Yanks’ flexibility in ways it shouldn’t.

Two bits of news from yesterday’s game and the subsequent post-game interviews reveal the dichotomies of the 8th inning. If ever there was a game for an 8th Inning Guy, yesterday was it. The Yanks had a two-run lead, and the Mariners were about to send their 9-1-2 guys up to the plate. As it happened, these hitters were also R-L-L, and the Yankees, instead of going to Brian Bruney, the anointed 8th Inning Guy, played the match-ups perfectly.

Al Aceves, ace reliever, started the inning. Ronnie Cedeno flew out, and Girardi pulled Aceves for Phil Coke, a lefty who is death on lefties. Coke got Ichiro to ground out and Russell Branyan to strike out. (With that appearance, by the way, lefties are now hitting just .188/.214/.406 with 19 K’s in 70 plate appearances against Coke. Damaso who?)

After the game, though, Girardi was singing a different tune. Per M.A. Mehta:

“He’s our eighth inning guy right now,” Girardi said. “We expect him to pitch better. I know he has not pitched great since he’s come back off the DL. He’s had some good outings and he’s had some tough outings. … He’s had success in that role. He’s struggling a little bit right now.”

“I know he doesn’t have a track record of a Tex or and an Alex or some of the other players that we have,” Girardi added. “But we didn’t panic with them. And we’re not going to panic with Brian Bruney. Obviously, you do have to perform and we expect you to perform at a high level. If you don’t, you do make adjustments.”

Girardi also balked at the notion that defining roles to his relievers can be counterproductive. He said he preferred giving his bullpen crew specific roles rather than riding the hot hand. “When guys have defined roles, they know when they’re going to pitch,” Girardi said. “And they can start preparing mentally a little bit earlier. I think that helps them. The other thing that does is that I think it keeps you from wearing one guy out. A lot of times if you have a guy who’s pitching extremely well, all of a sudden, you’ve used him five out of six days … And then you start wearing the guy out. And then he starts going backwards.”

Got all that? Basically, Girardi is willing to hand the 8th inning role because he’s “had success in that role” and because it’s important for relievers to have overly defined roles so they can mentally prepare to pitch when their inning comes around. Why though? I don’t believe these relievers benefit psychologically from the regimented inning-by-inning breakdown Girardi is trying to give. Rather, the reliever used should depend upon the situation.

Right now, the Yankees have four relievers that have been lights out for weeks. Obviously, Mariano is the go-to guy for saves and tight situations late in the 8th. After him though, Phil Coke, Al Aceves, Phil Hughes and Brian Bruney have all shown the ability to get key outs late in the game. Coke matches up against lefties; Bruney and Aceves against righties; and Hughes against everyone these days. Let the game determine the reliever. Let the pitcher feeling good that day take the innings and let these relievers know that, late in a game, they will be called upon when the situation warrants it. There’s no need to lock down the 8th inning as though it’s more important than the other eight innings combined.

Addendum by Joe: …because I had a whole post written on this same topic, referencing the same post, and didn’t want to waste it.

The trouble with specialization is that it calls for more frequent pitching changes. Bullpens are volatile. Therefore, every time the manager calls on a new reliever he’s increasing the chances he runs into someone who isn’t having a good night. Meanwhile, the guy who was successful the previous inning (or batter) languishes on the bench. We saw this in action on Tuesday. Phil Hughes mowed down the Mariners with nine pitches, but Girardi went to Bruney anyway. Unfortunately, Bruney was not having a good night.

With both Al Aceves and Phil Hughes capable of throwing multiple innings out of the bullpen, the Yankees are in a unique position to redefine bullpen usage patterns. They need not fall into the traps of multiple reliever usage, because they have a crop of quality starters and a capable corps in the bullpen. Why not use this opportunity to change the game?

In games like last night, where the starter goes seven innings and leaves with a lead, perhaps the traditional setup man to closer paradigm makes sense. With only two innings left and Mo ready for the ninth, a one-inning guy can slot into the eighth. That’s where Bruney could shine. Starter goes seven, then onto Bruney and Mo to ice it. However, it’s a different story when the starter goes six or fewer.

On Saturday, Chien-Ming Wang will take the mound again. There’s little to no chance he can go more than six innings. This leaves an opening for a longer relief stint. Why not use Hughes for two there, laying the bridge for Mo? Aceves could do the job as well. That way you’re sticking with just one reliever. If he’s good you can just leave him in there and avoid the risk of going to another guy, who might not pitch as well as the original.

If the starter exits the game before the seventh and the team has a number of good pitchers who can throw multiple innings, why take the risk of going inning-by-inning? It seems to me a better idea to stick with the guy who’s pitching well.

Categories : Death by Bullpen

141 Comments»

  1. ledavidisrael says:

    I believe Joe is trying to use the role to show his confidence in Bruney.

    This bullpen will really be lethal if we can get him going and we get marte back..

    • Winning games > Bruney’s confidence.

      Anyway, if it’s one thing from which Bruney has never suffered, it is lack of confidence.

      • ledavidisrael says:

        Didn’t coke discuss how the bullpen was hurting from lack of defined roles earlier in the season? Maybe alot that heat came off Bruney.

        And I think all major league players need help with their confidence. The out going sure of them self ones need it more than others trust. We aren’t talking about MO right now.

        I completely agree with winning games is > Bruney’s confidence.

        but we will win more games with a healthy productive Bruney

        I mean last night shows that he isn’t afraid to have others pitch the 8th.

        • Coke’s bullpen role is to get out lefties late in the game. That might be in the 7th, it might be in the 8th, it might be with two outs in the 6th. Since his early season hiccups, he’s adjusted with no problems to that role.

          In fact, since the start of June, he has entered the game in the 6th twice, the 7th seven times, the 8th five times and the 9th of a tie game once. His numbers: 15 appearances, 13.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 15 K, 0.68 ERA. I think he’s doing just fine without being assigned a specific inning.

          • Jersey says:

            But he’s been assigned a specific role…that seems to undercut your point.

            • A specific role is different from a specific inning. All relievers will be assigned a specific role based upon their effectiveness and a manager’s faith in them. My and Joe’s main point is that leverage and not the inning should dictate use. Furthermore, the Yanks have four very good non-Mo relievers, and they shouldn’t be limiting their availability based on inning. It should be situational. Perhaps we didn’t do a good enough job of getting that across.

              • Jersey says:

                I guess the thing I can’t get around is the extent to which having defined roles – be it innings, situations, particular matchups – contributes to getting optimal performance out of a reliever. On the face of it, I agree that the best relievers should be used at the highest-leverage moments. On paper, it would seem that doing that would optimize what you’re getting out of a guy. But it also might very well help to optimize their performance with the psychological certainty.

                I just don’t think we can answer that. You may very well be right; I plead agnosticism as to the unseen workings of MLB bullpens.

          • Ed says:

            Coke’s bullpen role is to get off lefties late in the game.

            I see you’re a fan of David Cone’s style of bullpen usage.

      • Winning games > Bruney’s confidence.

        Winning one game now < winning more games later

        • Do you really buy into the belief that Bruney needs help with his confidence though? The only person to have mentioned that is ledavidisrael 12 minutes ago. Girardi’s talking about mental preparation, not self confidence.

          • Jersey says:

            I think you can argue that after all the injuries, Bruney’s confidence probably has taken a bit of a hit, yeah. As to Girardi’s point, I don’t have a problem buying that most guys would prefer some kind of routine role as opposed to uncertainty and changing roles night-to-night.

          • The only person to have mentioned that is ledavidisrael 12 minutes ago.

            No, I actually mentioned it myself at least once in the past few days.

            But no. I don’t think Bruney needs help with his confidence. I do think that Bruney appreciates his manager showing faith in him, though, and showing confidence in him by not pulling him from his role. That’s not the same, but it’s something.

            • Far enough. I still don’t really see Bruney suffering from a lack of confidence though.

              • Why, though? That’s ridiculous. There’s no more reason to think he doesn’t lack confidence than there is reason to think he does. Do you know Brian Bruney?

                • It’s funny you should ask. I don’t personally, but I’ve spoken with someone who does. This person likes Bruney and has very kind things to say. I’ve never heard that Bruney is brash and over-confident, but I’ve never heard that Bruney is unsure of his role in the pen. I think we’re straying a bit too far into the realm of amateur sports psychologists here.

                • “I think we’re straying a bit too far into the realm of amateur sports psychologists here.”

                  Well clearly I agree with this sentiment… But you’re the one saying you don’t think Girardi needs to be concerned with his confidence, everyone else is just allowing for that possibility.

      • Yeah but maybe Bruney’s confidence will lead to effectiveness and help win games, right? I’m not one for talking too much about players’ feelings, etc., but in Bruney they have a pitcher who they clearly think can be a very effective, even shut-down bullpen option, and they seem to want to nurture him into that role on a more permanent basis. If Girardi thinks showing confidence in him and nudging him along a little bit is a good way to bring Bruney along and make him more effective, I’m ok with that. That’s part of Girardi’s job description, to deal with the personal side of the clubhouse, isn’t it?

        I’m also not so sure why you would make that second statement about Bruney’s confidence. The K-Rod thing? I seem to remember, when the Yankees first acquired Bruney, that he didn’t have the most confidence in his abilities, and also that he seemed very stung when demoted one time. My point isn’t to say “he’s very sensitive and needs a confidence boost,” but I think it’s a little ridiculous to state that he’s the most confident guy in the room as if you have some inside knowledge. The guy is an emerging talent but before the last year or so he was an overweight, relatively unwanted reliever. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if confidence is an issue for him at times, and it also wouldn’t surprise me if the Yankees’ powers that be have much more insight into that issue than we do.

      • Bo says:

        If winning games really mattered would they have seriously run Wang out there for this long?

  2. GG says:

    Solid post; I agree tEH 8th, should be more than one guy….Off topic and I apoligize for it, but Jimmy Leyritz has some new legal trouble; he beat the crap out of his wife last night at their home in FL

    • Prefacing something with “off topic” and apologizing does not make it any better under the guidelines. If you have a news tip, please use the “Submit a Tip” box in the sidebar or e-mail it to us.

      • Prefacing something with “off topic” and apologizing does not make it any better under the guidelines.

        With all due respect, Ben, you’re an insufferable jerkface.

        No offense.

      • Ace says:

        Can you really get on a member of the general public who comes to a Yankees fan site and wants to talk about a Yankees topic other than what is being discussed at that exact moment? I’m not trying to be incendiary, but news pops up from time to time and you are conveying the message that people should go somewhere else to talk about it unless you say it’s ok.

        If you guys are that adamant about staying on topic then you need to have a constant open thread for people who want to hang out and have a “General Discussion” because, frankly, I do not want to go anywhere else.

        • If you guys are that adamant about staying on topic then you need to have a constant open thread for people who want to hang out and have a “General Discussion” because, frankly, I do not want to go anywhere else.

          No, they don’t. They need to have a method for people to provide off-topic information. They’ve done that. Their email addresses are on the right.

        • Ace: We’ve gone over this plenty of times. This is what happens if there’s no structure to the comments section, and except for a few repeat offenders, RAB readers have no problems staying on topic. Every night we have either an Open Thread or a Game Thread in which you all can discuss everything under the sun.

          When specific posts are published, we’d prefer the comments to stay on topic. We’re generally pretty prompt in getting up these news stories. We’re not telling people to go somewhere else. We’re asking them to submit the stories to us so we can post them and open the floor to them. RAB isn’t a free-for-all.

          • Ace says:

            Point taken.

          • “We’re not telling people to go somewhere else. We’re asking them to submit the stories to us so we can post them and open the floor to them. RAB isn’t a free-for-all.”

            On that last point… Just my two-cents as a fellow commenter and not a site-proprietor… The only reason to make a comment like that instead of just sending the tip into the RAB guys is for the commenter to feel like he’s breaking the news or something, which is lame, anyway. Just send in the tip and if it’s worthy of discussion, it’ll get posted and the commenter/tipster will get recognized with a hat-tip and everyone will be happy.

  3. A.D. says:

    I’m a huge fan of using reliever for multiple innings, with the volatility if you have a guy already getting it done, let him finish. Especially in a situation where you have something like Hughes/Bruney/Aceves/Coke who are pretty much all equally trustworthy at this point.

    Obviously you can run into a tough lefty where it makes sense, but otherwise better to just stay with a guy getting it done that day to finish up.

    • rbizzler says:

      I agree with you on multiple inning usage. It is certainly a luxury to have Shields-like relievers that can give you that type of flexibility. With Aceves and Hughes able to go 1+, and hopefully Melancon in the second half adding to that depth, the ‘pen should be versatile enough to accomodate the teams needs.

  4. I don’t think it started in 2007. Or 2004. Or 2001.

    I think it started in 1995, when Mo first became the Bridge to Wetteland. And sportswriters galore figured that they had discovered an amazing new paradigm: The two-man end-of-game wrecking crew that “shortens games”.

    Shorten the game, and you’re a mortal lock to win it all, they’d say. HUZZAH TO THE PARADIGM!!!

  5. MattG says:

    It absolves managers of blame. That is the whole reason.

    It’s the same reason people where business suits. They do not have to think, and they cannot be wrong.

    • t’s the same reason people wear business suits. They do not have to think, and they cannot be wrong

      Peter La Fleur: Yeah, uh, Patches… are you sure that this is completely necessary?
      Patches O’Houlihan: Necessary? Is it necessary for me to drink my own urine?
      Peter La Fleur: Probably not.
      Patches O’Houlihan: No, but I do it anyway because it’s sterile and I like the taste.
      Peter La Fleur: …Okay.

  6. Little Bill says:

    This post is right on the money. There should be no defined bullpen roles. I feel comfortable with everyone in the bullpen throwing in that 8th inning except Tomko. Mariano shouldn’t even be used in the 9th all the time. If a high leverage situation comes up in the 7th or 8th, you use your best reliever to get out of it. That will never happen though because the traditional role of the closer is even more defined than the 8th inning guy.

    • Bo says:

      The game isn’t played on paper. These are real people playing it. They need defined roles on a daily basis. They need to know how they will be sued to be most effective.

      It’s real life. Not a computer game.

      • Little Bill says:

        This is silly. I can understand starting pitchers wanting a set schedule since they go out there every 5 days, but the pitchers in the bullpen should be ready to go when they’re called on. If Bruney pitches the 8th 3 days in a row and Girardi decides he needs a rest, UH OH! THERE’S NOBODY TO PITCH THE 8TH NOW! NO OTHER REAL PERSON HAS THE 8TH INNING AS THEIR DEFINED ROLE!!!!!!!!! FORFEIT THE BALLGAME!!!!!!

  7. Moshe Mandel says:

    I’m not sure you can just discard the psychological impact of having set roles. Although it sounds like stupidity, this is not the first time we have heard this- you hear it from the athletes themselves on occasion. It is hard for me to sit here, having never played professionally, and state unequivocally that players are not being honest or are making excuses when they say there is a psychological benefit to having a set role.

    • MattG says:

      I am sure you can. The players have been trained to expect certain scenarios, and certain outcomes. They have to be untrained. There is no reason why a defined role should have any impact on their performance.

      Look at it this way: Bruney isn’t suddenly a better pitcher because he pitches in the 8th inning. Instead, making him the 8th inning guy apparently makes him riskier in other innings. This is not advantageous–the role is a net negative.

      Unless you are the manager. If the manager goes to his 8th inning guy, and he fails, it is the pitcher’s fault. If the manager tries to create advantageous matchups, and they don’t come out right, it’s the managers fault.

      • Moshe Mandel says:

        It is very easy to say “untrain them,” but it really is not that simple. If these pitchers are used to pitching in set roles, and have a set routine, it may be difficult for a manager at the MLB level to just overhaul that and throw it out the window.

        • MattG says:

          If the manager spouts out ridiculous crap like Girardi, it is impossible.

          And it won’t be as hard as you think. All the manager needs to say is, “I don’t want to hear anyone of my pitchers using excuses like that. That’s horsebleep. When I give you the ball, you can pitch.”

          The reason the whole role thing got the players is because the managers started talking about it in the first place. You think the players decided for themselves they needed roles? They’re just along for the ride. If the manager takes the roles away, they’ll adjust.

          • Moshe Mandel says:

            This is where we have a disconnect. You think it is an excuse, but managers and players do not. While I am all for disagreeing with “insiders” on issues of strategy and player value, I am not as confident regarding psychological issues.

            Furthermore, these players have played for most of their lives in the current “climate,” where there are roles. So while it may just be a silly construct, it may be ingrained enough in players that just saying “that’s horsebleep” is not going to be very effective.

            • MattG says:

              Forget the word excuse then. Lets stick with role.

              What pitcher became a better pitcher when given a role he was not qualified for?

              Hell, forget pitchers. What person does a better job when promoted to any role for which they are unqualified?

              Roles allow you to know your place, but they do not make you better. They give you the stability you need to perform.

              And as with any industry, the more granular the role, the less diverse and valuable the person performing the role.

              Extrapolate it out, and its a b-jobber argument. Give Joba the 8th inning, and he will excel. But he will be less valuable. That’s the same thing, albeit to a lesser extent, with any reliever’s role.

              Roles are important–until you cross the line, making distinctions that reduce the value of your resources. The role between relievers and starters is pretty important. A closer’s role is debatable. Middle relief pitcher’s roles have crossed that line. The players/managers are too close to the situation–and too afraid of failure (and the blame that comes with it)–to realize it.

              • Moshe Mandel says:

                “What person does a better job when promoted to any role for which they are unqualified?
                Roles allow you to know your place, but they do not make you better. They give you the stability you need to perform.”

                Here we are not talking about people being unqualified for the roles. If you have three or four guys who you trust basically equally in late game spots, as the Yankees do now, you can use them in two ways- with roles, or mixing and matching. If pitchers are more comfortable with the first scenario, such that their performance is altered when not in a role, wouldn’t it be fair to say that pitching in a role maximizes their performance? It may not make them better, but it may allow them to get the most out of their abilities.

                • MattG says:

                  If you have three or four guys who you trust basically equally in late game spots, as the Yankees do now, you can use them in two ways- with roles, or mixing and matching. If pitchers are more comfortable with the first scenario, such that their performance is altered when not in a role, wouldn’t it be fair to say that pitching in a role maximizes their performance?

                  So, in saying you will maximize their performance, you mean that without the role they cannot pitch to their inherent ability. That is the definition of a crutch, and it should be roundly discouraged by every organization. Every pitcher on a roster should be able to pitch to their ability in every at bat. This should be encouraged, and held in high-esteem.

                  And look at those players that believe they can’t pitch outside their role. Do you really have empathy for a reliever who can’t perform well unless its the later innings? Really?

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  It is not a matter of empathy. It is a matter of getting the most out of your players. See Mondesi’s post below this, because that basically sums up why a manager may be forced to use roles even if he felt them to be silly.

              • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

                What person does a better job when promoted to any role for which they are unqualified?

                Barak Obama says hi.

            • “Furthermore, these players have played for most of their lives in the current “climate,” where there are roles.”

              This is a very important point that I think people tend to disregard. WE may think it’s silly for players to be concerned with defined roles, but these guys have been playing in a system with defined roles their ENTIRE LIVES. For the most part, players (and the coaches they encounter along the way) are not geniuses and are probably not scouring the internet to learn about the most progressive analyses of baseball, they grow up learning and living the same old theories and platitudes that have existed in baseball for decades.

  8. I disagree, Ben. Like Moshe, I think players need to have some idea of where they’re going in for a sense of psychological ease. A football team can’t just tell a random wideout or back to return kicks/punts.

    • That’s a bad analogy. Players have roles in every sport. The role of a reliever is to be available to pitch out of the pen. The closer has a role; the other relievers have roles. As I’ve said, being assigned a role and a spot on the bullpen hierarchy based upon effectiveness is not the same as being assigned an inning. I’m OK with the former, not the latter, and what Girardi is saying is the latter.

      • I really think this whole thing is more an issue of semantics than anything else. I think if Girardi called the role “guy before closer” instead of “8th inning guy,” there would be much less argument over this entire topic. You and Joe seem to take issue with the specific inning assignment aspect of the role. But Girardi will bring Mo into games in the 8th inning, on occassion, it’s not like they’ve shown a tendency to define bullpen roles by inning assignment, other than to use the term “8th inning guy”… I think there’s a bit too much reading into the term “8th inning guy” going on.

        They want to have a hierarchy and they want that hierarchy to include a “guy before Mo.” If we change the name of the role, does that make it less onerous to you?

        • I’d prefer it based on leverage. Bases loaded in a one run game with two outs in the 6th? Use your second best reliever and not some “sixth inning/third or fourth guy before closer” type.

          • Well that’s a different issue altogether. I think most people here would prefer we lived in a world where managers/baseball people were more enlightened and used their bullpens based on leverage. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which bullpens are used differently and the best relievers are saved for the end of the game. In such a world, do you have less of a problem calling the second best guy the “guy before the closer” than you do calling him the “8th inning guy?”

            I just think you guys seem to be a little hung up on the inning-assignment concept, which I think is a product of the name of the role but not necessarily the use of the player in that role, and I think we’d find more middle ground if the name of the role were different.

          • Chris says:

            In most bullpens, there is a closer and then 3-4 relievers who are about equal. For example, how much marginal benefit do you get from using Hughes in that situation instead of Aceves or Robertson?

    • Little Bill says:

      Terrible analogy. If the random wideout hasn’t been practicing returning kicks then he wouldn’t be returning kicks. If he has and is the backup, then he should be ready. Every reliever is capable of pitching in any inning. Phil Hughes won’t self destruct if he has to pitch in the 9th inning for 1 game. Brian Bruney won’t die an untimely death if he is called on to pitch in the 6th inning.

    • MattG says:

      A football team can’t just tell a random wideout or back to return kicks/punts.

      Odd analogy, as they do use random backs and wideouts to return punts. But since you only need one guy to do this, you don’t see it often.

      The only idea they need is that they will have to pitch. Let’s get real.

      I am not arguing that they have come to rely on the role to do their job. I am sure that is true for many players. But this should be vigorously discouraged. Players should be scorned and ridiculed for using excuses (similar to what Coke used earlier this year). They are miserable excuses, and should not be tolerated.

      A team that can use its pitchers to create the best matchups is a team that is optimized for winning. Pitchers that rely on roles to perform to their abilities are hurting themselves and their teams. There is no incident of a pitcher exceeding his abilities because of a role–only the opposite is true. This is a net loss for a team.

      • Moshe Mandel says:

        “There is no incident of a pitcher exceeding his abilities because of a role–only the opposite is true.”

        How on Earth could you know that? You can state, with full confidence, that no pitchers have had their abilities maximized by being in a role, even though some players themselves would vehemently disagree?

        • MattG says:

          Of course I can. This is common sense.

          A pitcher gets promoted to high leverage because he pitches well–not the other way around. You don’t take, oh, Kyle Farnsworth, and say, “Well, he’s doing pretty good for the 8th inning. If we put him in the 9th inning, he be even better!” It does not work that way.

          You’ve got your cart in front of your horse. Players are using their roles as crutches. If they don’t pitch in their role, the pitch worse than they should. If they do, they pitch as they should. Net loss.

          • Moshe Mandel says:

            You say net loss, but you leave out one possibility: that having a set role is actually a good thing, and that it is not an excuse, but actually helps a player be more mentally prepared to come into the game. If a pitcher is more comfortable being used in a role, and pitches better because of it, that is a net gain.

            • MattG says:

              No, no, no. Everyone is comfortable coming into a situation for which they are qualified. Take any #1 starter in the league, and ask him to get 3 outs in the 8th, and you’ve got a great 8th inning guy. Not because of mental preparation–because of the skills.

              Now, if you can take an 8th inning guy, and tell him to mentally prepare for a more important role, you’d have a point. But you can’t do that. A middle reliever is a middle reliever because of his talent, not his mental preparation. He can just as well prepare to pitch the 4th and 5th on Tuesday as he can the 8th on Friday. It all should be the same role: middle relief.

              • Moshe Mandel says:

                You keep making this point, but I think that you are talking past what I am saying. I’m not saying that a role makes a pitcher inherently better, just that pitchers have become used to having roles, such that their talent may be maximized by being placed in a set role.

                We are just going to have to agree to disagree, because we are not getting anywhere here.

                • MattG says:

                  We are talking past one another.

                  If the role can’t make the pitcher better (and maximizing his ability implies making him only as good as he can be–not better), but the lack of a role can make a pitcher worse, that results in a net loss. That is the crux of my point. For this reason, roles should be discouraged. Teams should try and eradicate them.

                  Congressman Mondesi makes the point above about players have roles their whole lives. I don’t think this is actually true. Once in the minors, their role appears to be “get ready for the major leagues.” They pretty much do everything, and anything.

                  It is really only breaking into the majors that the depth chart and pecking orders become critical to their preparation. I think this trend can be broken. It starts with a manager with the balls to break it.

                • You guys should settle this with some breakdance fighting.

                • jsbrendog says:

                  seconded!

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  Lol. I’m pretty sure I would lose that fight.

                  I get what you are saying. I think our disagreement stems from whether we believe that trend can be broken. I’m not so sure that it can, which makes me comfortable with the idea that the manager now needs to deal with his options as they are, and the best way to maximize value may be with roles. I certainly agree with your idea that the role system is a net loss and IF we could abolish the role system, teams would be better off. I was just saying that if the role system is ingrained, then using roles is a net gain.

                • I think our disagreement stems from whether we believe that trend can be broken. I’m not so sure that it can…

                  Just because I’m hung like a moose doesn’t mean I have to do porn.

                • MattG says:

                  You most certainly would loose! I would serve you on a platter with a glazed apple!

                  I get you now. It IS ingrained. I think Cashman has plans to junk it, little by little. And if pete is right, below, and Girardi is merely giving the MSM lip service, that plan to junk it may already be underway.

                • MattG says:

                  This is a bloog. On a bloog, a certain amoount oof typoos are alloowed.

                  Alsoo, my OO buttoon sticks just a little bit.

                • MattG = The Swedish Chef

                  Bork Bork Bork! CINAMINAMIN!

  9. IvanS says:

    The one thing I agree with Girardi on is that in the long term the bullpen would benefit from balancing the load around. Of course this is easy when everyone is pitching effectively and there’s confidence in all. Hopefully come September and October, everyone will be fresh and not burnt out like the Proctors and Gordons of the past. I do think this can translate into giving Hughes or Aceves 2-inning stints at times like two nights ago. They can handle it because they’ve come up as long guys, and once you’re in the game it has to be easier to pitch an extra frame than to warm up a cold guy.

  10. Say Hey Willie says:

    I think that last night’s game is evidence against what Girardi is trying to do with the “inning roles”. If Bruney is the 8th inning guy and all the relievers expect that, then shouldn’t Coke and Aceves have been surprised to be used in the game? Shouldn’t they have been unprepared mentally? I would think that being surprised an unprepared would lead to pitching poorly. Instead we saw the opposite and the 8th passed without issue. I think that it is all crap! When the manager tells a reliever to get ready he needs to get up and get ready. That’s it.

    • jsbrendog says:

      i agree. instead of the ufck you, pay me. it should be

      ::bullpen phone rings::

      girardi: get up bruney
      harkey: but it’s the 6th inning
      girardi: get him up.
      harkey: brian, warm up
      bruney: but its the 6th inning
      harkey: FUCK you, pitch.

      bruney: but…
      harkey: Fkcu you, pitch

      and scene.

  11. pete says:

    You know i think you underestimate Girardi’s ability to tell the mainstream media what they want to hear. I know you guys don’t agree with it but when you look at how the bullpen has been used during periods like this where there are actually multiple effective arms out there, he has used it much more like he did last night than how he tells the NY Post he is using it. They want to believe that there is an 8th inning guy and that he might have some hiccups coming back but its for the greater good having him healthy so he can slot right into that 8th inning role. But thats not how it’s really going to be, i’m sure of it. Joba was never strictly the 8th inning guy last year, yet joe used to say “he’s our 8th inning guy right now” all the time. I honestly believe that he only uses that term to assuage the MSM’s obsession with overly defined bullpen roles, something that he has never, at least in games, shown any real affection for, minus his use of mariano. But you know what you’re getting with Mo, which is damn near perfection in the 9th inning, so it is not really that unreasonable to say lets put this guy in here so that we never have to worry about the 9th inning. This of course only works if there are other mildly effective arms out there, but since there are, i don’t take issue with this. The MSM wants a dominant fireballer as its “8th inning guy” so girardi tells them that his fireballer who has been dominant in the past is his 8th inning guy. But the guy does have to pitch, and right now that means there’s a chance he gives up runs. While pitching phranchise 2 innings instead of one the other day probably would have been the better move, there was, at the time, seeimingly little chance that bri-bri blows a 2 run lead to one of baseball’s worst offenses. Even in hindsight, i’d rather have bruney pitching, regardless of when (the 8th inning is no more important than any other…including the 7th, when phil pitched) than sitting in the bullpen for too long. It takes game action to come back to speed, and having him at full effectiveness will be a beautiful compliment to coke, ace, hughes, and mo. I know that throwing more volitile arms out there seems like it increases your chances of having runs scored on you, but if you have another guy out there who is pitching well and whose numbers play up to the matchup better than the guy out there, than subbing him is, i think, a really good idea, unless its one of those nights where the guy pitching has absolutely nasty stuff and great control, and/or the guy in the pen is having some issues getting loose or w/e. And in terms of players knowing when their role is coming, its not about psychological readiness. It’s about knowing when you’re going to need to start getting loose and how to time your whole warmup routine.

    • Moshe Mandel says:

      You put in so much work, I had to respond.

      I agree.

    • Moshe Mandel says:

      Seriously, though, I agree that the manager is going to tell the media what they want to hear whenever it is possible.

    • Clayton says:

      I agree too.

      All Joe heard in the spring was “Why isn’t Joba in the 8th? Joba = 8th inning, Joba is the bridge to Mo.” So he turned around and said “No, Bruney is my 8th inning guy.”

      He said it to the media after the game, but didn’t even use the strategy during the game. You are creating a strawman argument about something he said instead of looking at what he actually did or has done in the past.

    • “They want to believe that there is an 8th inning guy and that he might have some hiccups coming back but its for the greater good having him healthy so he can slot right into that 8th inning role. But thats not how it’s really going to be, i’m sure of it. Joba was never strictly the 8th inning guy last year, yet joe used to say “he’s our 8th inning guy right now” all the time.”

      Agree. This is the point I was trying to make to Ben, above, about how people are getting too hung up on calling the role “8th inning guy” when the player in that role isn’t really used that way, at least not as exclusively as the name of the role would suggest. Everyone’s getting very hung up on semantics.

    • MattG says:

      So, Girardi is not telling the MSM the truth?

      I don’t know. I’d want the manager to echo the org philosophy at every instance. Unless there is some tactical advantage to lying to the media. Misinformation for other teams? Perhaps.

      I don’t think Cashman believes in reliever roles. I think he believes in a closer and a hodge-podge of interchangeability. I bet he’d like Girardi to ride the hot hand–and that is most definitely not Bruney.

  12. Mike Axisa says:

    The biggest problem with having set roles is that, believe it or not, sometimes a guy will have to pitch out of his role because someone else may be hurt or not available that day. Ideally everyone would be able to do everything, but that’s certainly not possible.

    If anything, the roles should be “okay, you’re my high leverage guy, regardless of inning,” something like that.

  13. Yanks Fan says:

    I think the whole 8th inning reliver actually started way back in ’96. The Yankees had so much success when they would bring Rivera in the 8th and have Wetteland come in and close the 9th. If I remember correctly, the Yankees only lost one game after leading in the 7th. Giardi is still trying to use that same formula. Obviously, we do not have a 8th inning Mariano Rivera.

  14. Tank Foster says:

    “The trouble with specialization is that it calls for more frequent pitching changes.”

    Amen.

    Something’s seriously screwed up with the way baseball teams are developing and managing pitching staffs. If starting pitchers are throwing less innings, we need relievers that can throw more innings, not less. Things would be alot simpler without these bullpens all clogged up with specialists.

    • JohnnyC says:

      This is why the Yankees have been “stretching out” their relievers in the minors. Melancon, Robertson, Albie, etc. have routinely pitched multiple innings per appearance. At the big league level, you can’t do that as easily. The line-ups are much tougher. That’s why you do need specialists.

      • Tank Foster says:

        Nah. You don’t need specialists, at least not like they use them today. Why use 7 pitchers if you can stretch them out a little more and maybe using only 5? Then you can add more offensive players to your team! You can pinch hit then when they bring in the “lefty specialist.” If you decide you aren’t going to go the specialist route, you can eliminate the two worst pitchers in your bullpen, improving your pitching overall. On second thought, it makes too much sense.

  15. Soriano~40~40 says:

    Valverde would be a nice “8th inning guy” yeah?

    • He’d be a great addition. I’d say it’s a dead heat as to which one gets the #2 reliever role in the pen. I like the fact that Bruney’s less homer-prone, though.

      The funny thing about Bruney and Valverde is it’s tough to evaluate them side by side in any arbitrary set of years, because they’ve had alternating years of crappiness. Valverde was awesome in every year except for ’04 and ’06, so depending on when you start measuring, his recent history looks either slightly above average or dominant.

      And Bruney’s bad years were ’05 and ’07, so he’s similar in that his numbers look very different depending on when you start measuring. If you try and filter out the anomaly highs and lows, though, they’re both basically 130/140 ERA+ relievers with K/9 rates in the 8-10 range and BB/9 rates in the 3-4 range. Valverde’s a bit more overpowering, but Bruney’s less homer prone.

      It’s a good problem to have.

  16. Bruno says:

    When did this whole 8th inning phenomenon start? When did the Yankees, their fans and anyone associated with the team decide that the 8th inning was of such paramount importance that the team needs one reliever dedicated to the 8th inning and only the 8th inning?

    Ironically, we have Mo to thank for this. In ’95-’96 he made games 6-7 innings long.

  17. ledavidisrael says:

    Didn’t coke and Aceves pitch last night??? in the 8th?? The role is situational. He is our situational 8th inning guy lol

  18. Bo says:

    You really expect Girardi to have revolutionary thinking on this? His middle name should be “By the Book”.

  19. Mike HC says:

    I agree with Ben here. I don’t think it is asking too much of Bruney to be mentally prepared to pitch in the 6th, 7th, or 8th. When games go extra innings, the relievers have to be ready to come in at any moment. If Girardi made it clear to his team that outs in the 6th are just as important as the 8th, and pitching the 6th is not a demotion, then Bruney should have no confidence issues. You’re are making millions of dollars pitching for the NY Yankees. Be ready to pitch when they tell you to. If you fall apart while pitching in the sixth inning because your confidence is shattered that you didn’t pitch the 8th, imagine what will happen when it is playoff time. You can’t be so fragile.

  20. Bo says:

    The game isn’t played on paper. It’s not a computer game. These are real people. Not robots. They need to be able to come to the park everyday and know how they will be used. This isn’t the good ole days of 1965 here. The game has changed.

    • I’m totally fucking confused now. Weren’t you just saying a few minutes ago that Joe Girardi manages by the book too much? Now you’re saying that players need to come to the park and know how they’ll be used..

      :: head explodes ::

      • Mattingly's Love Child says:

        Bo must be TSJC baiting? That’s all I got.

      • Bo says:

        What so confusing? Relievers should have defined roles because the game is played by real people and not computers. And our by the book manager isn’t going to be revolutionary in tinkering with his pen. Or haven’t you watched him manage the past yr and a half?

        • Here’s what’s confusing. You’re saying:

          Relievers should have defined roles because the game is played by real people and not computers.

          Regimentation is good. It provides stability.

          And our by the book manager isn’t going to be revolutionary in tinkering with his pen.

          Our manager believes in regimentation. This means he’s bad and should be ridiculed.

          Your adherence to roles being good and your constant bashing of Girardi for being too stuck in his devotion to roles are contradictory. You praise the philosophy and then bash the man who uses the philosophy for not being willing or able to deviate from the philosophy.

          That’s batshit insane.

    • gxpanos says:

      You sound like when FJM would ironically imitate people that had your kind of opinions.

    • Tank Foster says:

      I think apart from “starter” and “closer”, there should be no roles. [Aside: why isn't it "finisher?" Or, "Opener." Baseball linguistics are fucked.]

      Some people do better with routine, some people do WORSE with routine. Other than the closer, the only role I think relief pitchers should be able to expect is how often they will be expected to pitch, and how many batters/pitches they will be expected to cover…in general. With a game as unpredictable as baseball (sorry for the Sterling there), how can it be the best use of resources to pigeonhole guys into roles defined by the number of the inning? It makes as much sense as putting a time on it. “Bruney, as of today, you’re our 9:45 EDT guy!”

      • Tank Foster says:

        I’ll modify to say that even the closer role I’m not 100% convinced of. I’d like it to be “short stint fireman/ace” rather than closer. But I could be wrong…managers do think the 9th inning is a special thing and I’m not going to say I know they’re wrong about that.

  21. NC Saint says:

    For Yankees fans, it’s definitely a symptom of Wetteland/Mo nostalgia. But the real culprit is the ease of saying things like “it makes it a seven inning game”. Announcers, fans, and other idiots love a slogan and a narrative, and this one would make perfect sense if Mo and Wetteland, or Joba and Mo, or whothefuckever could be counted on to put up a 0.00 ERA and pitch every night, and if we were completely indifferent to what happened in the first seven innings, so long as we could preserve leads we took into the eighth. Back on planet earth…

  22. SM says:

    The role is the same for everyone, get outs. That said I wonder about warmup and prepartion, etc. If you know your an ’8th inning guy’ you can properly set your schedule. I would accept this as a more legitiate reason over the mental stuff.

  23. Jesus says:

    I agree with ben and joe that the argument for inning specific roles is a weak argument.In the 8th innings of the 8 games against the yanks the red sox have used 6 different guys and have taken guys out during the inning:
    1st game – Saito
    2nd game – okajima/Ramirez
    3rd game – Bowden
    4th game – Ramirez/Papelbon
    5th game – Okajima
    6th game – Delcarmen/Ramirez
    7th game – Okajima
    8th game – Saito

    i hate the sox but thier pen has been filthy even without a “dominant” 8th inning guy.

  24. Jon says:

    Don’t worst. I’m sure he will keep forcing bruney in like he did veras n marte n eddie r

  25. Klemy says:

    I don’t have a problem with the defined 8th inning guy so much as taking out the hot hand that is capable of pitching multiple innings.

    We are in a unique position of having 2 guys who can extend past 1 inning, who can get people out consistently in Hughes and Aceves. When a situation comes along like the other night, where Hughes throws 9 pitches to mow down his hitters, I want to see him come back out for the 8th because he was dominating. If that crushes Bruney’s confidence because he wasn’t called upon and got a night off, then I’m not sure what to say to him.

    If a guy is filthy, nasty on a particular night, isn’t throwing a lot of pitches, and can get you direct to Mo, I’d be happy sticking with it for that night. Let Bruney’s confidence take the night off along with his arm.

  26. [...] Take whatever help you can get / Unnecessarily pigeonholing relievers [...]

  27. [...] possible role, or in the role that provides the team with the most overall value. In the case of unnecessarily pigeonholing relievers, we might not get to see where a pitcher thrives, because he’s kept from that role. So [...]

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