Thursday, June 12, 2008

Flipping the Byrd

There's nothing all that remarkable about Paul Byrd. He doesn't strike people out, he gives up a decent number of hits, and he doesn't get all that many ground balls. He throws the ball in the strike zone and lets batters hit it. That is a strategy that has historically worked for him against the Twins, as he entered last night's game with a 10-3 career record and 3.50 ERA against the hometown nine.

Yet the Twins, mired in their worst slump of the season, would have no more of that business last night. They jumped on Byrd for five runs in the third inning and got a strong start from Nick Blackburn, leading them to a victory to end their six-game skid, in spite of a scare thanks to the bullpen.

Ron Gardenhire gets a lot of credit for the way he manages the bullpen, and deservedly so, but last night I really thought he over-managed. After replacing Blackburn to start the sixth, Boof Bonser put a pair of runners on with a walk and a ground ball base hit. Yet, he came back to get an out on a liner back to the mound and then struck out Jamey Carroll on a nice breaking ball. Bonser seemed on the verge of working out of his sticky situation, but rather than allowing the former starter to try and retire Grady Sizemore and get out of the inning, Gardenhire went to Dennys Reyes. While Sizemore was hitting just .219 against lefties this season, he sported a .367 on-base percentage and 758 OPS, neither of which are really all that far below his overall marks. Admittedly, Reyes was probably a better match-up against Sizemore than Bonser -- and it was certainly tough to predict that Sizemore would rip a three-run homer off the lefty Reyes -- but I think this is a situation where Gardenhire really should have let Bonser finish the inning. The guy isn't a situational middle reliever; he's a converted starter trying to regain confidence.

Alas, Reyes let in both of his inherited runners and Bonser saw his ERA shoot up to 6.19, really through no fault of his own. It's just been that kind of season for Boof.

In any case, the rough patch between Bonser and Reyes ultimately wound up being irrelevant because Jesse Crain and Joe Nathan shut the Indians down the rest of the way while Alexi Casilla and Justin Morneau chipped in ninth inning RBIs to seal a comfortable 8-5 win.

9 comments:

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halfchest said...

Couldn't agree more.

I've always been a fan of just letting a guy work out that last out when they're in a jam. I can't fault him too much but I do get frustrated when managers concentrate too much on the matchup. I remember a game a year or two ago where Reyes came in got 2 outs on like 3 or 4 pitches. Instead of just letting him pitch to get that last out they pulled him and whoever it was that relieved him got lit up and gave up the lead.

Of course if Bonser had given up the homer we'd all be screaming why the hell didn't you put in the loogy!!??!!?

Joe said...

I think it was Gardy's plan all along to use Reyes if they got to the top of the order. I agree that Boof looked like he had mustered up the confidence to get out of the inning, but Gardy went with the manager's guidebook on this one. Gardy tends to do that a lot, I have seen him pinch hit a lot in American League games to get his lefty/righty matchup.

J. Lichty said...

Do the two runner that Bonser let on base, one a walk (and the line drive that he was fortunate to get an out from) really demonstrate that the runs were "no fault" of Bonser?

Reyes is a Loogy, if you are not going to use him in that situation, when do you use him? I have to say Gardy did a fine job on that.

While I think it was defensible to bring out the pen in the 7th, I think given 8-9 hitters coming up and Blackburn having just struck out the previous two batters, that is more of a close call than bringing in Reyes.

Nick N. said...

Do the two runner that Bonser let on base, one a walk (and the line drive that he was fortunate to get an out from) really demonstrate that the runs were "no fault" of Bonser?

Perhaps "no fault" was an overstatement, but he wasn't given the chance to strand the runners himself, which is unfortunate.

twayn said...

If you're going to play what if, you should mention that if Boof had caught that line drive comebacker cleanly instead of dropping it he could have started an easy triple play to end the inning, making Reyes a totally moot point.

Nick N. said...

If you're going to play what if, you should mention that if Boof had caught that line drive comebacker cleanly instead of dropping it he could have started an easy triple play to end the inning, making Reyes a totally moot point.

I kind of doubt that would have been a triple play. Casilla wasn't at second base quickly enough to pull off even the double play, and that's after Bonser had dropped the ball. Either way, I don't think anyone will be mistaking Bonser for a great fielder anytime soon.

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