I don’t understand this era’s baseball managers use of closers.
I’m old. I started following baseball in 1948 or 49, the Jackie Robinson era. That was an era before managers started using new statistical measures in making their decisions. In those days a starting pitcher stayed in unless there was some game- specific reason to replace him. Starting pitchers had only 3 days off between starts. It was different baseball.
I understand that replacing a pitcher with a closer has statistics behind it. But sometimes modern managers decisions on pulling pitchers make no sense to me.
Saturday’s (May 10) National’s game in Oakland is a perfect example. Starter Tanner Roark was pitching great, had a 3-1 lead, and had thrown less than 100 pitches in the 8th inning with 2 outs. But there were some action in the A’s 8th that could have upset him and a serious pinch hitter was up next. So Williams took him out and put in Tyler Clippard, who got an easy out. When Clippard is hot he is as good as anyone in blanking the opponent. From that one out he seemed to be in good form. That substitution was ok with me. But then when the bottom of the 9th came around Williams put in Soriano. That made absolutely no sense to me. (I said that before Soriano blew the save.) Soriano is perhaps the best closer in the league. But any pitcher can have an off day. It’s always a gamble when replacing a pitcher because, apparently, the bull-pen work doesn’t give indication of whether the pitcher has his stuff today. If the top of the 9th had been so long that Clippard might have gotten cold I’d understand perhaps replacing him at that point. That wasn’t the case. The Nats went down quickly in the top of the 9th.
I gather there is some unwritten promise to 8th and 9th inning closers that they can pitch all-out to get through the inning and then can rest, because they know they will only be used for one inning. But would Clippard object to pitching the 9th after a short interval after facing just one batter? And if he got into trouble Williams could still have brought in Soriano.
Another thing, if a closer fails to close and the game is tied, there is one less pitcher on the bench to use if the game goes many extra innings. (That argument only holds in National League parks in that pitchers are often pulled for pinch hitters in tie games.)