Bob Melvin

Bob Melvin gets bailed out by overpowering Verlander

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The A’s made the most impetuous decision of the postseason in starting Sonny Gray over Bartolo Colon in Wednesday’s Game 5, choosing a rookie over the guy who finished second in the AL in ERA based on one excellent performance.

And how’d the follow that up? By treating Game 5 against a completely dominant Justin Verlander as if it was a typical mid-May, regular-season game. You just know that Rays manager Joe Maddon would have pulled out all of the stops tonight. A’s manager Bob Melvin pulled out none of them.

I’ll admit, I often criticize the other way in October. Managers tend to overdo it and try to force the action. Heck, Jim Leyland was guilty of that tonight when he had Jhonny Peralta and Prince Fielder working a two-strike hit-and-run with Fielder on first in the second inning. It turned into a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play.

Melvin, though, did nothing. After Gray gave up a two-run homer to Miguel Cabrera in the fourth, Melvin waited until Gray loaded the bases to get someone, anyone up in the pen. In an elimination game. With guys like Jerry Blevins and Jesse Chavez completely unused in the series and pretty much guaranteed of never taking the mound in the sixth through ninth innings of the game.

Gray got out of the inning and was sent back out for the fifth, an inning that started with a walk to No. 9 hitter Don Kelly. Melvin stuck with Gray anyway and was rewarded with a scoreless inning. At that point, I’m not sure anyone expected Gray to be sent back out for the sixth, but there he was. Two singles later, he was done. Dan Otero came in and nearly pitched out of the jam, only to give up a run when Josh Donaldson and Alberto Callaspo couldn’t quite work a double play.

Then there’s the offense. I don’t know how complicit Melvin is here, but it was simply astonishing that no A’s hitter tried to test the hobbled Miguel Cabrera by bunting down the third-base line. Cabrera played Coco Crisp to bunt, but if anyone else could have dropped one down with any touch, it would have been a single. Now, I can’t imagine laying a bunt down against Verlander is an easy assignment, but it has to have a higher success rate than most of the swings the A’s were taking.

Of course, all that being said, none of it really matters. Verlander was better than the A’s, and there’s nothing Melvin could have done that would have changed that outcome. I thought Colon should have started tonight (with Gray ready to step it at any sign of trouble), but the rookie did just fine on the big stage. If Gray had been pulled earlier and if the A’s could have picked up a bunt single or two, maybe they would have lost 2-1 instead of 3-0, but they still would have lost.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the excaption because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.