Heavy workload catching up to Mets setup man Fernando Nieve

1 Comment

After eight consecutive scoreless appearances Fernando Nieve finally gave up a run last night. Two of them, in fact, blowing a two-run lead in the eighth inning by serving up back-to-back homers to Joey Votto and Scott Rolen.
New York went on to win anyway, but Nieve’s incredibly heavy workload figures to catch up with him again if manager Jerry Manuel continues to lean on him. In most seasons the league leaders in relief appearances have 85 or so, basically pitching in every other game. Last night Nieve pitched for the third straight day and he’s worked 17 times in 27 games so far this season, which is a 102-appearance pace.
Mike Marshall, Kent Tekulve, Salomon Torres, and Wayne Granger are the only pitchers in the history of baseball to make 90 or more relief appearances in a season and Marshall is the only reliever to ever work 100 or more games in a season. In other words, if the Mets want to have Nieve available and effective in the second half they’ll want to ease up considerably on the workload.
And he’s not alone. Reds closer Francisco Cordero and Dodgers setup man Ramon Troncoso have already appeared in 16 games and Nieve’s bullpen-mate Pedro Feliciano is one of four relievers with 15 outings. I’m all for riding the hot hand (or arm) in the bullpen, but riding them into the ground in April and May seems short-sighted. It’ll be interesting to see if Manuel eases up on Nieve or if Nieve begins to struggle so much because of the overuse that the manager stops leaning on him for performance reasons.

Matt Carpenter hit a standup bunt double

Getty Images
3 Comments

The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.

The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.

In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.

Most of the time anyway.

Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:

One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.

The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.