Dusty Baker is one of many managers across baseball who utilizes his bullpen according to the save rule, which means that the closer doesn’t enter the game until his team has a lead between one and three runs in the ninth inning. In this afternoon’s game against the Pirates, the Reds entered the bottom of the 11th tied 4-4. Reliever Alfredo Simon entered for a third inning of work as flamethrowing closer Aroldis Chapman sat in the bullpen.
After Pirates catcher Russell Martin reached base on a throwing error by shortstop Zack Cozart, Simon walked Pedro Alvarez to put runners on first and second with one out. In fairness to Simon, he has been good since being claimed off waivers by the Reds from the Orioles in April last year, but he is no Chapman. Chapman strikes hitters out at nearly twice the rate and in a situation where you want to limit base-advancement (made easier on balls put in play), strikeouts are king. But Simon stayed out there, only to give up a two-out, walk-off RBI single to Travis Snider.
Three of the four highest-leverage situations in the game belonged to Simon — one in the tenth and two in the eleventh. It makes logical sense to use your best reliever in the game’s most important situations, but unfortunately, Baker sees his bullpen through the unfortunate prism of saves.
After the game, Baker had this to say:
Dusty, asked about handling of bullpen: “You can’t put in Chapman all the time. … I don’t know man, maybe you should come down & manage.”
— Enquirer Sports (@ENQSports) June 2, 2013
Chapman has pitched once in the last six days.