Dusty Baker’s bullpen mismanagement costs the Reds another win

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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:

Chapman has pitched once in the last six days.

Dusty Baker drops truth bombs

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Dusty Baker was fired last offseason despite leading the Nationals to 95 and 97-win seasons. This was not new for him. Cincinnati let him go after taking a miserable Reds team to back-to-back 90+ win seasons — three in the space of four years — and making it to the playoffs in his final two seasons. In both cases the team that let him go cratered as soon as he left. There are likely reasons that have nothing to do with Dusty Baker for that, but it seems like more than mere coincidence too.

I say that because every time someone gets to Dusty Baker for an interview, he drops some major truth bombs that make you wonder why anyone wouldn’t want him in charge. Sure, like any manager he has his faults and blind spots — more so in his distant past than in his recent past, I should not — but the guy is smart, has more experience than anyone going and is almost universally loved by his players.

Recently he sat down with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic to talk about life, baseball and everything, and once again the truth bombs were dropping. About the state of front offices today. About the different way black and white ex-managers and ex-players are treated. About what seems to be collusion on the free agent market. And, of course, about the state of the 2018 Nationals, who are likely to miss the playoffs despite being, more or less, the same team he led to those 97 wins last year. It’s an absolute must-read on any of those topics, but taken together it’s a “block off some time this afternoon and enjoy the hell out of it” read.

Two of my favorite passages follow. The first one is a great general point in life: always beware of people who spend more time telling you why they are successful than actually, you know, being successful.

In Cincinnati, no matter what I did or what we did — we brought them from the bottom — they were all over me, all the time, no matter what. If we won, it wasn’t winning the right way. They were like, “I don’t understand this mode of thinking.” Well, I don’t want you to understand my mode of thinking. That’s how I can beat you.

The second one is just delicious for what he does not say:

Rosenthal: Bryce Harper struggled for two-plus months. He didn’t struggle for two-plus months when you had him…

Baker: I know.

Based on the tone of the rest of the interview, in which Baker does not hesitate to say exactly what he thinks, it’s abundantly clear that he believes the Nats have messed Harper up somehow and that it wouldn’t have happened under him.

Like I said, though: there is a TON of great stuff in here. From a guy who, if you’ve listened to him talk when he does not give a crap about what people may say about him, has time and again revealed himself to  be one of the most interesting baseball figures of the past several decades.