Jarrod Saltalamacchia is having the worst of weeks

38 Comments

Don’t blame Will Middlebrooks for the fluky obstruction call that ended Game 3. Don’t blame umpire Jim Joyce, who made the gutsy choice to call it and give the Cardinals a 5-4 victory.

Blame the guy who made the bad throw in the first place: Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

The struggling Saltalamacchia shouldn’t have even been in the game; Red Sox manager John Farrell admitted afterwards that he blew it by not double-switching in David Ross for Salty when he brought in Brandon Workman to pitch the bottom of the eighth. Salty had just grounded out with two on to end the top of the eighth.

There was also a great case for pinch-hitting for Saltalamacchia against left-hander Kevin Siegrist to start the seventh. Salty struggles against lefties anyway, and he’s been awful against everyone of late, striking out 19 times in the postseason. He fanned in that at-bat, and then Farrell pinch-hit Will Middlebrooks for Stephen Drew with one out and Jonny Gomes for the pitcher’s spot with two outs. If Farrell was going to go hog wild with pinch-hitters anyway, he should have had Gomes lead off and Ross bat for the pitcher.

On the crucial play in the ninth, Salty’s initial mistake was to throw the ball to third in the first place. One of the most effective relievers in the league was on the mound in Koji Uehara. One of the worst hitters in the league, Pete Kozma, was due to bat next with two outs. Even without taking that into consideration, the smart play was to put the ball in his back pocket. Given the matchup, it was a no-brainer.

But Salty made the throw, and it was a bad one. It was the second straight loss for the Red Sox swinging on an errant throw to third base. In Game 2, that throw was made by Craig Breslow from behind home plate. But the ball only made it to Breslow because Salty decided to keep his foot on home trying to handle Jonny Gomes’ relay instead of coming off the base to handle it. So, Salty had quite a hand in that loss as well. Throw in his struggles at the plate, and it seems unlikely that we’ll see him back in the lineup in Game 4. The free-agent-to-be will also sit out Game 5 with Jon Lester pitching (Ross has turned into his personal catcher), so it’s possible Salty has made his last start for the Red Sox.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
11 Comments

The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.