On leverage and deck chairs

April, 16, 2010
4/16/10
2:08
PM ET
I know I'm supposed to stop picking on the poor Royals, but what if I let someone else do it for me? Someone like SweetSpot Network blogger Craig Brown?
Remember, back in Spring Training, when I presented a Daily Hillmanism? Just random nuggets of knowledge from our fearless leader. It had pretty much run its course and I was prepared to let it go. Then he unleashed a doozy.

Asked by the traveling reporters if he considered bringing closer Joakim Soria into Tuesday’s seventh inning, Hillman offered this:

“There’s a thought there but, No. 1, it’s a very unusual time for Joakim Soria to pitch in a ballgame. No. 2, you’ve still got those same bats coming up in the ninth in a higher-leverage situation — because it is the ninth, even if there are no runners on base.”

I added the emphasis because Hillman’s use of term “high leverage” is impressive. It would be more impressive if he knew what the hell he was talking about.

Following his logic, the higher the inning number, the higher the leverage. Sometimes, it actually works that way. Other times, like Tuesday, not so much.

--snip--

This brings me to a great side point: The Royals bullpen is currently stocked with eight pitchers. Eight! Do you have any idea how absolutely insane that is, to have a total of 13 pitchers on a 25-man roster? And only a handful of them are worth anything. It’s almost as if GMDM and SABR Trey realized they don’t have the quality, so they went with the quantity. Exactly how is that a solution?

“Hey, most of our relievers suck, what should we do?”

“I know ... Let’s add more!”

There's one reason to have eight relievers, and one way to use eight relievers.

The reason is that your starters are just absolutely terrible. But the Royals have Zack Greinke, plus four other guys who can usually give you five or six innings. It's not a good rotation, by any means. But it's not historically awful.

The way to use eight relievers is to just go nuts with the matchups. Lefty vs. lefty, righty vs. righty, groundball pitcher vs. high-ball hitter, etc. Granted, that works better if the relievers are actually good pitchers, but theoretically it could work, sort of maybe, with a bunch of relievers who have limited but definable skills.

Hillman doesn't usually manage that way, though. He brings in one guy and sticks with him until he gets in trouble, then tries another, etc.

Anyway, to this point it's been a pretty epic bullpen fail. As Bob Dutton writes today, someone had to pay and that someone is Roman Colón, who's been DFA'd after pitching the grand total of two innings. His replacement? The immortal Josh Rupe, who sports a 4.95 career ERA in the majors, 5.86 in Triple-A.

You know, it's really a shame that James Cameron made that little movie about the big ship a few years ago. If he hadn't, the Titanic might be fading from the public consciousness, and we could replace that tired old phrase with "rearranging relievers in Kansas City's bullpen."

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