Obtane and Inuse

Two of the most talented teams in baseball will likely be watching the playoffs from home this season and it's not because they simply didn't have enough talent.  Like the Cubs the last several years, their failure will be that they didn't have enough talent to overcome incredibly poor managing.

Boston Red Sox
Conventional wisdom says that when your team is winning a blow-out, you use as few pitchers as possible and as many batters as possible.  The reason you use the minimum number of pitchers is that you want to conserve your bullpen when you can because there will be days when you'll need them as fresh as possible.  And the reason you use the maximum number of hitters possible is that you want to keep everyone on your bench sharp, so when situations arise later in the season where you need a pinch hitter or have to make a double switch, you won't have to choose among the lesser known dwarves - Rusty, Slumpy, Funky and To-Be-Named-Later.  When an opportunity presents itself to get some free at bats for those guys - 'free' as in the game is not on the line but it's still more challenging than batting practice - you take it.

Unless you are Grady Little.

The Red Sox opened Friday's game against the Marlins by scoring a record 10 runs before the first out was recorded.  By the time the first inning was over, Johnny Damon already had 3 hits and the Red Sox were leading 14-1.  The Marlins had already used 3 pitchers.  While there have been a number of 6 and 7 runs leads coughed up over the last few years, there has never been a comeback from 13 runs down and only twice in major league history has a team come back from 12 runs down.  By the end of the third inning, the score was 17-1.   It wasn't until the 4th inning that Little made the first of 2 offensive substitutions.  Two.  So despite having a bench in which no one was hitting above .250, Little felt that those guys couldn't use the at bats.  

On the other side of the coin, Byung-Hyun Kim had been staked to an insurmountable lead.  So of course, Little takes him out of the game after the 5th inning and 87 pitches so he can give some more work to the third most used bullpen in the American League (behind Tampa and Texas, predictably).  The first pitcher he brought in was part-time starter Ryan Rupe.  Rupe promptly retired the side in order on 9 pitches.  Can't get much more effective than that, but what does Little do?  He replaces him with another reliever the following inning.  Rupe is the perfect guy to finish out the game because he's used to throwing lots of pitches, he's pretty clearly in command and has absolutely no chance of blowing a lead which at this point had been whittled down to 15 runs with 3 innings left to play.  Yet Little used 4 relievers over the final 4 innings of the game in a situation in which one (or none) would have accomplished the same result.  

The Red Sox have an outside chance of having three pitchers throw at least 100 innings of relief - Mike Timlin, Brandon Lyon and Ramiro Mendoza - and another, Alan Embree, on pace for close to 80.  The last World Series champ to have more than one on a staff was the 1992 Blue Jays.  The last champion to have three was the 1979 Pirates.  The Red Sox are currently on pace to throw 544 innings out of their bullpen.  In the last dozen years, only the 2000 Yankees bullpen threw more and won a championship, but their bullpen ERA was considerably better than Boston's 5.43.

What does all this mean?  Well, if you are a Red Sox fan, it means that Little is gonna cost your team the division title and possibly a spot in the playoffs because the bullpen will be worn out by the end of August.  And if anyone on the offense starts to tire or gets injured, he'll only have guys hitting .200 ready to replace them.  

If you are a fantasy baseball owner, it means that your Red Sox starters will lose even more potential wins due to bullpen meltdowns.  It also means that the Red Sox starting everyday players will probably slump in July and August because they haven't had any days off and that the bench players won't ever hit like they're capable.  

There are plenty of trade rumors floating around the BoSox these days, but unless this team gets a complete transfusion, they are going to fade away down the stretch.  

Minnesota Twins
OK, one more time.  The Twins have two starters with an ERA under 5.00 and both are very quickly approaching that: Kyle Lohse has an ERA of 10.20 in his last 3 starts and Rick Reed currently sits at 4.76.  And the one guy who could stabilize the rotation for them is still in the bullpen.  By the way, on Friday night Rod Gardenhire brought Johan Santana into yet another game where the run difference was greater than 3, which brings the total to 14 of 22 appearances.  Just for the record, Santana's ERA is now less than half that of three fifths of the rotation.  That bears repeating: if you double Johan Santana's ERA, it is still less than that of Kenny Rogers, Joe Mays and Brad Radke.  More inexplicably, Gardenhire still won't let him pitch when the outcome of the game is still in question, at the beginning, middle or at the end.  So, according to the way the Twins manager is using Santana, the best time to use your best pitcher is when the game has already been decided.  

The Twins are now two games behind the Royals and the White Sox are quickly making up ground, just 3.5 back of the Twins.  Unless Gardenhire wakes up and lets his team win at least one game in five by putting Santana in the rotation, the Twins, like the Red Sox, will be watching the playoffs on TV.

The Twins call up of Justin Morneau has to be questioned as well.  The Twins already had more first base/DH types than most softball teams and they actually had two doing a pretty good job already.  Bobby Kielty and Matt LeCroy have hit 8 home runs and driven in 37 runs in 58 games as the Twins' DH.  Overall, they have combined for 14 home runs and 58 RBI, which would rank 3rd in home runs and 1st in RBI among all DHs.  But apparently, that wasn't good enough for Gardenhire, so the Twins brought up Morneau, who was a hitting hurricane in the minors (.308 with 19 homers and 42 RBI split between AA and AAA), but had no place to play other than DH at the major league level.

After a torrid 3 game introduction to the majors, Morneau is hitting .225 with 1 walk and 11 strikeouts in the 40 at bats since.  It would not be surprising to see him continue to struggle, even enough to be sent back down to AAA by the middle of July.  Which means that not only do the Twins have to worry somewhat about his confidence being shaken from a demotion, but they've also started his arbitration clock a year early, likely costing them a year of cheap quality production down the line.  And they've shown a vote of no confidence to the guys they'll have to depend on down the stretch to produce as the DH.  Nice work - killing three birds with one stone.  Of course, they were your own birds.