Of Innings Eaters and Eighth Inning Guys



I stink at math. Always have, which is why I'm a bit in awe of sabermetricians. My understanding of advanced metrics pretty much ends with OPS, which--as I'm sure someone would be happy to point out--isn't advanced at all. As a consequence, I peruse sites like this and read with interest about the various means of evaluating performance, even if much of the time I don't entirely understand what I'm reading. I can, however, count to 97 and 162, which are two numbers that stick in my craw on this morning following another Mets walk-off loss that didn't have to happen.

97 is the number of pitches Johan Santana was allowed last night before being pulled too early for the one-bazillionth time, in order that Jerry Manuel might place the game in the infinitely less trustworthy hands of Elmer Dessens, Pedro Feliciano, and, ultimately, Ryoto Igarashi.

On what planet does it make sense to remove your 31 year-old two-time Cy Young winner after less than 100 pitches in order to "get him out of there with a positive," as Manuel later explained his motive, as if Santana were some emotionally-fragile rookie just getting his feet wet in the bigs? Maybe I missed something, but I thought the object was to win, not to protect the psyche of someone who obviously has skin as thick as an elephant's.

How many times in the Manuel Era (and the Randolph Era, for that matter)  has an effective starting performance been ended prematurely, only to be wasted thanks to an under-talented and mismanaged bullpen?

The possibility of Cliff Lee coming to the Mets is exciting, but who among Mets fans has any confidence that he'll make the difference he should? So far this season he has almost as many complete games as walks, a ratio that would be sure to change once Manuel and Warthen start pulling him in the sixth or seventh, start after start. Lee's an innings eater, they say, but the Mets already have the ultimate innings eater in R.A. Dickey, a knuckleballer who could conceivably throw 180 pitches, no problem, but who under Manuel is time and again pulled at or around 100 pitches, regardless of how effective he's been. Why should we think Manuel would keep his grubby paws of Lee?

Which leads me to the second number I mentioned in the lede, 162 ... as in the number of 8th innings there are in a major league baseball season. Jerry blames games like last night on the lack of a dependable 8th inning guy, to which I say, find a guy who can pitch an inning a day every single day and I'll show you the moldering corpse of Iron Man McGinnity. If you let an effective starter pitch into the eighth when he can--even if it means letting him throw 120 pitches once in a while--you eliminate the need for an eighth inning guy. You mix and match, and even let your stud $12 million closer get a four or five-out save once in a while. You don't burn out your dependable set-up guys through overuse. You don't rely on a LOOGY trying to impersonate Jesse Orosco, or an erratic rookie with an ERA over eight trying to get out of the nest-to-impossible situation Igarashi was thrust into, last night.

I'm willing to give Manuel the benefit of the doubt on things I have no way of evaluating--leadership in the clubhouse, for instance. Maybe he's great in that capacity, I don't know. But when it comes to managing a baseball game, he's seriously wanting. There are worse tacticians, to be sure (as Manny Acta proved during the Mets' series in Cleveland), but that's damning with the very faintest of praise. The Mets can't win a championship under the charge of so inept a manager. And I don't need a math degree to figure that out.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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