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Mets vs. Marlins Recap: Terry-ble

Questionable bullpen management haunts the 'Ropolitans in a 6-5 extra-inning loss in Miami.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I have to own up to my rightful share of blame for Friday’s loss. I got a bit too carried away with euphemism in the GameThread sub-headline, thus baiting the Baseball Gods.

And the Baseball Gods are any right-handed hitter that faces Eric O’Flaherty right now, as AAer Corey Braiterman elegantly pointed out here.

Friday night, Martin Prado got to play God, ripping a game-winning double down the first base line in the 11th inning off O’Flaherty.

Along with the Nationals’ win, this meant that the Mets’ division lead was trimmed to 5 games.

This does not mean freewheeling on the off-ramp to Panic City just yet. But Terry Collins’ bullpen management does chasten us all to regularly say our prayers.

Having O’Flaherty face Prado wasn’t Collins’ only head-scratching pitching decision of the evening, but it was the most egregious. Righties are now slashing .413/.491/.651 against O’Flaherty, with only three strikeouts in 73 plate appearances.  Prado already had four hits on the night.

Collins’ reasoning for keeping O’Flaherty in the game is mystifying at best: "You're starting to get a little thin down in the pen. So you think, 'Hey, at least let him face Bour with the slider.' That's who we were trying to get to."

Well, with two outs, the only way lefty Justin Bour would hit would be if Prado got on base. And putting Prado on base would put the winning run in scoring position. Which doesn’t seem like the best idea ever given O’Flaherty only had a 55.9% strand rate coming in. But even then, if this is your plan, shouldn’t you be instructing your battery to be sure not to give Prado a hittable pitch on 3-2 with the runner in motion?

It also probably wouldn’t have hurt to play the lines with the winning run on first so that you raise the chance of getting your mark to the plate, but…nah.

You may also ask why O’Flaherty was in the game in the first place if you were getting ‘thin’ in the pen (there were four other reliever options besides O’Flaherty, including, you know, your closer). Maybe you don’t want to push Erik Goeddel too far in his second big league game since mid-June, but he had last pitched three days prior, and had only put up 17 pitches so far. Having just gotten the first out of the inning with a runner at first, there did not seem to be any obvious need to bring in another arm yet, especially since Goeddel’s splits indicate he is at least as effective against lefties as against righties, and in fact has been slightly better than O’Flaherty against lefties.

Also, if you’re getting deep in a game, maybe not a bad idea to use your best options first and your worst options as a last resort. Or better yet, not at all.

Maybe you can’t totally blame Collins for the way the bullpen blew the 4-3 lead in the seventh which Yoenis Cespedes had supplied in the top half with his 11th homer as a Met. He made a call many managers would have made, as Sean Gilmartin started the inning against two lefties and gave up hits to both. But to do so would be to completely ignore (a) that Gilmartin actually looked sharp and Dee Gordon and Christian Yelich simply did a nice job of hitting to earn their pair of singles; and (b) Gilmartin has been pretty darn good this year, against both lefties and righties, while the guy you’re bringing in (Addison Reed) has struggled to the point where he was demoted to the minors earlier this year, and has yet to establish his credibility as a Met, or in pennant-race pressure.

It wasn’t long before both inherited runners scored, the go-ahead run on a walk.

(Footnote: Gilmartin was taken out because the righty Prado was coming to the plate. But Collins later leaves in the lefty with the Hall-of-Shame splits against the same hitter…)

You also have the curious case of Tyler Clippard pitching only one 10-pitch inning, coming on after Kelly Johnson’s dramatic two-out hit tied the game in the ninth. Why not keep him in a little longer with his place in the batting order not due up in the 10th? Clippard also was well rested, having only appeared three times in the previous seven days.

Relievers are strange creatures. Year-to-year reliability is not easy to find among them. At least one of O’Flaherty, or Bobby Parnell, or Green or Alex Torres may well prove to be a useful piece next season. But the in-season trends for this suddenly most important of seasons clearly indicate low-leverage usage until further notice. Also: using relievers in ways that defy their track record? Don’t do it.

What it will take for the manager of the Mets to realize what everyone else already knows is unknown. Hey, you can’t know what you don’t know, right?

All we can do is fold our hands, and hope somebody listens.

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Win Probability Added

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Big winners: Kelly Johnson, +38.1% WPA; Yoenis Cespedes, +31.3% WPA
Big losers: Eric O'Flaherty, -37.3%, ;David Wright, -35.7% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Yoenis Cespedes' go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh, +38.6% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Martin Prado's walk-off double, +44.0% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -59.6%
Total batter WPA: +9.6%
GWRBI!: Martin Prado (33.3%) / Eric O'Flaherty (33.3%) / Terry Collins (33.3%)