We haven't done too many reactionary looks at Joe Maddon's decision making here lately. Frankly, he hasn't given us much of an opportunity to. However, a situation arose in the top of the 10th inning last night that merits discussion.
For those that don't remember, here's the scene: top of the tenth inning, Dan Wheeler has been brought in to pitch for the Rays, replacing Rafael Soriano. Jorge Posada is pinch-hitting for Francisco Cervelli, with Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson on deck. And then boom went the dynamite - Posada hit a homerun off Wheeler, giving the Yankees the go-ahead and winning run.
Now, let me start by saying that I don't think there is much Maddon could have done differently. Bringing out Dan Wheeler to face the switch hitting Jorge Posada doesn't look to have been the best move in hindsight. Sure, results could have been different had Maddon gone with another pitcher, but the process in making the decision was defensible. He had Wheeler, Randy Choate, Lance Cormier, and Andy Sonnanstine unused in the bullpen. I do not think Balfour was available or else he'd have likely started this inning, making this post moot. Let's take a look at the possible scenarios Maddon had to choose from heading into the inning:
A. Dan Wheeler faces the switch hitting Posada and the right handed Jeter, Randy Choate faces the left handed Curtis Granderson.
B.Rafael Soriano, having thrown just 11 pitches in the 9th, comes out to face Posada, Dan Wheeler faces Jeter, Choate faces Granderson. Cormier or Sonnanstine can take over after.
C.Lance Cormier pitches the entire inning
D.Andy Sonnanstine pitches the entire inning.
I'm inclined to believe that option B would have been the Rays' best bet. I know Soriano had pitched the two days prior, but he only threw 11 pitches in the ninth inning and would almost certainly be unavailable for tomorrow night's game anyway. Posada is so good from both sides of the plate - his career wOBA's are .379 versus righties and .373 versus lefties - that bringing in a specialist like Wheeler is nearly pointless. With Cormier and Sonnanstine able to pitch multiple innings, the use of three pitchers in one frame wouldn't be so costly. Again, that is the benefit of hindsight.
If Maddon felt like he didn't want Soriano to throw any more pitches, then I respect that and I agree that option A was the right way to go if that was the case, despite Wheeler's struggles against left handed bats (career 4.79 xFIP). Sadly, it didn't work out and Posada hit a home run, sending the Rays to defeat. Call me a homer, but even though the result was poor the process behind the decision was solid.
What do you think?