Okay, so you're Joe Maddon, you are down 6-4 to the New York Yankees heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. Your starter was bombed, giving up six runs in the first four and two-thirds innings. So who do you bring in? Why not Jon Switzer. He is able to get the last out of the inning by striking out Robinson Cano, which is fine and dandy. So why not leave him in for another batter, the leadoff hitter Hideki Matsui next inning. Might as well get another hitter out of Switzer, and indeed he does, as Matusi flies out.
However this is where Joe Maddon's game-calling becomes suspect. He allows Switzer to stay in and face switch-hitters Melky Cabrera and Sal Fasano. Cabrera walks and advances to second on a groundout, and Switzer then gets Johnny Damon to fly out. But even though this scenario played out well for the Rays, the fact that a batter batting right-handed was only advanced into scoring position, and didn't score against Switzer is remarkable in itself, and is about the best he has done in that situation this season.
The fact of the matter is, unless all three players due up in an inning are left-handed batters, then Jon Switzer is not a full inning pitcher, that much is apparent. I admire Maddon's conquest to try and put different players in different roles to set up for next season, but Switzer has been up for about 10 weeks so far, and it is clear that he is not a full inning pitcher. He is a LOOGY, pure and simple, there is nothing wrong with that, but that is what the numbers indicate his capacity as a pitcher is, and it isn't like we have a sample size issue, as Maddon keeps trotting him out for full innings despite a wide body of evidence indicating that he will fail.
Maddon does a disservice to both the team, and Switzer when he does this, much like Lou did last year when he tried to expand Trever Miller's role from that of a LOOGY. Listen, being a LOOGY is not terrible, and a successful one can be very important to a team's bullpen, but some players are not cut out to be anything more, and Switzer is one of them, yet he keeps being used inappropriately.
The numbers are clear. Left-handed batters are hitting .227/.300/.295 against Switzer for a .595 OPS, while right-handed batters are hitting .310/.388/.465, an .833 OPS, off of Switzer. What part of this is Joe Maddon not seeing?
Another gripe with Maddon is his continuing use of dead end veteran pitchers out of the bullpen over guys who had one bad outing and were relegated to the pines (Salas) or guys who struggled because the organization tried to screw with their delivery, and are trying to work their way back, but Maddon won't give them a chance (Orvella).
One of the things I always liked about Maddon was his seemingly keen ability to relate to young players. They seemed to like him, and everyone got along just fine, and he gave the young players on offense large amounts of playing time, like Upton, Zobrist, Navarro, and Young, when Lou would just bench all of them in favor of some crappy veteran like Travis Lee, Josh Paul (who has not been overused, contrary to popular belief), Tomas Perez, or Damon Hollins. To his credit, once the players got here, he gave them ample playing time.
However that line of thinking just went out the door recently, as Shawn Riggans, Salas, and Orvella have been left to rot on the bench in favor of crappy relief pitchers and Josh Paul. Something changed, and it has not been for the better. I have heard that Maddon has been putting out some kooky lineups recently because he wants to see who can play what while looking toward roles for next year. If that is the case, why are these young players being shunned upon by Maddon in key situations in favor of veteran players who do not have a .00000001% chance of playing any role in our post-2007 future? It makes no sense, there is no logical reason available to defend Maddon's allotment of playing time.
When Melky Cabrera stepped to the plate, Juan Salas or Edwin Jackson should have been in the game, plain and simple. The fact that Salas has pitched three innings since being called up is laughable. And while Jackson has not had a remotely good year, if you need outs early in the late innings, you turn to him. He is still talented and is still more a part of our future than those other dead ends, and even though he is statistically worse, if he is on the team, he needs regular work.
But the bad decisions kept rolling along. Shawn Camp was brought in the game for the start of the seventh inning, can someone please tell me why? Fact of the matter is, he is our best relief pitcher right now, and has been for the better part of the season, and since Seth McClung is being groomed in the closer's role, rightfully so I may add, Camp is now a setup man, all-purpose guy. Now, considering we had narrowed the New York lead to 6-4, wouldn't you think that maybe he shouldn't have been brought in at that point? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to bring in our best reliever at a time when we need a key ground ball? Maybe?
It's pretty simple Joe, Camp is to be brought in during a key situation when we need a double play. He gets 56.4% of his outs via the groundball, his G:F is 2.33, he is a groundball pitcher. When the game is close, you save him for either the eighth inning or a situation where the team has allowed a baserunner to get on and needs to keep the ball in the infield. That is what he should be doing, he excels at it. He should never pitch more than 1.2 innings, with the two-thirds being a double play from the previous inning with an economical pitch count. It is just that simple. You use our best relief pitcher in the situation where a team needs its best pitcher. Not just some random inning.
Let Chad Orvella go out and pitch that seventh inning, he needs the work. He may have had his struggles this year, but he is still one of our younger relief prospects who stand a decent chance of being a bigger part of our future down the line. And he needs work. Was he roughed up in his last outing? Yes, but no rough outing should ever mean a break of pitching totaling 11 days. He has not pitched since September 3rd. That is disgraceful, he needs work. Let the young man pitch. See if he can rebound with an eye on next year. Or is it that the DRO doesn't want to admit a complete failure on their part by screwing with Orvella's mechanics, setting him back at least a year?
The eighth inning, when New York has that 8-4 lead and it is clear that this will not be the Rays' night, that is when you use Brian Meadows, which to his credit, Maddon did. That is when you use Dan Miceli, those two awful dead end pitchers with absolutely no future here whatsoever. There needs to be a role reversal. The crappy veterans need to be playing the roles Maddon currently had young guys filling, and the young guys need to step up and get more PT in the current scenarios the crappy veterans are being used.
To his credit, Maddon seems to be utilizing Ruddy Lugo appropriately, and to be sure, this is not an all-out blasting of him. On the whole, I like Maddon. I may quarrel everyday with his lineups, but that is pretty inconsequential in the end. I like the fact that he is a good communicator and seems to have an open mind, two things that Lou was not. But the priorities on playing young players need to shift.
I want to see more of Edwin Jackson, Chad Orvella, Juan Salas, Brian Stokes, and Shawn Riggans, while seeing less of Dan Miceli, Brian Meadows, and Josh Paul. I want Shawn Camp and Jon Switzer to be utilized in the right roles, I want to see the future, not some painful reminder of the past.