Second Guessing Joe Maddon’s Bullpen Moves

A major league manager is often second guessed for the moves he makes. The second guessing begins hours before the first pitch when the lineups are posted.  As the action unfolds the argument about the bunt play, the hit and run, the squeeze play, whether to send a runner or not, and when to pinch hit are all debated but nothing can escalate faster and draw more of an argument then pitching changes.

A manager will be criticized for having too quick a hook with his starting pitcher or he’ll be questioned as to why he left his pitcher in one batter too long. These arguments are almost always result based arguments as the logic behind them becomes secondary to what transpires on the field. This is what happened to Joe Maddon and the Rays on Saturday afternoon in the Bronx.

The Rays were already trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 5th and Alex Colome had loaded the bases for the second time on the afternoon and then walked Zoilo Almonte as the Yankees extended their lead to 3-1. With the walk Joe Maddon went to his bullpen and brought in Alex Torres. Maddon had summoned Torres out of the bullpen 9 times on the year and Torres had delivered 18.1 scoreless innings allowing just 4 hits striking out 24 and walking 5. His dominance continued Saturday as he struck out Jayson Nix and David Adams to end the inning.

The Rays came back in the top of the 6th inning and took a 5-3 lead on the strength of a grand slam off the bat of Wil Myers. To protect the lead Maddon stuck with Torres to work the home half of the 6th inning and he retired the side in order. He struck out Chris Stewart, retired Brett Gardner on a pop out, and got Ichiro Suzuki to ground to 2nd base to end the inning.  He finished the inning with 26 pitches and 16 for strikes.

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Since Torres hadn’t pitched since Tuesday evening and had been so dominate in his 1.2 innings of work many felt that he would come out and work the 7th inning but with the heart of the Yankees order due up Joe Maddon elected to bring Joel Peralta into the game.

In addition to the heart of the Yankees order due up – the first four scheduled hitters were left handed batters. Joel Peralta is often referred to by Joe Maddon as the best left handed reliever in baseball in reference to his ability to retire left handed hitters holding them to a .169 average (11 for 65).

This was not a case of Joe Maddon being rigid with his bullpen as he normally goes to left hander Jake McGee to work the 7th inning and Joel Peralta in the 8th inning. Although it was a change from the norm it was  not the first time he has called on Peralta to come into a game in the 7th inning to work against a string of left handed hitters.

On June 2nd against the Cleveland Indians he entered the game in the 7th inning with the Rays holding a 7-3 lead to face Michael Bourn, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, and Nick Swisher. He allowed a lead of single to Bourn but he was erased on a caught stealing and the Rays went on to win the game 11-3.

Saturday in the Bronx didn’t work out as well as it had in Cleveland. He walked Robinson Cano to lead off the inning, allowed a 1-out double to Lyle Overbay, and issued the unintentional/intentional walk to Zoilo Almonte to load the bases. He did not have any answers for his performance simply saying “I couldn’t find the strike zone, none of those pitches were working for me today. I was trying really hard to throw the ball over the plate and I couldn’t find a way to do it. So, bad day.”

Jake McGee was brought in to the game and struck out Jayson Nix before walking David Adams to draw the Yankees to within a run at 5-4.  With the bases loaded and 2-out Yankees manager Joe Girardi sent Vernon Wells to pinch hit for Chris Stewart and Wells delivered with a double to right center field that the umpires called fan interference on which allowed them to use their discretion on whether to allow Almonte to score from first and give the Yankees a 7-5 lead.

For his part McGee said that he was trying to make Wells beat him on a pitch away “He swung through a pitch away earlier in the at-bat, so I figured if I make him beat me away. I don’t want to miss with a pitch middle in and have him turn on it in that situation. It’s really frustrating, especially when you’re so close to getting out of the inning. If I make a pitch right there or if I even just make the hitter before put the ball in play, we have a chance.”

Should Joe Maddon have stuck with Alex Torres who had only made 26 pitches and had not pitched since Tuesday night? Should he have gone to Jake McGee to work his normal 7th inning and held Peralta to the 8th? Or, did Joe Maddon make the right pitching moves paired with poor results?

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Quotes from –  Rays let one get away after Myers’ grand slam by writer Bill Chastain




I am a fan of all sports but am most passionate about baseball. From the fanatical to analytical, nothing about the game escapes me. Being born and raised in Northeast Ohio I'm very familiar with the heartache and pain that sports can bring and hope that I bring some understanding of the other side to my coverage. I will focus mostly on baseball but also cover the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the most electric franchises in all of sports. Always willing to converse about any sport and have only one rule and that is be respectful at all times.