Managers Explain this One to Me
I made it pretty clear a few weeks ago that I love creative managers. Ones who don’t just play by the book, but guys who actually try something new to give their team advantages. I like ones that use common sense like bring in their best reliever (the closer) into the game in the 8th if it’s necessary rather than just letting him rot on the bench. That’s just one such example. But here’s one thing that’s been floating around in my head after a baseball conversation earlier in the season. Riddle me this: why don’t managers of poor teams throw their top pitchers in the bottom of the rotation to create favorable matchups? Why do all teams set their pitchers up 1-5 in order of best to worst?
Just looking at the MLB schedule for the day, if you’re Charlie Manuel and the Phillies for instance, why would you throw one of your better starters like Brett Myers against Brandon Webb who’s 7-0 and a perennial Cy Young contender, instead of say Adam Eaton or Kyle Kendrick? Wouldn’t it be in your best interest to set up Cole Hamels and Brett Myers against Micah Owings or Edgar Gonzalez instead? That’s not even a top example because we’re talking about two good teams. If you’re a poor offensive team like San Diego or San Francisco, this seems like it would be absolutely ideal. Your teams can’t hit so your aces lose matchups against other aces. Why not throw Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain against 4’s and 5’s, ditto with Jake Peavy and Chris Young? At worst, you probably end up with the same record. At best, you’re getting yourself more wins, which sounds appealing to me.
It’s not like it’s the playoffs where it’s a best of seven and there’s a need to win games early on. It’s not like the number one starter gets a whole lot more opportunities to pitch than fours and fives — they all usually get between 32 and 34 if they stay healthy. And if you wanted your aces to get one more start in, you could adjust the rotation to make it happen. So answer me this one: why don’t managers of inferior teams start creating mismatches by throwing their aces against other team’s worst starters, exploiting weaknesses? I can’t figure out why not, so maybe you can.