MLB needs to address Rays’ latest absurd pitching move
MLB needs to take a serious look at what happened in Monday night’s Tampa Bay Rays-Boston Red Sox game and recognize that they have a problem to address.
The Rays entered Monday’s game against their division rivals short on pitching. They played a doubleheader on Thursday and used four pitchers in one game and three in the other. Seven pitchers appeared in Friday’s 9-2 loss to the White Sox and seven appeared in Saturday’s 2-1 11-inning loss to the White Sox. Four appeared in Sunday’s game. Emilio Pagan had pitched three days in a row. Adam Kolarek and Andrew Kittredge had pitched three games in four days. All were likely unavailable for the series opener against Boston.
So guess what happened?
The Rays fell behind early in the game 8-0. They scored three in the eighth off Nathan Eovaldi to make it an 8-3 game going to the ninth. But because they were so short on pitching, the Rays used third baseman Michael Brosseau to pitch the ninth.
The rookie was making his first pitching appearance in MLB and predictably had some struggles. He was essentially lobbing the ball in and allowed a run on three hits. Here’s what it looked like:
Mike Brosseau first MLB pitching appearance.
— Josh Tolentino (@JCTSports) July 23, 2019
Brosseau was clocked at between 57-75 mph on his pitches. The Rays scored a run in the bottom of the ninth and lost 9-3.
So why did the Rays use a position player in just a 5-run game? The statistical likelihood of making a comeback down by five in the ninth inning is below 1 percent. Also factor in that the Rays had 8-9-1 coming up in the bottom of the inning, and the odds of a major 9th-inning rally were even worse.
Why are people so mad about this? A five run deficit in the 9th carries a < 1.0% probability of winning with a negligible leverage index. This type of thing should likely happen more often if you're trying to maximize a season's worth of wins (and pitcher's arms and health). https://t.co/5lKDNCLLsx pic.twitter.com/HI9xdoKMQW
— Kyle Boddy (@drivelinebases) July 23, 2019
Pushing a reliever in that situation rather than save them for a game they’re more likely to win may make sense in an analytical way, but it’s just a horrible freaking look for the league. Teams down by five runs during a playoff race should be TRYING TO WIN, not conceding games. Why even play, why have fans, why do anything if you’re not trying to win? This sends an awful message to the rest of the team’s players and its fans.
The Rays are so hamstrung by a lack of attendance and revenue that they have pioneered some very creative strategies to field competitive teams, such as using an opener to begin games. One of the consequences of relying on so many bullpen arms because of a lack of starters is not having enough guys to pitch in five-run games.
This is a shining example of how some of the advancements in strategic thinking have made the sport WORSE. The league needs to recognize just how bad this sort of thing is for the health of the sport. Their first thought should be that the Rays either need a new home stadium in Tampa and not St. Petersburg, or a new home city. Their next thoughts should be how they can make rule and roster tweaks to avoid such embarrassing things like this from happening. And if games are of so little importance that you’re conceding down five in the ninth, maybe that should tell you 162 regular season games is far too many.