It seems like we’ve been writing a lot about the Phillies pitching lately. Besides Jose Mesa coming in and Freddy Garcia going to the DL, there has been much drama surrounding the Phillies pitching staff all season. Sunday’s 17-5 blowout only added to the saga; but it also provided an excellent example of a baseball theory I read about the other day.
I was in Phoenix this past week and besides catching a D’Backs-Giants game, I picked up a copy of Baseball Prospectus’ Baseball Between the Numbers for the flight. The title of Chapter 2-2 especially piqued my interest, "Are Teams Letting Their Closers Go to Waste." I was thinking about it in the context of having an Opening Day start in the closer role; but it provided a different perspective on the role. The essay contends that the bullpen ace – usually the closer – is better utilized in the sixth through eighth innings of a ballgame. The outcome of those innings tend to have more "leverage" and thus the greatest impact on the final result. "60 percent of all highly leveraged situations occur in innings six, seven, eight," they say. You may recall that Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage were used this way before the closer role became en vogue.
The Phillies game on Sunday which ended 17-5 was a much more manageable 6-5 after five-and-a-half innings. Ryan Madson, Jose Mesa, Geoff Geary and Francisco Rosario each took to the mound and allowed a 3, 2, 2, 1 runs respectively. According to the Baseball Prospectus logic, the Phillies should have used their best bullpen pitcher in this situation. Granted, Brett Myers and Tom Gordon are on the DL unavailable, I wonder if Charlie would have considered such a move in this situation. This could be a new role for Myers and allow Gordon to reclaim his closer role. I doubt it will happen, but it is an interesting proposition in light of the bullpen issues.
UPDATE: Phillies promote righty Kyle Kendrick from Reading to fill in for Freddy Garcia in the rotation. Kendrick will start on Wednesday is 4-7 with a 3.21 ERA and 2.8 K/BB.