Monday, April 26, 2010

Young Starters, The Bullpen and Perspective

The losing streak is making people mental. Even the beat reporters. This is what Peter Schmuck wrote following Saturday's game:

Though I understand the logic of removing Brian Matusz from tonight's game after he allowed two baserunners in the seventh inning, I've reached the point -- and I bet Matusz agrees with me -- where I believe he deserves a chance to get out of that jam. Once again, a pitcher gets taken out because he hit the magic 100-pitch count, but I thought the idea was to make these guys go farther into the game.

The fact that Matusz walked a guy and gave up a hit doesn't mean that he's not the best guy to pitch to the next batter, especially when the O's bullpen has given Dave Trembley little reason to be confident that the game isn't about to blow up in his face -- as it did again tonight....

It isn't Trembley's fault that the bullpen can't nail down a game, but at some point he's going to have to find out if Matusz is good enough to get out of a late-inning jam. If not tonight, then when?

I'm not picking on Schmuck; others on the Orioles beat expressed similar sentiments if not so stridently. And I would expect this kind of emotional reaction from the fans.

But Pete, calm down.

I'm a big fan of the "one more batter" technique. A guy's approaching his "pitch limit" at the end of the 6th, let him come out for "one more batter" to see what happens. If he gets that guy out, let him face "one more batter". Continue until he gives up a solid hit or walks somebody. It stretches out the pitcher a bit but doesn't put the guy in a position to hurt the team if he's gassed.

Dave Trembley did that on Saturday. He brought Matusz back out for "one more batter" and Matusz walked him. Trembley left him out for "one more batter" again and gave up a hit. He gave Matusz the opportunity to work into the 7th and he didn't quite have it. Going to the bullpen at that point was not an incorrect decision...people just didn't like the outcome.*

But the real issue here is Matusz and his development. I will ALWAYS side with the philosophy that errs on the side of caution when it comes to developing young starters. There's just too much at stake in pushing a potential ace like Matusz too far, too fast.

What would the O's have gotten out of it if they had left Matusz out there for 120 pitches and won the game? Get to 3-15 instead of 2-16? Whoopee. That's worth a gamble? Uh, thanks but no thanks. It's that kind of short term thinking that has plagued the Orioles' player development for more than a decade and has gotten poor results more often than not.

I thought this team could (and may still) make a run at .500 but the reality is that they're not getting the breaks they need. And even that goal is not worth rushing prospects or pushing young arms before they're ready.

Let's not forget that.

*Of course, I don't get pitching Matt Albers two straight games when Jason Berken and Cla Meredith are rotting on the bench. Albers has been fine this season outside of two outings...both came after they tried pitching him on back-to-back days. There are other arms in the bullpen that seem underutilized.

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