Throughout the 2000s, it became perfectly acceptable to challenge the likes of Mike Hargrove, Sam Perlozzo, and Dave Trembley. While the Orioles’ front office made the poor decisions upfront, there always seemed to be room for criticism as each manager wove their way through another losing season in Baltimore.
It might be time to question current manager Buck Showalter.
Showalter is specifically known, amid his preparation techniques and baseball IQ, for stellar bullpen management. Last night at Tropicana Field, however, one small decision seemed quite suspect.
Scene: bottom of the 8th, Rays and Orioles tied at three a piece. Darren O’Day on the mound after relieving starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen in the 7th. After walking leadoff man Evan Longoria, O’Day recorded a strikeout and a flyout in the heart of the Tampa Bay lineup. With Sean Rodriguez due up, Rays manager Joe Maddon went to the bench, sending left handed stick David DeJesus up to face O’Day.
Using wOBA, an advanced metric combining all aspects of hitting, this move temporarily made sense. O’Day has allowed left handed hitters a .310 wOBA over his career, including a devastation .394 in 2013.
Enter Brian Matusz.
Showalter opted to make a pitching change here, bringing on the left handed Matusz to face DeJesus.
Enter Jerry Sands.
Maddon went right back to his roster and summoned the righty Sands to pinch hit for the pinch hitter (DeJesus, for one, never made it past the on deck circle in this game).
Two straight balls and, as expected in a 2-0 count, Matusz fired Sands one final two-seamer over the plate.
Sands planted it deep down the left field line into the seats in fair territory.
Final: Rays 5, Orioles 4 (after a Delmon Young 9th inning home run).
So, Buck, why bring on Brian Matusz?
For one, Matusz’s wOBA facing 64 right handed hitters this year is 3.72, a point lower than his career .373 mark. While lefties have been held to a lowly .263 against Matusz, there is no reason he should be pitching to this side of the plate.
O’Day, meanwhile, has held leftied to a .267 wOBA in 2014.
Matusz is often praised for his ability to strand runners. Perhaps Showalter’s hope was that with the summoning of Matusz, he would strand the lead off walk and the Orioles could push toward the final frame and possibly extra innings.
Matusz leaves runners on base at a 73.2% clip. O’Day, meanwhile, strands 96% of runners aboard.
So why not leave O’Day in to face DeJesus? In a minute sample size, DeJesus is 0-2 off of O’Day in his career with a strikeout. Moreover, all numbers, particularly during this 2014 slate, point to O’Day being the better option to leave in this situation.
Matusz now holds an unseemly 3.91 ERA out of the bullpen this year along with his 5.37 FIP. To go further with that, he is only striking out 6.12 per nine innings while walking 3.96 per nine.
Making $2.4 million this year in his second year of arbitration, Matusz dashed all hopes to start this spring and has certainly not warranted much of a look at that cost moving forward into 2015. More importantly, though, is Showalter’s decision to call for this matchup in a tight contest when the one already at hand shows much more promise for the Orioles.
What’s up with that, Buck?
Image Credit: Keith Allison