After the second extra innings loss in three days to the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday Night, Orioles fans are pointing fingers of blame to multiple parties. The discussion has priamrily centered around the inclusion of Jason Garcia in the bullpen. As the Orioles attempt to get into the playoffs, the inclusion of a Rule 5 draft pick who has shown no success earlier this year is under scrutiny due to not being used in high leverage situations.
Who’s to blame for this scenario?
The trade of Tommy Hunter to the Chicago Cubs has come under intense scrutiny. The decision to do so already raised controversy from both sides and we talked about in on Bird’s Eye View. However looking back at both extra innings losses, the inclusion of Tommy Hunter in the bullpen would have allowed him to enter in an attempt to preserve the games.
On Sunday, Hunter could have entered to pitch against Trout or Pujols to prevent loading the bases. On Tuesday, McFarland after struggling to start the 10th inning could have been relieved to have Hunter face Zunino as a RHH. However, the limitation on dependable options in high leverage situations due to the Hunter trade is potentially weighing on the Baltimore Orioles.
Heading back to each of the games in question, there were options remaining in the bullpen. On Sunday, Brian Matusz recorded a strikeout on Kole Calhoun to get the Orioles to within one out of getting out of the inning with a runner only on second base. Zach Britton had not been used in this game yet and had not pitched since Wednesday having three days of rest since throwing 2.1 IP and 21 pitches. While the innings were a season high, the pitch count wasn’t high. Britton had pitched on similar rest in April (7th to 11th), May (16th to 17th), and June (9th to 11th). In a high leverage situation, Britton could have been an option to pitch against Trout or Pujols.
On Tuesday, the Orioles had Darren O’Day available in the bullpen. O’Day hadn’t pitched since Sunday and pitched only 1.0 IP with 18 pitches. Based off the Houdini acts that have been pulled by him through the year, O’Day would be have been a prime candidate when runners were on 1st and 3rd with 0 outs.
The other issue is the non-use of Jason Garcia. With the Orioles down by by three runs and a short outing by Chris Tillman on Tuesday Night, the Orioles could have easily gone with Jason Garcia. Instead, the Orioles went with Brian Matusz who put up a serviceable 2.1 IP. However, it eliminated that option moving forward. While every game is important, maintenance of the bullpen is critical as has been demonstrated by the Orioles and the Norfolk shuttle since 2012. Buck could have gone to Jason Garcia to eat up innings and potentially prove the point that the team can’t keep him on the roster at this time.
Overuse of the bullpen is often an extension over the failures of the starters to get deep into games. Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman both had awful outings resulting in poor command within the strike zone and the prevalence to give up the long ball. When your starters can not make it into the 6th inning, it will tax the bullpen. This effect becomes exasperated when this occurs within a three day time frame.
If the Orioles want to have a chance at the playoffs, we shouldn’t be focusing on the bullpen. We should be focusing on the Starters who were dominant during the 2nd Half of 2014 and led the team to the top of the AL East.
Let us know your thoughts. Who is to blame for the bullpen issues? Or do you have someone else in mind?