Collins Whiffed In Yesterday’s Bullpen Mismanagement

Washington Nationals v New York Mets

After watching mostly every game that Terry Collins has managed with the Mets, it has become more and more apparent that Collins is truly lacking good decision-making skills in regards to the bullpen.

On Opening day the Mets are cruising. Up 4-2 in the 7th after putting up four runs against Stephen Strasburg.

Dillon Gee pitched brilliantly against a tough lineup and had the Mets in a position to start the year at 1-0.  Through six innings Gee had given up a single to Ryan Zimmerman in the first inning, a walk to Bryce Harper and a home run to Adam LaRoche in the second inning,before retiring 14 consecutive batters heading into the 7th, needing only 77 pitches.  His line going into the seventh inning:

6.0 IP – 2 H – 2 ER – 1 BB – 4 K – 77 PC

He strikes out Wilson Ramos to start the seventh on five pitches to retire his fifteenth consecutive batter, before Harper works an 8 pitch at-bat and ends up on first with a one-out single. Gee is now sitting at 89 pitches with a two run lead on Opening Day with a runner on first and one out. No big deal.

However 89 pitches is pretty darn close to the limit you want your pitchers throwing on a cold day in March especially in their first start of the year, as the starters aren’t completely stretched out like they are when they’re in mid-season form.  Also, the eighth-pitch AB to Harper was a long one, and it was pretty clear Gee was gassed and his stuff was fading as he simply could not put Harper away.

Gee had been sitting 88-90 on his fastball all day long with the occasional 87, and the occasional 91.  He got Ian Desmond to ground out to short for the second out of the inning.  A double-play would’ve been inning over. Again, not a huge deal.  We’re up 2 with 2 outs and a runner on 1B.  Gee is now at 91 pitches with LaRoche up at the plate.

Here are some other opening day starters numbers and pitch counts:

Looking at the situation from afar, you would think Gee was cruising, and it was okay to leave him in, but lets consider two things here:  

First, its Opening Day. The bullpen is as fresh as they are going to be all year long, and you only need one out to get out of the inning up by two runs in a game where Steven Strasburg is the opposing pitcher. 

Second, LaRoche is the only batter that has done any damage whatsoever against your starter today, a LONG home run in second inning when Gee had his best stuff.  Unless you have previously told Scott Rice that he had the day off, then this is the spot you use him.  Its the entire reason he is on the team.  He comes in to face the tough lefties late in the game.  If you bring in Rice to face LaRoche, you get a lefty on lefty matchup, with one man on, two outs, and a two run lead.  LaRoche is absolutely horrendous vs LHP.

Terry decides to leave in Gee to face LaRoche. Of course he does. Gee walks LaRoche on five pitches.  Gee was clearly tired during and after the AB.  He had trouble locating his pitches the entire at-bat with his now 87-88 MPH fastball, and sitting at 96 pitches on the day. OK.  At least, LaRoche didn’t hit a two run jack to tie it.  It’s a pretty easy decision now.

As risky as it was to let Gee face LaRoche, at least it didn’t cost you the lead.  Tell Gee “Great Job”, and bring in Carlos Torres to get the RH batter Rendon.  Let him leave with the lead to a standing ovation in front of a packed house on opening day.

Nope.  Terry strikes again.

I’m not sure if it’s Terry’s mismanagement of his bullpen as much as it is his ability to be the last man in the stadium to realize that his starter is done for the day.  At this point in time Drew Storen is on deck.  A manager has to realize that a pinch hitter is coming up next if you don’t get Rendon.

The National’ bench has Kevin Frandsen (RH) and Scott Hairston (RH), both of whom crush lefties. And Nate McLouth (LH), Danny Espinosa (S) and Jose Lobaton (S), all three who hit righties well. You aren’t getting a good matchup in the pitchers spot either way.  All the while Scott Rice & Carlos Torres are fully warmed in the bullpen watching the opportunity to exploit their individual strengths pass them by.

Gee gives up a double on his 100th pitch of the game to Rendon that swings the momentum back into Washington’s favor, and puts the tying and go ahead runs at 2nd & 3rd.  Still just needing just one out.

Collins pulls Gee, two batters too late, and brings in Carlos Torres to face pinch hitter Kevin Frandsen.

At least he waited until the pinch hitter was announced, unlike the Atlanta game last year for those of you who remember.

The Nationals subsequently bring in Nate McLouth, a lefty, to face a the righthander Torres in what is now a one run game, with the tying and go ahead runs in scoring position, and all the momentum now on the other side of the diamond.  You know the rest of the story.

Yes, Parnell blew the save anyway, but if Collins has Rice face LaRoche or Torres face Rendon with a two run lead and a runner on first, he wouldn’t have been confronted with using both Rice and Torres with practically ZERO margin for error.

Would you rather face an easy matchup with one on and two outs and a two run lead or a bases loaded jam with a run one lead?  What did Collins stand to gain by letting Gee pitch to either player?  He wasn’t throwing a complete game. It was the seventh for crying out loud.  He has to know that Parnell isn’t 100% right now, and getting that two run lead to the ninth is a must.

As it turned out Terry used his longman and best reliever in 2013, in Torres (sub 2.00 bullpen ERA in 2013) to face just one left-handed batter in a game that Terry ended up pushing into extra innings to tax his bullpen, one game into a 162 game season.

Terry had two chances to get it right, and go into the 8th inning with a 4-2 lead.  Rice gets LaRoche for the third out in that situation, and Torres gets Rendon out in a low leverage situation 9 times out of 10.

After Lagares tacks on his 8th inning laser shot over the LF wall, Parnell holds a 5-2 lead and we’re 1-0 to start the season folks instead of 0-1.

Doesn’t it seem strange that we were dominating the game until Terry Collins got involved for the very first time?  Anyway, in my mind, the Mets are 1-0. Terry Collins, however, is 0-1.