The thing about baseball is when you make a decision, you obviously know the result. You don’t, however, know what could have happened if you had gone another way.
In the sixth inning of Sunday afternoon’s loss against the Phillies, there was one of those moments. Up one-nothing, Paul Sewald had two outs and two runners on when Nick Williams was announced as a pinch hitter. Jerry Blevins, whose job it is to get lefties out, was ready and raring to go in the bullpen. Mickey Callaway decided to stick with Sewald and just when it looked like he would get out of the jam, Williams knocked what would end up being a game-winning three-run home run.
While on the surface it seems like a no-brainer to bring in Blevins, once you look at the numbers, it becomes muddied. After developing a change-up during the offseason, Sewald has mostly dominated lefties this season. Even after yesterday’s home run, lefties are only hitting .220/.238/.341 off him. Further, prior to last night’s game, he had faced Williams once before, and that at-bat resulted in a strikeout.
As it was the sixth inning of what was at the time a one-run game, it is reasonable to want to save one of your better relievers for a tough situation later in the game. However, as the Cleveland Indians exhibited the last few years with Callaway present, he hadn’t been afraid to use the better relievers early in the game if the situation presented itself. With two runners on and a lefty at the dish, and the Mets having been unable to put runs on the board, this seemed like a time when bringing in the team’s lefty specialist made sense going by that thinking.
Later in the game, we saw that philosophy put into action for the first real time this season. Losing in the 8th inning on the road, closer Jeurys Familia was brought in. Maybe not bringing Blevins in earlier in the game was a wake-up call to Callaway and a reminder of how well-oiled his Indians bullpen was when they weren’t afraid to bring in Andrew Miller or Cody Allen before the 9th inning.
Further, Blevins has had success against Williams in the past. While Sewald had faced him once and struck him out in that at-bat, Blevins has faced him three times — 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Speaking to reporters after the game, Blevins had this to say about not getting in the game.
“I always want to pitch, it’s nothing new,” Blevins said. “Whenever I’m ready, I want to be in the game. I want to throw. I’m always disappointed if I don’t get in the game.”
There is an argument to be made that Blevins should have been brought in. There is also an argument to be made that Callaway made the right decision to leave Sewald in, Sewald just made a mistake. This is baseball, we will never know. All we know is what happened, and what happened was a decision that ultimately led to a Mets loss.