The New York Mets are off to a good start this season, taking two out of three games against the San Diego Padres. With dominant pitching performances by Johnathan Niese and Matt Harvey and a total of 19 runs in the first two games, the Mets bullpen was not needed for much. However, during the final game of the series, starting pitcher Dillon Gee only went six and one-third innings which gave extra work for the bullpen.
Scott Rice was the first to come out of the bullpen and gave up two hits, but was able to complete the sixth inning. When the seventh inning started, manager Terry Collins decided to keep Rice in the game to pitch against left-handed hitter Mark Kotsay. However, the Padres made a change and sent in right-handed hitter Chris Denorfia to hit against Rice. This led Collins to make a pitching change and bring in a right-handed pitcher.
While conventional wisdom says that Collins made the right move, in reality, it was not. Collins brought in right-hander Jeurys Familia, who gave up an earned run in one-third of an inning and struggled with his command. Now hindsight is 20/20, it wasn’t this specific scenario that made Collins wrong, it was the general philosophy. Collins always makes constant changes with his bullpen to avoid his left-handed pitchers facing right-handed hitters and vice versa. This conservative approach is something that covers the manager’s moves. He is going by the books, so if it doesn’t work then it can be said that the move was right, but the players didn’t perform.
Collins is not the only manager to have this philosophy. Most managers in today’s game find it second nature to make quick moves in their bullpen to avoid questioning on their decisions. However, these bullpen pitchers are playing in the majors. They have to have some sort of ability to pitch well against the opposite hitters. If a manager has so little faith in their pitcher that they have to change pitchers every time a right-hand hitter is hitting against one of his lefties, then he shouldn’t be on the team.
When quick, constant changes are made like this, there is risk involved. It can wear down your bullpen staff quickly and if the game is close, it will put the team in a serious disadvantage if it goes extra innings. Collins’ biggest flaw as manager is how he manages his bullpen, and how he handles it in this season could determine how well the Mets finish this season.
The only benefit of the doubt Collins should get is that the Mets bullpen is very weak, so it’s understandable why he is quick to change pitchers based on right or left-handed matchups. However, instead of matchups, Collins needs to determine who his strongest bullpen pitchers are and get them settled into roles for certain innings. Until then, the Mets bullpen will continue to be a mess due to over-managing.
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