During the final two games of a three game set at the San Francisco Giants, John Farrell became the latest manager to completely fail at managing a bullpen based on arbitrary roles.
The Boston Red Sox lost the game on Tuesday night on a walk-off walk in the bottom of the ninth inning. With the bases loaded and the game tied, Farrell made a pitching change, but not to the best reliever on the team, Koji Uehara; instead, he brought in Brayan Villarreal. Villarreal promptly walked Marco Scutaro on four consecutive pitches, allowing the game winning run to score.
Uehara had not pitched in the previous three days, so it was not a work load issue; Villarreal was not the best option at that point, but Uehara remained in the bullpen, because it was not a save situation yet. This speaks to the terrible bullpen management style, not just of Farrell, but of nearly every manager in MLB.
This misconception that a closer is to be used in save situations in the ninth inning or later only is absolutely absurd. The best pitcher should be used in the highest pressure late inning situation.
Then on Wednesday, the Red Sox beat the Giants in an absolute rout, 12-1. For those who stuck around to see the ninth inning, who took the mound? None other than Koji Uehara. With Uehara having not thrown in four days and an off-day Thursday, Farrell put Uehara in to get some work.
Yup, that’s right, Farrell decided not to use his best reliever in a game deciding situation, but did use him to close out a 12-1 ballgame. Baseball has to get away from this maddening use of closers, and start using the best reliever in the most important times.