Monday, July 28, 2008

Leyland Fumbled Closer Situation

I have said it before. Jim Leyland is a terrific manager.
For proof, all you have to do is recall what the Pirates, Marlins and Tigers were before he arrived. His only real failure was with the Rockies. And Leyland has taken accountability for it, in addition to leaving a lot of money on the table when he left.
But this season has not been the best for Leyland. Seems like a lot of his decisions end up blowing up in his face. The latest involves replacing closer Todd Jones with Fernando Rodney.
Evidently, Leyland didn't tell the beat writers about it Saturday night and made an announcement instead about the change on his pregame show Sunday on The Ticket. Then, despite protecting a four-run lead, he felt compelled to use Rodney for five outs Sunday, leaving him out of the closing role here tonight in Cleveland after throwing 42 pitches.
In addition, Joel Zumaya, the Tigers only other viable option other than Jones to close, left Sunday's game with an arm injury.
That leaves Leyland pretty much with Jones tonight. I have no issue with the decision. Leyland had to do something because Jones just hasn't been pitching well. Friday's loss to the White Sox, in which Jones couldn't close, was the most significant of the season.
The timing wasn't good, though. And why the announcement? Just let Rodney close for a game or two. Then he could have gone back to Jones at anytime - and it wouldn't have been issue.
The idea should be to keep running the hot hand out there. If it's Rodney, so be it. If it's Jones, so be it, too. The way that whole thing went down Sunday overshadowed what was actually an important victory for the Tigers.

Random Thoughts

- Training camp fights are common and harmless, if nobody gets hurt or they don't linger emotionally into the lockerroom. And I do like the fact Dewayne White and Jeff Backus seem to be pushing each other this spring.

- Josh Smith would be ideal for the Pistons, but even the Hawks aren't that stupid, are they?
- The trade deadline is this week. And yes, I still think the Tigers should be buyers. If they give up on the season, it will be profoundly disappointing.

12 Comments:

Blogger maddog52 said...

I agree with you Book the Tigers should be sellers not buyer. WHy not go for a guy like A.J. Burnett and throw Nate Robertson in the Pen. Personally I'd think he'd make one hell of a closer. I think he is a Dud as a starter. Hell I personally think Zach Miner is better starter then Nate. Or is A.J. Burnett to expensive? We got an abundance of outfielders. You think maybe Sheffield or a package of Rayburn and somebody could intrigue them maybe. I don't think it would but it be nice.


I think it is awesome that Dwayne white is pushing Backus. Maybe it will cause backus to be more aggressive in games. Instead of getting burned every other snap. Uh Oh I am getting optimistic again I better stop while I am a head lol.

As far as the Pistons. Do you think Joe Dumars made the mistake by pretty much saying everyone is available? It be kind of cool to sit one on one with Joe and hear what he is thinking. Personally I say screw it put up with it one more year if oyu have to. Inject some youth (Maxiell or Amir Johnson) into the starting lineup and see what they can do. Then when sheed and rip expire go for the top dudes that will be available. But I would change just to change. TP for Artest taht is obsurd. TP and maybe a 1st round pick for Josh Smith would be cool. But hey it is what it is.

2:46 PM 
Blogger Jim15032 said...

Pat,

Re Jones Friday night. I saw the Quentin AB, and I really think that under the circumstances, Polanco should have been playing him deeper and more in the hole. Quentin had an 0-2 count, 2 outs. He's desperate to stay alive. He won't be trying to pull a low outside pitch, he'll just be trying to get his bat on it and punch it if it isn't in his wheelhouse. So a 3 hoppper makes it into right field? No, it was not a rocket.

As for Dye's HR, with a 2-0 count he could afford to look for a particular pitch, and from Jones, who hasn't thrown an inside strike on purpose all year, gave him what he was looking for: outside corner, zipper high. Even if Jones isn't smart enough to try to go inside, which is the last thing Dye would look for, isn't Pudge? Could Dye have gotten closer to the plate without standing atop it?

As for Leyland, his worst trait is loyalty trumping observation. Sheffield is batting .220 since June '07. That track record is long enough. Renteria was playing SS with a bad hamstring? Did any writer ask him why an injured player was in at SS, a fielding position? This isn't fantasy baseball, eight guys actually have to play in the field.

Or am I being silly?

Thanks for any reply, and more thanks if you can actually ask Skip and publish his answers.

5:49 PM 
Blogger SaraJo said...

Pat,

I think you really hit the nail on the head with this post. I agree with you that it was the right decision to pull Todd Jones, but it did not seem like Jim Leyland was thinking ahead to the next series by using Rodney the way he did. I know some of it had to do with Zumaya's injury (and early exist during the game), but normally Jim is much better about managing his bullpen. It is a little surprising.


I also just wnat to thank you for your posts and insight. I always enjoy reading them and listening to you when I can on the radio.

Sara

6:22 PM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

Book,

The Jones, Zumaya, Rodney triangle is a touble does not appear solvable and seems to me to transcend the managers decision making process.

Toss in the less than expected seasons of Verlander, Robertson and Rogers - then stir in the unexpected success of Galaraga - whom we expect to start failing but doesn't - and man - this whole pitching scene is a mess.

Bats that are hot when we don't need them so hot then cool when a clutch opportunity - and this is not managing issues. It is a managers nightmare to have a superstar team who all dud out on ya.

We are still in this thing - but we don't deserve to be there. But I'm not for hanging Mr. Leyland. Instead - if some how we get in the playoffs - the Skip deserves a ticker-tape parade.

Or maybe I'm thinking we should be holding the players responsible for their actions. I'm certain Leyland does. He just doesn't make it public knowlege.

8:49 PM 
Blogger Barry said...

Hey Pat, JL was given a bad hand. Tiger bullpen is a mess created by bad off season moves and there was pitchers available in comparsion to this year. I am glad Jones is no longer the closer. He did somehow do a good job as he blew only three games. How did he do that? Rodney actually throw a slider, it did not break much but it was a different speed then his change-up and fastball. I love to see him throw it one or twice an inning, three or four inches inside and let it break to the inside corner or the outside corner and let it break on the outside. You can tell the hitters are not fooled by the change-up, but the change-up has so much movement that hitters have a hard time hitting it. Rodney as a closer might work but history of injury is a concern over the long term.

7:59 AM 
Blogger Scott (Thinking Man) said...

Hey Pat,

I know you don't think the Tigers should be "sellers," but I think its becoming more obvious with each passing day that this is not a playoff team. In my opinion, the season was effectively over when Bonderman and Willis went down. You need to have 2-3 horses in your rotation to compete, and the Tigers, right now, only have one with Verlander.

With that in mind, I had a really wild idea. Why not explore moving Ordonez? The Rays have the top prospect in baseball who happens to be a starting pitcher ... David Price. He is supposed to have Verlander-like stuff and has completely dominated the minor leagues. A deal might be Ordonez and Todd Jones for Price and Baldelli or another prospect.

In my opinion, the Tigers need to shed themselves of some of these older, higher priced players. Moving those two, letting Renteria and Rogers go would give the Tigers money to 1. Re-sign Pudge (if he wants to be reasonable) and 2. Address the bullpen. I think the Tigers would be foolish to count on Rodney or Zumaya as their closer next year.

But you would have a rotation of Verlander, Price, Bonderman, Gallaraga, Robertson/Willis.

I'd like to see the Tigers build their lineup around Cabrerra and Granderson. I would bat them 3-4 with Guillen 5th. Baldelli, if he could stay healthy, might make a decent leadoff hitter.

Just a thought!

9:00 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Maddog52,
I don't think you'll see Robertson as a reliever. Burnett has been great, but it would cost a ton of prospects. I'm not sure the Tigers have the type anymore that would satisfy the Blue Jays. The Marlins and Braves have them already.
Caputo

11:38 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

jim15032,
No matter how deep Polanco was, he wasn't going to get that ball. The problem was that Jones threw him a fastball over the plate on an 0-2 count. Itwas the mistake that cost him his position as closer.
Caputo

11:40 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

sarajo,
Thanks for the compliment. I appreciate it. Leyland's greatest strength has long been considered his ability to handle his bullpen. Going back to his days in Pittsburgh, he has gotten the most from it. That hasn't been the case lately, that's for sure.
Caputo

11:42 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
The Tigers are a weird team, aren't they? The bullpen trio was so good in 2006. If they could only regain some of that magic...
But it doesn't seem likely.
Caputo

11:44 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Barry,
You make a great point. Dombrowski felt Curceta and Bautista would be answers. They weren't. And look what Dotel and Linebrink have done for the White Sox.
Caputo

11:45 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

scott (thinkingman),
I don't think you're necessarily wrong in your thought process. It's just they are too close, and have spent too much money on players, and sold too many tickets, to start thinking about next year - in my opinion.
Caputo

11:47 AM 

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