Black Jack

Closing or Finishing?

  Tonight's game is a perfect example of why I feel the closer's role is highly overrated in today's game.  Clayton Richard, 116 pitches, 6 baserunners over 8 innings.  When you are cruising like that, the extra pitches won't take a toll on your body.  This 100 pitch thing and 120 maximum idea is ridiculous.
  There's absolutely NO science behind pitch count limits...ZERO.  The pitch count has been passed off as science for a number of years now, but in reality it means nothing.

   But...because Richard was approaching 120, and it was a "save situation" ('cause remember, it's not about actually winning, it's about padding a closer's stats) we take Richard out of a game he is completely dominating.  What a bunch of crap!

  Every offense in the league would have been begging for the starter to be removed from that game.  When an offense is struggling, they search for ANYTHING to mix things up.  Bringing in another pitcher is just the ticket for their revival.  It happens all the time.

  Think about this: If Richard had been left in the game for the ninth inning and blew the lead, who would have been under the gun?  of course Ozzie would have because he went against the grain of closing!  But guess who's locker they are in front of right now?  Jenks... asking "why didn't you do your job?"  Welcome to pass the buck 101, otherwise known as baseball today.

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Dennis Byrne said:

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Jack, a think that you're absolutely right, but I'm not one of baseball's brain trusts who slavishly follow the book no matter what common sense tells them. Is there some rule now prohibiting starters from throwing a complete game? I'm old enough to remember when "complete games" used to be an important stat. The five starters for the 1959 Sox had 44 complete games--astonishing by today's standards. Basically, the team had two relievers of consequence, Staley and Lown, who both had ERAs below 3.00. I don't recall any of them too exhausted at the end of the season to pitch well.

Jack McDowell said:

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It's been a slowly evolving process ever since Tony LaRussa had success throwing Eckersley JUST in the 9th inning. But even during those years, the starters finished games. There's no reason to hope that two pitchers (or more) are good on a specific day when one is already in the flow and dominant. But even worse than last night are the complete games that never are seen anymore...the ones where your team gets a big lead early and you finish the game no matter if you give up 5 or 6 runs. That is a game where the entire bullpen can take a day off. Even if Richard finishes last night, because of the score there would have been guys warmed up in the 9th. That is just like being used anyway.

Noneck said:

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Jack,

Warren Spahn had a career record of 363-245. Do you know how many complete games he had? 382

Even in your day you averaged over 10 complete games during your good years. Does anyone do that now?

It must burn your butt that pitchers now a days work less and get paid more.

Jack McDowell said:

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Don't care about the money, just don't agree with the philosophy.

LeadDog said:

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Simple fact is that if Bobby saves that game, all is well. Sox win and Richard has HUGE confidence going into his next start, which is pivotal after his recent bad outings. Yeah, Bobby is struggling, but I'd still give him (or Thornton) the ball in that scenario. That's their job... and 90% of the time we win.
Buehrle, Floyd, Danks...they stay for the 9th. Richard? I go w Ozzie. And I woulda been wrong last night.

Jack McDowell said:

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You are repeating the same attitude and process that I disagree with. I realize that Bobby's job is to close games. My whole point is that it has become a joke how closers are used. Watch when a team has a 5 run lead in the 8th inning and then a reliever gives up two runs. Now it's a "save situation" so the closer HAS to go into the game. hurry up and get him ready, it's a save situation! It's become less and less about actually winning the game and more and more about padding stats.

Brian said:

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Monday's game is a perfect example of this closer mentality. I was at the game and watched Thornton blow away Longoria for the final out of the 8th inning. Despite Carlos Pena leading off the 9th, I knew there was no way that Thornton would be coming out for the 9th despite throwing like 10 pitches in the 8th and the fact that he is a hard throwing lefty who would be facing a left handed batter who strikes out a lot. No, it is the 9th inning and you need your closer there.

Why not let Thornton pitch to Pena and then bring in Jenks to face two right handed batters? Or why not let Thornton finish what he started?

I know Jenks struck Pena out, that's not the point. The point is that you shouldn't throw Jenks or anyone out there just because it is the 9th inning and that's the rule. Manage how you see fit, not how Tony LaRussa dictated things back in Oakland. Why is something that worked for Dennis Eckersly 20 years ago still considered to be the rule?

dcrosko said:

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I completely agree with you Jack as I never understood why pitchers come out of games when they are cruising like Richard was. If I was a manager I would go out on the bump and ask the pitcher if he feels well enough to go the entire game. Like you mentioned, last thing you want to do is give the other team confidence by bringing in another pitcher.

In my opinion, reason behind it all is money. Teams have too much money invested in their players and want to take extra special care of them. Mark Prior was always crying for the whambulance because he wanted to protect his prized arm. Go out there and throw the damn baseball. Your arm is suppossed to be a little sore after throwing a baseball. Then again, I'm not how much a major league season takes a toll on a pitchers arm

Jack McDowell said:

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Ask yourself one question, has this "protect the arms" philosophy reduced injuries over the last 15 years? No, actually the opposite is true. Why continue down this road then?

Rick S said:

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It seems pretty unfair to say that putting in Jenks was the wrong move. Jenks is part of the team and closing games is his job. Just remember, Jenks came out of nowhere in '05 and ended up finishing the deciding game of the World Series. He's proven he can deal with the ultimate pressure situation. For all we know, Richard may have told Ozzie he was tired. I don't know what sort of backroom conspiracy was hatched to keep starters from finishing games, but something tells me that the reason closers became the "in" thing was that teams were successful with this approach.

I'm more concerned and frustrated about the Sox' lack of offensive execution. For the second straight day, they could have put the game away. While Pods likely saved the team with his play this past month, there are signs of his usual yearly swoon. I hope I'm wrong about this, but Pods all but disappeared in the second half of '05 and was terrible in '06. Baseball, like all sports, has a short memory, but it should also be clear that Pods is a terrible outfielder, despite his speed. If only we could have made the Torri Hunter deal. I hope the down the road, the Sox look to add a superior glove man here and there. Now that steroids aren't so prevolently in use, the game is going back to speed, pitching and defense. In other words, real baseball.

Jack McDowell said:

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It's not that putting Bobby in was the wrong move. It is the fact that it has now become the "only move"

Rick S said:

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Well, it's an interesting debate and there is substance to your POV. It's interesting to note that in the '05 playoff run, when the games REALLY mattered, Ozzie torn up the Rule Book and let his starters finish. At the end of day, we lost last night. Now we have to rely on Torres having a decent debut to get back on track. I do have to say though that I like Tampa's speed/defense game. I hope the days of the juiced-up, muscled-up power hiter with a synthetically-quickened swing are done.

Do you believe there was a lot of steroid use back in your day Jack? (Not that it was THAT long ago!)

Jack McDowell said:

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Everyone sets the "steroid age" as 1999 on. What a joke. It began to come into late 80's. Real strong in the early 90's and peaked during the aforementioned timeline.

disop83 said:

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I completely agree with you Jack. When a player is in the 'zone' they shouldn't be removed for such a great game. It was Richard's game to win or lose. Let him have a chance to finish Ozzie.

swinner said:

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Jack, I agree with you on leaving Richard in, he was cruising. That said, If Ozzie was going to make a change, why not go with Thornton who only threw a few pitches the night before instead of Jenks who struggled. Now we'll get Jenks again tonight if there is a save situation as Ozzie feels the need to prove his point that Jenks is his closer. All in all the bullpen scares me these days. How many times do we have to see Linebrink putting guys on base? And why did they trade for Pena?

Jack McDowell said:

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Not sure about the Pena trade. He was struggling before they got him as well. Not sure how much back scratching goes on between organizations ie we'll take this guy and give you what you want with the idea that you'll do the same somewhere down the road? As far as not putting Thornton in, that is part of the closer equation. Closers are "entitled" to pitch if it's a save situation. If they are not allowed to "pad" their stats, then the manager risks an unhappy player. I'm absolutely NOT saying that Jenks is that type of guy, but rather the way things have been played out, that is what the risk is.

MLBfan said:

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I personally would have liked to see DeWayne Wise steal 2nd after being put in a a PR in the 9th. Ozzie kept him because of his speed and base running ability. Get yourself in scoring position. At that point the WS were only up by 1 run. Getting an insurance run changes the game.

Jimmymac120912 said:

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Jack,
Why do we continue to come back to this topic? I would much rather you talk about politics, because I agree with more of what you have to say. We are talking about a young pitcher who struggled badly his last three outings. Ozzie did not want him to finish that game in chance to have him lose it on his own regards. His confidence would of been shattered! Do you really think Richard thinks he did not pitch well because Jenks could not close it out for him? No!!! In all honesty I did not want Richard to come out for the ninth. The Sox have won way to many games doing things this way. If its not broke don't fix it. There is no "passing the buck." Jenks is just going through a funk right now, and Coop will get him straightend out.

Is there any manager outside of Mike Scosscia and Tony LaRussa that manages their bullpen better than Guillen? Maybe you should just relax on this topic and realize that your wanting an under .500 5th starter to finish a game.

Jack McDowell said:

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It seems many of my readers seem to think a single outing or event will "shatter" someone's confidence. How about boosting someone's confidence by allowing him to finish a game he's dominating? These are elite athletes who would not have risen to the level they have without being able to overcome occasional adversity. And the reason I keep going back to this topic is because it is a topic that has become accepted not only by semi-knowledgable fans, but by everyone in baseball at every level! It is an incorrect philosophy that baseball has accepted. I strongly disagree with it and it is a enjoy debating about it because when I do a lot of eyes are opened to the reality of it.

Ajax said:

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Greybeard: pitchers in your day were sissies, too.
http://books.google.com/books?id=BS4DAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PA41

I will now get off your lawn.

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