I promise I do not plan to make this a daily occurrence. I also promise that I don’t place the team’s near collapse last night on the manager even a little bit. Clay Buchholz has been brutal this year and when your second best bullpen pitcher is a guy who should really just be a lefty specialist (Franklin Morales), it is hard to critique bullpen decisions. But last night’s bullpen management in the sixth inning is another example of Bobby Valentine’s head-up-his-own-assness and adds to my nervousness over his ability to competently manage this team. So on to the mini-boner, the McBoner if you will (because Irish dudes are supposed to have small wangs).
After teetering on the edge of disaster all night, Buchholz entered the sixth with a 7-1 lead. After striking out the first batter, he allowed 2 singles (granted one was a bunt), a run scoring double and then a walk to load the bases with one out. Now 7-2, Leatherface replaced the starter with righty Scott Atchison to face lefty Joe Mauer. In a vacuum, this move is not awful. I happen to think Atchison should not be on a Major League roster and definitely should not be pitching in a big spot. But, as I mentioned before, this team is bereft of solid relief pitchers so Atchison is sadly one of the best options available in this situation. If Bobbo wants to let him work out of this jam and finish the inning then I can’t really blame him.
Of course, Senor Sandwich Wrap had no intention of letting Atchison finish the inning. He gave up a 2-run single to Mauer (guess what, a lot of people have given up hits to Joe Mauer) and that was the end of his night. And then his boner emerged.
Valentine’s next stroke of genius was calling on Justin Thomas. I’m not sure who saw what in this guy, but there is no way he should be anywhere near a major league roster. However, he is technically the “lefty specialist” until Rich Hill is healthy or Andrew Miller figures out how to pitch again. So while I do not want him on the roster, he is on the roster for a reason and that is to get lefties out. Coincidentally (yes, coincidentally, since it seems there is no rhyme or reason for V’s moves) the Twins had lefties Justin Morneau and Chris Parmelee coming to the plate next. So what’s the problem, right?
Well in case you weren’t paying attention, as Leatherface clearly was not, Joe Mauer is also a lefty. The Twins gifted the Red Sox with 3 lefties in the middle of the lineup last night and Bobby decided to use a specialist to face 2 of the 3. If he wanted to use Atchison to face all 3 lefties, I would understand that since even without the platoon advantage he is a better pitcher than Thomas. If he put Thomas in to face all 3 lefties, I would understand that since he is technically a lefty specialist. But having the righty Atchison face the lefty Mauer and then pulling Atchison for the lefty Thomas to face 2 more lefties makes no sense in any universe. And if you think that maybe Mauer doesn’t have any platoon split against lefties and righties because he is such a good hitter, you’d be wrong because his OPS against righties is .937 and against lefties it is .752. That’s a platoon split people.
Ultimately the Red Sox did win the game and it was only close because Buchholz, Atchison and Thomas did not do their jobs (Thomas allowed a double to Morneau and hit Parmalee). But the more that Leatherface puts the wrong guys in bad situations, the tougher he makes it for them to succeed. He needs to pick a consistent strategy and stick with it (ultimately the right strategy would be best, but at this point I just strive for consistency). If you want to use a lefty specialist, use him for ALL the lefties in a row. If you don’t think you need a lefty specialist and would rather just use your best reliever, use him for ALL the batters.
I’ll close with one more example of his lack of consistency that really shows how crazy this SOB is. In a game a week or so ago, I think it was the Yankee debacle, the Yankees had the bases loaded with 1 out and were down a run. Bobbo decides to play the infield in to cut the run down at the plate. OK. Fine. I would have played at double play depth to end the inning on a grounder, but whatever. So the Yankees get a couple hits, score a couple runs and load the bases again. With 1 out, still. Exact same situation. Bobbo plays the infield at double play depth. Wait, what? You just showed a couple batters before that you like to play the infield in and now you are playing them back in the same situation? What is going on in that ranch dressing filled brain of yours (a lot of wraps have ranch dressing in them I think)?
Mr. Valentine, your boner is showing. Please see yourself out.