Here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday at the office a bit more bearable:
As good as they are, the A’s easily could ask: Why should we pigeonhole ourselves? Why should [Jim] Johnson or anyone else solely pitch the ninth? Most teams need multiple closers to get through a season, anyway. Heck, eight other clubs already have swapped out their original choice because of injury or ineffectiveness, and it’s only mid-April.
To be sure, devotees of Bill James would rejoice if the A’s abandoned the standard middle reliever/setup man/closer setup in favor of a less structured approach. Managers, though, generally prefer order in their bullpens. And relievers generally prefer defined roles. . . .
To be sure, a one-inning closer who pitches mostly in save situations is not conducive to an optimal bullpen. On the other hand, the creation of an entirely new usage pattern would require not just a strong manager, but also strong-minded relievers.
As mentioned, the Astros were probably smart to employ a shift and then pitch “out” of the shift by dealing away. Last year, [Jose] Bautista took 27 outside pitches to the opposite field while pulling 64 outside pitches. More importantly, he hit groundballs to the right side on just six occasions compared to 49 pulled groundballs.
In other words, even with an outside pitch that should theoretically be easier to take the other way, Bautista is pretty unlikely to hit a groundball to the right side, meaning the cost of shifting isn’t very high at all. Sometimes pull-push percentages can confuse the fact that teams don’t care about pull rates on the whole when shifting, they only care about where groundballs are hit (since, obviously, flyballs and even linedrives are less likely to land where shifted players are or are not).
That’s it. Have a walk-off week!