When Will Jim Leyland Learn?

J Ellet LambieCorrespondent IJune 5, 2009

NEW YORK - JULY 15:  American League All-Star coach Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers during batting practice before the 79th MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium on July 15, 2008 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I realize it’s a bit odd to criticize a manager for a pitching decision in a game his team lost 2-1, but I have to do it. I just can’t contain it. In the ninth inning of Friday nights game against the Angels Jim Leyland, Tigers Manager, summoned Fernando Rodney from the bullpen in the top of the ninth inning of a 0-0 game.

This would qualify as a non-save situation. I’ve written before about Fernando and his inability to be effective in such spots, but it seems Jim Leyland missed that post, so I’ll explain it again.

Coming into tonights game Fernando had recorded 10 saves in 10 chances, a lovely percentage. His season ERA was 2.86 entering the ninth inning of said 2-1 loss, also a good number. By the final score you can guess that number has since risen, to 3.52. While that number is still respectable his ERA in non-save situations is now 5.53—there is nothing respectable about that.

Including tonight’s game Fernando Rodney now boasts the following statistics in non-save situations for the 2009 season:

0-1 record, 15 hits allowed, five walks, nine strikeouts, eight earned runs surrendered, a 1.54 WHIP and the aforementioned ERA of 5.53.

I was able to track down these updated statistics in about three minutes. I’m assuming the Detroit Tigers, being a major league baseball team and all, probably have someone on staff that keeps track of these things. I’m guessing that person shares this information with the coaches and the manager in some capacity.

I would think that an experienced manager like Jim Leyland would consult these numbers, or at least remember without numeric proof that Fernando Rodney should not be pitching in situations like this one. He’s been in the dugout watching on more than a couple of occassions this year when Fernando has done the exact same thing.

To have access to several bullpen arms that are rested and ready to pitch, only to bring in a guy who has proven he all year he is the wrong man for this job is a mistake, plain and simple. I don’t know if it is stubbornness, ignorance, a hunch or some other school of thought that causes Leyland to execute this game plan, but again and again mistakes like this one are being made in critical situations.

Justin Verlander was visibly irritated on the bench, as he should have been. After giving his manager eight scoreless innings against a team with the fifth best batting average in major league baseball he was forced to watch the Angels plate two runs in the final frame, erasing his efforts and a possible Tigers win.

Josh Anderson scored in the bottom of the ninth inning, a run that would have been the game winner had Rodney been able to do the job his manager called on him to do.

I want to make that point as well. While I shake my head in befuddlement at Leyland for bringing Fernando into the game, it doesn’t excuse him for failing so profoundly. Fernando Rodney pitched, not Jim Leyland, so the blame falls most assuredly on his shoulders foremost. I have to wonder though how and why he ended up on that mound in that situation given his history.

Games are being lost, winnable games, for the same reasons over and over again. I’ve been told that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

Perhaps Jim Leyland is insane.

I don’t know, I’m not a doctor, although I played one at a halloween party once – but there is clearly something between the thought process of Leyland and the proper decision in this case. If this mental road block can’t be removed the Tigers could well see their slim lead in the AL Central vanish like Justin Verlanders gem tonight.

As for the Tigers offense tonight, or lack of it, I’d be licking my lips if I were Angels pitcher Kelvim Escobar who will face the Tigers tomorrow night. 

Ervin Santana was 0-2 with a 9.50 ERA and a 2.22 WHIP coming into Fridays game. He went 8.2 innings, allowed six hits, two walks and one run while striking out seven. This is the same Ervin Santana who has been so atrocious since returning from the DL that Angles manager Mike Scioscia publicly stated last week that Santana may lose his spot in the rotation if he didn’t figure it out soon.

 I believe he owes the Tigers offense a fruit basket.

Of course if he threw it to them at this point they would likely miss that as well, or perhaps ground it hard to second base for another inning ending double play. Or, the Tigers offense might get the fruit basket into scoring position with no outs only to strand it there.

There is one upside though, Rodney threw 32 pitches tonight, so if the game is tied in the 9th inning tomorrow the fact that he needs rest and not that he is awful in that situation should keep him on the bench.

I hope.

Until next time kiddies….


Have a question or a comment? leave your thoughts below or drop me a line at jelletlambie@gmail.com


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