Cito Gaston Blunder Reveals Bigger Mess Surrounding MLB Pitching Changes

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Cito Gaston Blunder Reveals Bigger Mess Surrounding MLB Pitching Changes

On Tuesday night's (8/11/09) MY 9 telecast of the New York Yankees-Toronto Blue Jays game, My 9 announcer/analyst/Yankee legend Paul O'Neill finally spoke about a costly decision made by many of today's managers.

Managers today like to play not just the relief pitcher matchup game with lefty and righty relievers, but also the one inning stint game with their relievers.

O'Neill is kind of that old school analyst who is not overly concerned with the stats or the matchups. If he was a manager, he appears to be a guy who would go on instinct and the flow of the game. Many of today's managers do not go on instinct or flow.

Most now manage based upon spreadsheets and not getting second guessed.

In the top of the eighth inning last night with the Blue Jays clinging to a 4-3 lead, Jeremy Accardo had just put down the Yankees top of the order in the sixth inning, allowing only a single to Derek Jeter. But when Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston put in lefty Jesse Carlson to face lefty hitter Hideki Matsui leading off the eighth inning, Gaston removed a very effective Jeremy Accardo, making a huge blunder.

Gaston went by the book, forcing the lefty Carlson into the Tigers den versus upcoming lefties Matsui, Robinson Cano, and Eric Hinske, sandwiched around the switch-hitting Jorge Posada.

After Matsui homered to tie the game, Posada homered to give the Yankees the lead, but Carlson got Robinson Cano to ground out. But after Hinske doubled to right, Carlson was gone and so were the Blue Jays.

After the offensive barrage, O'Neill wondered why Gaston removed Accardo (under 3.00 ERA on the season) in favor of Carlson, who, at the time, was 1-4 with an almost 5.00 ERA on the season. Carlson also did not have exceptionally great numbers against left handed hitters, too.

O'Neill said that while using so many relievers just for one inning each, there is bound to be one who is not sharp.

And that is a great point.

I have repeatedly said that the most overused tactic by managers is the one inning reliever and it is a mistake to continually replace a pitcher currently in the game who is performing well. 

A manager already knows how his current pitcher is performing, but their is an uncertainty in the job performance of the next guy. It is the same concept when a manager takes out his starting pitcher after 6 or 7 innings.

Plus, the Yankees lineup is so deep and versatile with four switch hitters (Teixeira, Posada, Melky Cabrera, Nick Swisher) and the lefties (Damon, Matsui, Cano) hit lefty pitchers so well, that it is almost impossible to mix and match late in a game. It would be much better to stick with an effective pitcher who is throwing well.

A later inning relief pitcher like Accardo who is brought in and is effective should be kept in the game. A manager already knows how good the current pitcher is dealing, but doesn't know how effective the new pitcher will be. Relievers are so fragile that it is huge to keep an effective one in the game.

More games are blown by mixing and matching late in a game. If a manager doesn't have confidence in any of his pitchers, they shouldn't be on the staff.

O'Neill is correct in pointing out that if a manger uses three or more relievers to finish a game, eventually a reliever will not be sharp and will blow the game. But most managers are worried about tomorrow's game too much, hoping to keep all their relievers fresh for the next day.

I also believe starting pitchers should go longer and be able to get out of jams in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. Unless a starter's legs are tired and he appears to be struggling with his stamina, a starting pitcher should remain in the game.

So why take out Scott Richmond who retired 13 of his last 14 batters? Pitch counts? No. Richmond was at 97 pitches, not that the pitch count should matter to a 30 year old starting pitcher.

Complete idiocy on the part of Gaston and it cost the Blue Jays the game.

There is so much uncertainty about relief pitchers from year to year, month to month and even game to game, that only a handful of relievers should be brought in immediately after an effective reliever.

Not just all teams' ninth inning "closer," but only superior relievers with a great track record. Guys like Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, K-Rod, and Trevor Hoffman have built up an incredible trust and as they have performed over many years, should be afforded carte blanche.

The others, including one Jesse Carlson, does not.

Gaston blew this game by going by the book.

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