Last week whilst visiting Denver, I was lucky enough to spend some time with Jonah Keri, and we got to talking about baseball. More specifically, we got to talking about the rigidity of modern managers when it comes to relief pitchers. Jonah acknowledged that even his beloved Joe Maddon won’t get radical … but Jonah also told me that Maddon’s occasionally used his closer in the eighth inning, because that’s what the opposing lineup seemed to dictate.
Today I finally remembered to check, and Jonah’s exactly right.
With Grant Balfour and his contract becoming a two-legged disaster area, Jake McGee seems to have become Maddon’s favorite relief pitcher in late June, finishing up wins on the 27th, 28th, and 30th of June. Since then, though, he’s pitched a full eighth inning three times. Here are those dates, along with the first three batting slots due up in the enemy half-inning:
July 1: 2-3-4 (Yankees)
July 20: 3-4-5 (Royals)
Aug. 8: 1-2-3 (Cubs)
By the way, this came up when Jonah and I were watching this game, in which Kelvin Herrera entered in the seventh to face the Rockies second, third, and fourth hitters. Jonah thought Wade Davis should have been summoned instead. I agreed, but argued that no manager in the majors would have altered his usual practice because of the batting order.
I was wrong, as it seems Joe Maddon does exactly that.