Tonight’s 6-5 loss by the Texas Rangers was a referendum on old school bullpen management. After 104 pitches, Ron Washington decided to pull C.J. Wilson two batters into the eighth, with the Texas win expectancy standing at a robust 86.5%. He brought in left-handed veteran Darren Oliver to face the Yankees switch-hitting combination of Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. Oliver, who had a 2.19 BB/9 this season (compared to the 4.1 mark by Wilson), walked both the patient hitters.
Out came Oliver, and in came sidearmer Darren O’Day, with the one batter responsibility of retiring Alex Rodriguez. He did not. Rodriguez jumped on the first pitch, and hit a screamer to third base. There are fielders in the league that make the play, but Michael Young is not one of them. Out came O’Day, and in perhaps the most shocking decision of the day, in came Clay Rapada to face Robinson Cano. Yes, the same Rapada with the 5.63 career FIP, with less than 40 big league innings to his name, to face the guy that put the Yankees on the board with a seventh inning home run.
Shockingly, after one more pitch, the Yankees had tied the game. And Rapada was then taken out, to be replaced by a different left-handed pitcher (Derek Holland), to face a hitter (Marcus Thames) who much prefers southpaws. While Holland was okay in his two innings of work overall, a hit to Thames gave the Yankees a lead they would not surrender.
Hindsight is 50-50, but then again, Twitter will give you a live account that a lot of people thought Ron Washington was mis-managing today with each move he made. The only move was to leave Wilson in the game to face Swisher and Teixeira, and had he allowed them to reach base, to bring in Neftali Feliz to face Alex Rodriguez. Baseball teams need to put their best pitchers on the mound in the biggest situations. This isn’t theory that should be debatable.
In the course of the five at-bats that happened immediately after C.J. Wilson was pulled – a stretch that included four different Rangers pitchers – the Rangers win expectancy dropped almost 70%. While it’s easy to blame Darren Oliver, or Darren O’Day, or Clay Rapada for the game’s outcome, the Texas Rangers lost a game they needed to win because Ron Washington (and the majority of baseball managers) continues to fail to recognize ideal game theory.