In the third inning last, Huascar Ynoa found himself in some trouble. After giving up a leadoff double, a single, an RBI groundout, an RBI single, and a 400 foot fly out, Ynoa was facing the top of the order for a third time and down 3-0. Manger Brian Snitker also had a decision to make. Allow Ynoa to face the top of the order a third time or pull him for a deep and well rested bullpen?
Snitker decided to leave Ynoa in for one more batter, Mookie Betts, who Ynoa walked on four pitches, and that was it. Snitker made the call the bullpen and out runs…Sean Newcomb? In a still very manageable game against the middle of the best lineup in baseball with fully rested and talented bullpen, and 16 pitchers on the team, Snitker turned to almost certainly the worst pitcher on the roster. The inning finished quite predictably with Newcomb walking Freddie Freeman on four pitches to load the bases and then giving up a three-run double to Trea Turner, blowing the game open.
But why Newcomb? The Athletic’s David O’Brien asked Snitker after the game, because honesty no one could figure it out. When posed the question why he chose Newcomb over so many other talented relievers for such a big spot, Snitker responded “as opposed to who?” O’Brien answered “Frankly, I’d list a few guys in your bullpen over Newk.”
“In the 4th inning? If I start doing that with [A.J.] Minter and Will Smith and [Tyler] Matzek ... if I use those guys in that position, then we won’t have them by the All-Star break,” Snitker said.
And that was that. The problem, of course, is this answer makes no sense.
First if all, Minter pitched in the sixth inning when the game was 6-4, so him coming in in the fourth inning when the score was 3-0 would’ve literally been no different in terms of his workload, and would’ve made a substantial difference in the game.
Secondly, Matzek hasn’t pitched since Friday, only has three appearances on the year, and easily could’ve pitched in last night’s game without affecting his long term availability.
And thirdly, and probably most importantly, that answer only explained why he didn’t use his very best relievers. It gave no indication of why he actively decided to use his worst reliever, because of course, they’re are plenty of options in between the best relievers on the team and Sean Newcomb. Darren O’Day as one example or Tyler Thornburg, or Colin McHugh, all well rested, all available in last nights game. We know that because in the game before, when Spencer Strider covered the last four innings of the Padres game on Sunday, Snitker commented that his performance was going to allow the entire bullpen to be available in the Dodgers series.
So even if you ascribe to the notion of not using your best relievers in high leverage situations early in the game, which I don’t, but even if you do, why not use one of your quality middle relievers in that spot? And Newcomb being a lefty to face Freeman doesn’t hold up as an excuse because the call to the bullpen could’ve (and should’ve) been made one batter earlier against the RH Mookie Betts. Ynoa shouldn’t be facing a lineup a third time through and something like Colin McHugh vs Betts is a substantially better match up for Atlanta than Newcomb vs Freeman.
So none of it made sense. Not in real time, not after the game, it just didn’t makes sense. The whole point of having a deep bullpen is to be able to use excellent relievers in middle inning, high leverage situations. If that situation just automatically goes to the worst reliever on the team, what’s the point in having seven or eight quality relievers?
You can justify not using your best relievers in that spot, though I don’t agree. But you can’t justify using your worse reliever. And that’s what Snitker did, and it went exactly the way you thought it would.