Notes on bullpen usage


Ned Yost's ideal scenario for any game this year has his starter working through the 6th inning and departing with a lead, allowing him to finish the game with his three remarkably successful righthanded relievers, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland.

But only one game has worked out that way so far, Game 3 of the ALDS, in which James Shields started and pitched 6 innings, coming out of the game with the Royals way ahead, leaving one inning apiece for those relievers.

Two other starters have remained in a game for 6 or more innings, Jason Vargas in Game 1 of the ALDS and Yordano Ventura in Game 2, but both were relieved with the game tied. With additional innings to fill, in those games as well as in games in which his starter worked fewer than 6 innings, Yost has frequently turned to Brandon Finnegan and Jason Frasor to bridge the gap. Remarkably in this era of liberal bullpen usage, Yost summoned no one else from the bullpen during the whole of the ALCS.

Only in the first two games of the postseason, the 12-inning very Wild Card game and the 11-inning opening game of the ALDS, has Yost turned to anyone else, making unsuccessful use of Yordano Ventura in relief against Oakland and assigning cameo roles to Tim Colins and Danny Duffy in Game 1 in Anaheim. And that's it.

Ned seldom plays matchups or forces the opposing manager to pinch hit in order to gain the platoon advantage. If it's the 6th inning, except for the Wild Card game, it's Finnegan, Frasor, or Herrera coming in "early" if he's rested and feeling good. After that, if Ned has the lead his bullpen usage is fully scripted. If the game is tied he'll fill in with Finnegan or Frasor.

He has used his closer on the road in a tie game in the 2014 postseason, but only in an elimination game, against Oakland. He had opportunities to use Holland in this way twice in Anaheim and once in Baltimore but did not.


Bruce Bochy's ideal scenario is similar to Ned Yost's, except that if he has the lead and needs a reliever before the 8th inning, he'll play the matchups, with Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Jean Machi, and Sergio Romo, who will appear in whatever order Bochy thinks is most advantageous. Lopez is the only reliever who is used primarily to gain a platoon advantage.

Sergio Romo comes the closest to filling the role of an 8th-inning set-up man, a role he played for the Giants from 2010 through August 2012, when he became Bochy's closer. He yielded the closing job to Santiago Casilla earlier this year after multiple blown saves in May and June. Casilla, the current closer, was also the closer before Romo in 2012, after Brian Wilson blew himself up in a failed attempt at greater significance.

Setting aside the game-winning home run Romo gave up to Kolten Wong in Game 2 of the NLCS, Romo has been effective since mid-July. He was last used in a save situation August 16, after Casilla had been scored upon in 3 straight appearances. Casilla was used as the closer again the very next day, and he has remained in the role since then.

Casilla has seldom worked on 3 consecutive days, and he was obviously less sharp when he did so in Game 5 of the NLCS. Bochy has been willing to turn to other pitchers to close out games when he thinks his normal closer needs a rest; in addition to Romo among members of the current staff, he has allowed Jean Machi, Jeremy Affeldt, Hunter Strickland, and even Tim Lincecum to serve in the role in regular season games. Hunter Strickland was the next-to-the-last man standing in the 18-inning game in Washington, D.C, and he was credited with a save in that game.

Bochy is willing to use his closer in a tie game on the road, but he has done so only once in the postseason, in that very same 18-inning game, and only after Machi, Lopez, Affeldt, and Romo had already been used. He had the opportunity to use Casilla in the 9th inning of Game 2 of the NLCS in St. Louis with the game tied, but Romo hadn't appeared in the game prior to that point, and the 9th inning job was given to him.

The Giants have used 25-year-old rookie Hunter Strickland in high-leverage situations in the postseason, but he has now surrendered home runs on fastballs to left-handed hitters in 3 of his 4 appearances. The Giants have reportedly reviewed videotape to determine whether he has been tipping his pitches; Matt Adams certainly swung as if he knew a fastball was coming, the first fastball during his at bat against Strickland after three curves. Whether or not they know what's coming, right-handed hitters have had little success against him.

Tim Lincecum's role on the pitching staff has been reduced in each of the Giants' postseason appearances with Bruce Bochy as manager. Lincecum was the Giants' number one starter in 2010; he was an effective all-purpose reliever and spot starter in 2012. His role in the postseason in 2014 has yet to be defined. He's reportedly keeping himself ready for whatever job Bochy needs him to do.

Yusmeiro Petit is the long reliever; more on him here.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.