Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Blaming Hurdle for Opening Series Bullpen Failure is Misguided

The Pirates had a very rocky series with the Reds to open the 2015 season. Three games, three rain delays, three losses, and three times the bullpen failed. Hopefully bad things come in threes and this series will soon become a distant memory. The opening series disaster in Cincinnati culminated with manager Clint Hurdle being heaped with a fair amount of scorn for electing to use reliever Rob Scahill in the 9th inning of a game tied at 2-2. The #hurdled hashtag on twitter awoke from hibernation as fans came out in full force to question why the skipper would withhold Mark Melancon, his best reliever, and place the game in the hands of the pitcher who is essentially the 12th man on the pitching staff. It mattered not that 95% of managers will never use a closer in the 9th inning of a tie game on the road. It also didn’t seem to matter that Gregory Polanco dropped a short fly ball on the last play of the game and was a far bigger goat than Scahill. When people want to blame the manager there is no stopping them.
There is a time and place for a manager to go off script from the traditional usage of a closer. But I’ll be damned if it is in April in the third game of the season. Lord knows I don’t agree with how managers use bullpens in this era. I think closers should be used in the 8th inning more often. I loathe the fact that the majority of relief pitchers have been conditioned to be 1 inning specialists. Instead of having the four best relievers on a team be available to pitch 1 inning nearly every day I would prefer to split them up so that two pitchers can go multiple innings every other game. But defined bullpen roles are what they are, and no matter how much me or you bitch about those roles the baseball establishment will not be changing them anytime soon. Clint Hurdle is certainly not the manager I am expecting to redefine the modern usage of bullpens. So let’s judge Hurdle under the proper lens. I will do that by rationally explaining why Rob Scahill was the appropriate 9th inning choice yesterday.
At the time that Scahill was inserted into the game the Pirates’ best relievers not named Mark Melancon had already been used. The options left were Scahill, Melancon, Radhames Liz, and Jared Hughes. Hughes threw 29 pitches in a 1.2 inning outing the previous night. Any manager would be reluctant to use him on back to back games after that many pitches this early in the season. Liz melted down the pervious game and has a track record no better than Scahill. So that leaves Melancon as the only other choice in a game in which the Pirates still need at least 6 outs to win. In all likelihood the Pirates were still going to need to rely on Scahill or Liz. The only way that could have been avoided is if Melancon pitches the 9th, the Pirates score in the top of the 10th, and then Melancon continues for the bottom of 10th. Those are not great odds. Is that really how you want a manger to handle the bullpen in the third game of the season? If this was a playoff game, or even an important game down the stretch against the Cardinal, then I would agree that the manager should deviate from the script and go with the clsoer. But managing like that now is just going to burn out your best reliever before we even get to the all-star break.
What I find odd is that so many people agree with not making payroll investments in the bullpen yet they want to ride one or two arms in every tight situation all season long. It was not Hurdle’s fault that he put the game in Scahill’s hands yesterday. The fault lies with whomever felt the team should roll with three reclamation projects in the bullpen. I am fine with having a few projects in the bullpen. And I agree that spending too much on middle relievers is silly. But I also recognize that doing so means the manager has to throw them into the fire. You can not hide that many inferior relief pitcher options. So if you found yourself asking, “Why Rob Scahill” the question needs to be directed at GM Neal Huntington instead of Clint Hurdle.


  1. The final roster was the manager’s choice not Huntington’s. Pimintel and Holdzkom could easily be on the team rather than two slugs already there.

    1. I do like Holdzkom. But he has just 9 major league appearances and was pitching in Independent ball this time a year ago. And what the hell has Pimentel ever proven? Substitute Liz and Scahill with Holdzkom and Pimentel and the argument is the same.

Comments are closed.

Hidden Vigorish © 2013-2015
Privacy Policy
Frontier Theme