if the pen keeps this up, i may have to reactive the Neil Allen Memorial Relieve-me-not Ticker.
we already knew we couldn't trust king, so last night's outing didn't change anything -- nor would it have changed anything if he had retired both hitters he faced. the guy's a five-run inning waiting to happen ev'y time he takes the mound; send him out there often enough and that bomb'll go off sooner or later. tavarez -- well, give him due credit; he made the pitch he needed to make, but it was a difficult dp to turn and the infielders just didn't convert. be that as it may, tavarez has now been scored on in 5 of his 9 september appearances and has an era of 9.00 for the month; 12 of the 28 hitters he has faced in that span have reached base, a .429 obp. his strikeout rate has been way off since the all-star break -- just 3.7 per 9 innings, less than half his pre-break rate of 8.0 per 9. which may explain why batters are hitting .316 off tavarez post-all-star, and why he has a 4.57 era in that span. . . . .
i know i'm not the first to float the idea i'm about to float -- valatan hinted at it in the game thread last night, and i've seen it kicked around elsewhere -- and i'm well aware that it smacks of knee-jerk chicken-littletude. but hear me out anyway:
jason marquis, setup man.
i was just saying yesterday that he has the demeanor you want in a playoff pitcher -- aggressive, hungry, fearless. are those not qualities you want in a late-inning reliever? jason throws hard, he gets groundballs, and he has finally found it within himself to challenge hitters and throw strikes consistently. those, too, are attributes that a setup guy has to have. i realize that marquis didn't take to relief in atlanta, but he appears to have done some growing up this season. he also has something to prove -- to himself, to his teammates, and to the arbitrator who will determine his 2006 salary.
i make this suggestion not because i'm convinced, based on last night's game, that morris is the better choice for the rotation. it's more a question of how best to deploy marquis in a short series: bundle his innings into one start, vs. spread them out over several games. seems to me there might be more marginal value in the latter, with tlr hand-picking important innings for jason to throw. he probably couldn't go every day, but i bet he could go every other -- and pitch two innings at a stretch; tony wouldn't even have to double-switch to keep him in the game, he could bat for himself. consider: suppan for six, marquis for two, izzy for one; morris for six, marquis for two, izzy for one. . . . .
too panicky? tavarez had an excellent august (2.00 era in 13 games) and finished that month with a 2.75 era; do a couple of bad weeks merit such a drastic re-visioning of the bullpen? maybe not; maybe the 'penners and dunc will learn from these recent struggles and make adjustments in time for the playoffs. but even if they do, it's damn inconsiderate of these guys to go all cali/journell on us right before the g.d. playoffs. the pen is having its worst stretch, as a corps, since early spring, when it featured the aforementioned pair of prospects and the likes of bill pulsipher and kevin jarvis. in the month of september -- setting aside adam wainwright's one-inning stint on september 11, which doesn't really count for our purposes -- the bullpen has posted a 3.92 era with a 1.33 whip; they've allowed 6 hr in 44 innings. not good enough. (info courtesy pinto's day to day database.)
on to happier things: matt morris finally gave his supporters (which group may have dwindled down to just me and wordman) reason to continue supporting his candidacy for the playoff rotation. i only had time to rewind one inning of the game, the 6th; to be honest, i thought he got away with several mistakes and wasn't throwing as well as he did in some of his recent losses. so he was just luckier last night? maybe so; that'd be baseball. lucky or not, morris kept the discussion alive, just when it seemed to be over. he may yet receive two more assignments, next tuesday vs the astros and on october 2, in game 162, against these same reds. the playoff rotation will likely be written in pencil until after that closing-day start.