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right call, wrong reasons

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if isringhausen had done his job, we'd be crediting tony la russa with an unorthodox but boldly sensible decision -- ie, he brought in his best reliever to face the other team's best hitters, never mind the inning. the conventional wisdom says you save the closer for the 9th and bring in some other, lesser relief pitcher for the 8th, no matter who's batting. but what sense does it make to use josh hancock or brad thompson against the heart of the order in the 8th, while saving isringhausen for the bottom of the order in a 9th inning that might never arrive? more logical to use is'hausen now, against the hitters who can hurt you the most.

sabermetricians have spent years advocating this theory of bullpen management, and the reasoning is pretty compelling. so in a purely abstract sense, la russa made the correct decision to bring on is'hausen in the 8th.

but when you put the decision in context, some troubling implications arise. it would be one thing if la russa / duncan had chosen, proactively, to alter their philosophy of bullpen deployment. but that's not what they did. they simply panicked. having watched the bullpen piss the game away the day before, they lost their nerve and called on the only reliever they have any confidence in. so they made the right decision, but for unfortunate reasons. la russa / duncan have always subscribed to the conventional (if misguided) setup / closer division of bullpen labor, and they're not about to change. that being the case, they need to identify a reliable setup man. so perhaps it would have been better to send thompson right back out there to face lee, even though lee took thompson deep for the game-winner on saturday and has hit 2 hr off him in three career at-bats. it's april, not october; perfect time to find out how useful thompson can be in these spots. brad threw the ball well all spring and made only one bad pitch in the first week of the season; send him right back out there. for that matter, it would have been better to just give looper the damn ball -- he threw it well on friday, and he's getting paid to pitch in just this situation.

as things currently stand, the brass don't trust anyone to pitch the 8th -- that's what we take away from is'hausen's premature appearance. it would be a lot easier to gloss over if is'hausen had done his job, but he didn't -- and the cards ended up looking like the cubs of 04-05, all but giving the game away for free.

let me add, before i wrap this up, that ricardo rincon looks to me like an utterly useless piece of crap. give me ray king any day -- at least he goes after the hitters. rincon's lobbing softballs off the plate and trying to get hitters to chase; against a player with a modicum of discipline, he would appear to be defenseless.

Update [2006-4-10 9:28:32 by lboros]: SB Nation colleagues at Beyond the Boxscore have posted a win-expectancy graph of last night's game.