Did Dodgers Botch Bullpen Against Giants?

In case you didn’t hear, Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Ross Stripling got pulled after 7.1 no-hit innings in his Major League debut. Anthony Irwin already talked about why pulling him was the right move, and it most definitely was, but that doesn’t mean that a poor decision still wasn’t made directly after that.

In his haste to pull Stripling for the game, first-year manager Dave Roberts promptly overlooked the most vital component to winning a tight game on the road against a good team — you have to put your best players into the game’s biggest moments. The team’s best reliever is Kenley Jansen, and he sat unused at the end of the night as the San Francisco Giants walked off.

[button color=”red” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”newwindow” url=””]Dodgers’ Roberts Made The Right Call Pulling Stripling[/button]

Whether or not you agree with the decision by Roberts to pull Stripling from the game should not matter one iota here. What matters is that there was still a poor judgement decision made that affected the end result of a game that could have a large bearing on the standings come October. These games do matter.

With the Dodgers ahead by two runs, and with Stripling tiring  — just two of his final 25 pitches had a registered velocity above 92 MPH — due to his pitch count, a decision was made to pull him in favor of relief pitcher Chris Hatcher. However, the second half of that decision — i.e. going to Hatcher — was the mistake, not the other half.

While people will look at the results and say that was why it was the mistake, this speaks to a larger issue at hand. There’s a common thought that still circles the depths of baseball. It goes something like this: your closer should only pitch in save situations. That’s an archaic model that has doomed plenty of teams. Just ask the Atlanta Braves in the 2013 NLDS as Craig Kimbrel stood in the bullpen watching the implosion.

You’re supposed to use your best players, and in the game’s biggest moment, the Dodgers opted to not use closer Kenley Jansen in a huge spot. Jansen had not pitched since Tuesday night when he made just 12 pitches en route to his first, and only, save of the season. It’s the only appearance he’s even made so far. What was he being saved for?

If the answer was that the team didn’t want to use him for five outs on Friday night while then effectively rendering him useless on Saturday afternoon, then that would make some sense. However, they’d also be giving the rest of the bullpen the night off. As it stands now, Pedro Baez will be unavailable for Saturday, as will Chris Hatcher.

The leverage index, which measures just how hugely important a point in the game happens to be based on outs and score, put the Trevor Browne home run at 2.12. To put that into perspective, it was nearly the same exact leverage index as when Brandon Crawford led off the tenth inning with a home run (2.13). In other words, these are massive moments. And Jansen was put on ice.

While Dave Roberts and the Dodgers coaching staff made the right decision to remove Stripling, they made the wrong decision to go to Hatcher, and it had little to do with the result of the first batter he faced. If the issue was that Kenley Jansen had never even been brought in for a five out save in his big league career, then at least it’d be somewhat understandable, but you still would question not using him.

Roberts’ job is to win games, and he’s also there to get the talent to live up to its full potential. The second part of that equation was doing just fine throughout the game as Stripling went 7.1 no-hit innings. The first part, however, was never achieved because he opted to not go to his best reliever for a five out save. And then, after Roberts was ejected in the eighth, the coaching staff went to Joe Blanton over Jansen in the tenth.

A lot of this can be attributed to Dave Roberts being a first-year manager. He’s definitely going to learn more and more as the season goes long. After all, this is only Game 5 of 162. However, these games against division rivals do matter. A lot, in fact. It’ll be interesting to see how Roberts manages these situations going forward, but for now it looks like he might have botched this one just a little bit. Pulling Stripling was the right move, but not going to Jansen was the move that ultimately doomed the Dodgers.

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  1. It’s easy to make this agurement knowing the outcome of the game. In a game like this there will be several critical moments and you can’t always have your best players available

  2. So you bring in Jansen to shutdown in the 8th and now Roberts have to decide whether to bring back Jansen or go with Hatcher in the 9th. One can expect to see tougher hitters in the 9th because it’s the final inning. The truth of the matter is that it’s Hatchers job to shutdown the 8th and get the ball to Jansen in the 9th and it didn’t pan out that way. But this should not bring in question Roberts managerial skills. Let’s remember that Roberts have bench coaches, particularly Pitching coach Rick Honycutt helping Roberts makes decisions. Make no mistake,Roberts made the right call on bring in Hatcher in the 8th.

  3. Great performance by Stripling, same lousy bull pen on a different day. Owners will be happy as long as the fans keep on com’in. This idea that they want a WS Champion caliber team yesterday, continues to be questionable.

  4. Well let’s see. Rookie manager screws up one half his games so far though they didn’t give him much to work with. Don’t know how you screw up 4 and 2 run leads late in the game. I shutter to think whats to happen i close games.He did a good job in the first game though

  5. But their best pitcher (Jansen) was available. That is the whole point. There were only five outs remaining in the game. Jansen is your man for this situation. Instead, Jansen sat on the bench where he hasn’t the opportunity to contribute. Managerial mistake. I’m afraid we’re in for a lot more of this decision-making this season. Lasorda, where for art thou?

  6. You missed the whole point AGAIN. Jansen was made for this situation and Roberts choose to let him ride the bench. If you’re saying that Friedman told Roberts that in this situation, use Hatcher, you need to prove that. Roberts makes the choice at the moment, Friedman signs the players to contracts. Different responsibilities.

  7. Roberts made wrong choice. Jansen was available and was capable of getting five outs. He’s pitched more than one inning many times. In an ideal world, Jansen pitches the ninth or last inning, but we don’t live in an ideal world. Roberts needs to know when to flex in his decision making. He choose to use Hatcher and let Jansen ride the pine. So Jansen was neglected and not used at all. Bad choice. Rookie manager who will make more of these poor decisions. Don’t know whether Hunnicutt advised him or not but nevertheless Roberts made poor decision. Lasorda, wherefore art thou?

  8. Friedman hires and fires. He deals the contracts. Roberts role is to make coaching decisions on a daily basis with the players he’s given. There is no reason to believe that Friedman tells Roberts what to do in specific given circumstances…that’s Roberts role. Jansen was available and is capable of getting five outs. He’s done it many times.

  9. I think this off season for the first time some teams are realizing you need 2 and maybe 3 closers. Having 1 closer for the ninth inning only is just plain dumb. Bleed blue is right! Use your best “and only” reliever when you are at risk, or you might not need him at al,  as was the case here.

  10. You can be sure that Bochy would have sent his best available hitters to the plate being down by 2 runs in the 9th to tie or win the game. Thus the definition of a closer.

  11. If Hatcher does his job this is a non issue. If this game would have been game 7 of the NLCS, then yea maybe you go to Jansen, Because those are different circumstances. At this point of the season you have to go with the role player that fits the situation and in this case Hatcher was the guy, not Jansen. Only Hatcher didn’t come through. It’s a calculated risk that didn’t work out for the Dodgers. Plenty of baseball to be played.

  12. It’s easy to call this a poor decision because we know the outcome. If Hatcher does his job and Jansen does his, then Roberts is no smarter because he would only be following the archaic model, as the author suggest, that has failed some teams but succeeded for others.

  13. This was game 5 of the season, why would you chose to work your closer 2 innings with so much baseball is still yet to be played? Dodgers luck, Jansen gets hurt working the Five outs and now Roberts looks really dumb.