Baltimore Orioles: The Buck Showalter and Zach Britton conundrum
Should Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter have used Zach Britton in Tuesday’s American League Wild Card game in Toronto?
It feels kind of strange not writing a game recap for Buck Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles. When you’ve been doing it since March, it takes awhile to get used to not doing it! And I remind folks; the season begins in March in terms of games. I don’t discriminate between exhibition and regular season game recaps!
Obviously the big white elephant in the room is Buck Showalter’s decision not to use Zach Britton in Tuesday’s AL Wild Card game. I’m not going to go over what happened in detail – we all know that story. But…did Showalter make a mistake?
If you’re judging by results, yes he did. However it’s unfair to judge by results. Plenty of good results are achieved through faulty reasoning. Heck, keep in mind that Buck Showalter’s a guy that walked the bases loaded in the post season once on purpose! Showalter’s reasoning for keeping Britton in his back pocket was obviously so that he could be used as the closer role was designed if the O’s took the lead. And quite frankly, that’s not unsound reasoning.
However you do have to put it in the context of the fact that it’s an elimination game. So perhaps you do have to manage a bit differently. And Buck Showalter knows that – heck, he’s done it. If I could make one criticism of how he managed the bullpen on Tuesday, it would be that he matched up too often – blowing through relievers. But that’s beside the point. Should Britton have come out of the bullpen?
Let’s put it this way; it wouldn’t have been the wrong decision to use him. But let’s say you pitch Britton between 1-2 innings, and then in the 11th or 12th inning the Orioles take the lead. Showalter has to bring in someone to close the game with Britton already spent, and whomever that person is blows the save and Toronto wins. Are we to assume that there wouldn’t be justifiable scrutiny over Showalter’s decision-making modus operandi given that situation?
In my view, that would almost be worse. You would have burned your best bullpen weapon in a spot in which he wasn’t used to being. In turn, then you’d be putting the likes of a Dylan Bundy, Tommy Hunter, or Ubaldo Jimenez in a spot in which THEY aren’t used to being – that of a closer. At the end of the day, what exactly can you do short of winning to avoid that scrutiny?
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Speaking of which, keep in mind that Showalter rolled the dice by bringing in Darren O’Day when he did as well. Heck, I even tweeted that I wouldn’t have done that. But it took O’Day one pitch to induce a double-play and end the inning. And Showalter’s gotten away with moves like that much more often than not – so is it really fair to be overly-critical?
And that’s part of why I’m asking this today. Fans have had a chance to cool off after the game by now. If Jimenez strikes out the side and we head to the 12th, the Birds score, and Britton closes the game, this is all superfluous. But part of baseball is that it’s rolling the dice no matter how you look at it.
Keep in mind that Showalter’s a manager who manages two or three hitters down the line. There’s no question that the fact that Jose Bautista (who was due up after Encarnacion) is 3-for-38 for his career against Ubaldo Jimenez figured into his decision-making. So based on that fact one could also argue that it would have been irresponsible NOT to have Jimenez pitch in that spot. At the end of the day, it really boils down to whether or not you win. Showalter rolled the dice and lost the other day. But more often than not he’s rolled the dice and won.
Next: Baltimore Orioles reach the end of the line for 2016
Buck Showalter often says you can’t judge someone by their worst day/moment. So the same should apply here. Was he wrong to not use Britton? Ultimately the result says that he was, and the result is the bottom line. But sometimes we have to be smart enough to look past the bottom line.