Oct 13, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit (53) pitches during the eighth inning in game two of the American League Championship Series baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers Game 2 Bullpen Management


The 8th inning bullpen management in Game 2 by Jim Leyland and the Detroit Tigers was conducted in the correct way. Anyone who blames Jim Leyland for the 4 run 8th inning is wrong. The only thing that can be questioned is pulling Max Scherzer who was at 108 pitches going into the inning. Scherzer had thrown 47 pitches in game 4 of the ALDS so he was fresh, but he had turned in a stellar performance and knew he was going to be done after the 7th inning. The bullpen exists to get outs late in games and to protect leads in that situation. If your bullpen cannot get the final 6 outs of the game with a 4 run lead, you flat out don’t deserve to win the game.

Jim Leyland bringing in Jose Veras to pitch to the 8-9-1 batters is what he was brought here to do from the Houston Astros. Veras did allow the one batter to reach, but the move to bring in Drew Smyly was also the right move. Drew Smyly was brought into the game to get the left handed batter. He did the one thing that is absolutely indefensible. When a LOOGY is brought into a game, he cannot walk him. He literally has one job and he did not do it. Al Albuquerque did the same thing. He got Victorino out throwing all sliders. He cannot locate his fastball and that was the pitch that Pedroia hit to right field for a base hit.

Bringing in Joaquin Benoit was also the correct move. He is the best reliever in the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen. The Tigers needed Benoit to get out David Ortiz and then get three outs in the 9th. That did not happen as Benoit threw Ortiz a first pitch belt high fastball that Ortiz did not miss. Benoit went away from his changeup and had a dead read fastball hitter hit a fastball into the bullpen.

The bullpen management was done the correct way. The pitchers were put in a position to succeed. It is on the pitchers to get the outs that they are on the team to get. Jim Leyland’s bullpen management was correct. The players have to make the plays. They did not and now the series is tied at 1-1 which is what the Tigers needed to have getting out of Boston. This is definitely not the way they wanted to split, but the Tigers now go home. Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. Justin Verlander is that pitcher.

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Tags: 2013 MLB Playoffs Detroit Tigers

  • Bryan Walters

    Tom – I agree with most of your post. The bullpen needs to be able to get 6 outs with a 4-run lead. However, I do think Leyland made two mistakes in his bullpen management in the 8th.
    The first was bringing in Smyly to face Ellsbury. It was 5-1 with 1 out, man on second when Smyly was brought in to face Ellsbury. That was not a high enough leverage situation to burn Smyly. Either Veras should have been left in to pitch more of the 8th, or Coke should have been used as the LOOGY against Ellsbury.
    Second, if you’re going to use Smyly for only one batter and go with platoon matchups throughout the 8th, I think you have to stick with that strategy and go with Coke against Ortiz. The only reason Coke is on the roster is to be the 2nd LOOGY. Coke is actually serviceable against lefties and has a good history against Ortiz (for what little that’s worth – small sample size). Coke’s biggest problem has been Leyland’s failure to recognize that Coke is strictly a LOOGY and doesn’t have an out pitch against righties.
    Also, Benoit threw a change-up to Ortiz, not a fastball, but that’s just a nitpick.
    Ultimately, the loss is on the players, not the manager. I think Leyland made some less-than-optimum decisions in his bullpen management, but even if he had just rolled out Jose Alvarez for two innings, the bullpen needs to be able to get 6 outs with a four run lead.

  • Joe Hildebrand

    Years ago starting pitchers actually got to finish games as well if they were getting the other side out. When did today’s pitchers become a liability after 100 pitches? Are starting pitchers arms weaker than they were back then?

    Detroit has the best starting pitchers in the majors, but just about the opposite for the so called bullpen staff.

    If Verlander is doing well on Tueday, leave him the h— in the game until it’s over!

  • Fred Harrell

    Taking Max out was textbook right. This is NOT July however… but the postseason and a manager has to manage with his gut more. He had a hot pitcher who still had Boston looking dazed and confused at the plate. Bottom line: leave Max in the game for the 8th inning and we win.

  • chrisHannum

    I blame Jim Leyland. Obviously each of the pitchers was imperfect and each contributed to the loss. Whether Jim Leyland put them in the position to succeed is much more debatable – there has always been a lot more to managing than looking at stat sheets and splits and that is what Leyland is typically GOOD at. If you nibble against the Red Sox, you will walk them – or be forced to toss something fat and hittable to avoid walking them. Guys that lack confidence nibble. Erego, guys that lack confidence do exactly what we saw Tigers pitchers do last night. And, in addition to all the pressure that goes with protecting a playoff lead on the road, there is no better way to instill a lack of confidence than to pull a guy the second something goes wrong. It sends the players the message that “we’re in trouble”. By the time you’ve got your fourth reliever of the inning into the game you’re sending the message “Oh God, we’re doomed!” Not necessarily the way to get the most out of your relievers.

  • Jackie Adams

    Hmmm, how can you call Leyland’s moves the right decisions when the outcome was so bad. Also, Porcello isn’t a closer. He’s a Starter but would be better used as a long middle-inning reliever to back up a Starting Pitcher who isn’t on.

  • Robert Bayer

    Tom, did you hear what JL said when asked who was in his bull pen for game 5 of the ALDS vs the A’s? He said “Verlander,” meaning JV was going to pitch deep into the game. That was the right thing to say because it was the right decision and Verlander did pitch 8 masterful innings. Sherzer is the best pitcher in the game right now and to take him out at 108 pitches when he only pitched 2 innings in his relief stint in game 4 was THE REASON the Tigers lost this inexcusable game to lose. This is NOT the regular season … This is post-season where the team is supposed to be run to go for the throat. Instead, we have the entire team celebrating with Sherzer after he finished the 7th inning, as if that game was already won. Leyland allowing his players to celebrate that fully so soon was really bush, put the entire team in exactly the wrong mood to compete and finish this game, and upped the determination of the Boston Red Sox players to come back after being shown up in such a childish matter. Leyland and you are so wrong about taking Sherzer out. That the other team did come back simply proves each point in this post is right on. Don’t agree still? Then where were you in game 5 vs the A’s when JL did exactly what he should have done in game 2 vs the Red Sox: Leave one of the best pitchers in the game through 8 to help make sure the team wins a big play-off game? I noticed you never objected to the right strategy then so you really are way off base to claim taking Sherzer out was OK.