Blue Jays bullpen mismanagement rears its ugly head


The Toronto Blue Jays know how to ignite a fan base, for better or for worse. Their extra-inning loss to the Seattle Mariners late Sunday has brought out the pitchforks against manager John Gibbons for his management of the bullpen late in the game. I typically live the rare life of a Gibbons Defender, but not tonight.

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After Bo Schultz coughed up the lead by surrendering a home run to Nelson Cruz, a bullpen decision that we shouldn’t question, Gibbons handed off to Aaron Sanchez who pitched extremely well. For the ninth inning, however, with the top of the Mariners lineup approaching, Gibbons chose Ryan Tepera over Liam Hendriks or Roberto Osuna. Sanchez had used just 11 pitches, too, a small enough workload to entertain the notion of rolling him back out.

Tepera escaped the inning with just one hit allowed, and after the Ezequiel Carrera pinch-hit home run yesterday, perhaps Gibbons had earned himself a free pass. It is the handling of Aaron Loup in the 10th inning where I, and many members of the supportive and coherent group named “Twitter Dot Com”, can’t let Gibbons slide by.

After forcing a ground ball from Robinson Cano, I had assumed that Loup would give way to Osuna or Hendriks, who I profiled earlier today as the Blue Jays’ most underappreciated and underused arm. Instead, Loup was left in to face Franklin Guitierrez.

The veteran Guitierrez holds a career slash line of .288 / .343 / .475 against left-handed pitching. These numbers fall to a pedestrian level of .242 / .290 / .356 against righties. Mark Trumbo was due to follow Guitierrez to the plate, who also has better career numbers against southpaws. With this in mind: why was Loup still on the mound?

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Loup entered 2015 as one of the bullpen arms that we wouldn’t have to worry about. He would post a high-2.00 ERA, maybe a low-3.00, and the rest of the bullpen could operate around his steady play. Instead, we’ve seen his ERA hover around an uncharacteristic 5.00 mark, with all six of his home runs allowed coming against.. you guessed it.. right-handed batters.

Gathering in a circle to attack Gibbons and Loup won’t do us any good. We can discuss the heart of tonight’s problem, however, and I believe that this boils down to Gibbons saving his closer for a save situation in extra innings. Few strategies in baseball irritate me like this one, because like we saw tonight, the closer often goes unused as a manager fails to take a pro-active approach.

Let’s open this up for conversation: is Gibbons being rightfully put in the crosshairs here, or are you willing to spread the blame around? Perhaps, after all of this, Osuna was unavailable tonight for rest or other reasons. Regardless, all that I ask of a manager is that he gives a roster the best opportunity to win, and lets the players take it from there. Nobody bats 1.000, but tonight, I didn’t see that.

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