Blue Jays: John Schneider’s bullpen management has been a head scratcher early on
On October 8th, 2022, Toronto Blue Jays manager John Schneider made one of the worst decisions of the season by pulling a red-hot Kevin Gausman against the Seattle Mariners in the second Wild Card Game. The decision made by Schneider not only led to a game loss but a series loss and ultimately ended the Blue Jays season. To start the 2023 season his managerial decision making, specifically with the bullpen, continues to be just as suspect as it was in the 2022 postseason.
The mismanagement of the bullpen started right from the jump this season, specifically with 26-year-old Zach Pop. Since the spring many people have seen that Pop has good pitches that should be used in high leverage situations, yet Schneider continues to use him in blowout games and does not allow the young pitcher to gain experience and show off his new tools. The biggest head scratcher out of all of his decisions with the bullpen may be the use of veteran pitchers like Adam Cimber, Trevor Richards, and Tim Mayza. These three pitchers should not be seeing high leverage situations, yet we still see them in those spots and they have blown some games, in particular Cimber against the Houston Astros.
During the offseason general manager Ross Atkins made a splash with the bullpen by trading Teoscar Hernández for Seattle Mariners reliever Erik Swanson. Swanson has shown in the past that he is very good against left-handed hitters but in the first series of the season against the St. Louis Cardinals, Schneider decided to pull him for a left-handed pitcher in Mayza. This decision was very costly in that specific game as Paul Goldschmidt and some of the left-handed hitters on the Cardinals hit Mayza hard. Even as of late, Swanson has not seen as much playing time as he should and recently went six days without being used. When a player like Hernández is traded for an asset like Swanson that player needs to be used as much as possible. A top tier reliever cannot sit for almost a whole week no matter what type of series is being played.
Since the last cycle through the rotation, the starting pitchers have made it much easier on the bullpen because they are going six to seven innings consistently. The struggles on bullpen decisions does not usually come in the seventh, eight, and ninth inning. Those slots are usually reserved for Swanson, Yimi García, and Jordan Romano when the starting pitcher goes six innings. The struggles for him come when the starting pitcher comes out of the game early. The pitchers coming in have to give the Jays a chance to stay in the game. In a close game against the Los Angeles Angels in the tenth inning he decided to bring in Richards. Now, the decision ended up paying off, but it is never good to bring in a pitcher like Richards in such a high leverage situation.
These bullpen decisions could become costly, especially the longer the season goes on. If the Blue Jays want to not only make the playoffs, but make a run in the playoffs the bullpen decision making must be better.