Wednesday, October 3, 2007

An Open Letter To Eric Wedge

Dear Mr. Wedge,

You seem like a pretty reasonable guy. I thought you kept giving Trot Nixon regular ABs for too long, and you have a weird tendency to pinch-run for your best hitters in the 7th inning, but if those are two of my biggest complaints this year, you're probably doing a decent job.

That being said, what you're about to do is completely insane. You plan on going into a playoff series against the New York Yankees with Joe Borowski as your closer. This, in itself, isn't all that unreasonable. After all, if that's your best guy, what are you gonna do? That's Shapiro's fault, not yours.

Borowski is not your best reliever. You know this. In the clincher, you kept Betancourt in for the ninth. I know it was a four run lead, and thus wouldn't have been a save situation if Borowski had come in. But if that's not saying he's your best guy, I don't know what is.

He's not your second best reliever. Again, not debatable. The world may not yet know about Rafael Perez, but they will soon, and you're well aware of his 1.78 ERA, and the fact he's held lefties to a .450 OPS this year.

With the recent emergence of Jensen Lewis (whom the world certainly does not know about), Joe Borowski, your closer, might be this team's fourth best reliever right now.

This really hasn't hurt the Indians too much thus far. Perez and Betancourt have actually each thrown more innings than Borowski. Sure, he blew eight saves, but he also successfully converted 45.

But that was the regular season. This is different. Not different in the "he's going to collapse under the pressure of October" sense. Different in the "different scheduling format sense".

When Sabathia and Carmona pitch, you probably aren't going to need more than two relievers if they leave with a lead. After that, there's an off day. So then your top two bullpen guys can both pitch again in both G3 and G4, without having to worry too much about fatigue. And it's unlikely there will even be high leverage opportunities in each of these four games. It's probably going to be very possible to have two guys pitch 80+% of your high leverage innings.

Here's what's gonna happen. CC is gonna go seven, and Betancourt will come in for the eighth. He'll get through the inning unscathed, then Borowski will come in to close it. I'm not saying this is going to happen again (if only because they won't have that big of a lead), but are you really confident about that situation? Is that combination really better then a Betancourt/Perez combo, with the added bonus that you can throw Raffy Left in the inning where he'll face the maximum number of lefties?

It's not. Everybody knows it's not. You know it's not. So you have two options. You can stick with your closer and just let the situation play out. Unless you have some serious balls, that's what you're going to do. And in terms of your future as the manager of the Cleveland Indians, that's probably not the worst idea in the world. This is "what got you here", so you're going to stick with your guns. And who knows- maybe it works out and Borowski lets a couple guys get on, but gets the job done. Maybe it doesn't- even then, the focus will be on him rather than you. Regardless of what happens, you're gonna be around for awhile.

But you don't have to do that. Even from a public perception standpoint, that's not the only move. Let's say you bring in Perez to face a couple lefties in the eighth, then Betancourt to close it out in the ninth. Sure, there's a chance one of them blows it. And you'll take a serious hit in the media if that happens; "What was he thinking!? How can you not stick with Borowski? Betancourt doesn't have the closer mentality!".

Or, this could work out, and the Indians could beat the Yankees with Betancourt and Perez finishing off all three wins. In that case, the praise would be overwhelming.

But either way, would any serious baseball people have a problem with this? Every series preview I've read has made it very clear that the Indians have one main weakness, and that's their closer. Beyond that, they seem like a team that's built for a short series, with the two aces at the top of the rotation.

By making the Raffys your two main relievers, you could immediately eliminate your team's main weakness. Please take this into consideration before Thursday night's game. You owe it to both this team, and their fans. Borowski has already proven his incompetence- at least give somebody else a chance to fail.

Jacob (Vegas Watch)

Photos: Sports Network, NY Times baseball blog.

Related: Bring it On [The DiaTribe], Playoff Prospectus: Yankees vs Indians [BP, Jaffe]


  1. you couldn't be more spot on. the whole idea of having borowski come in for the 9th just because he's the 'closer' is ridiculous. betancourt and perez are more than capable of handling 2 innings, as theyve done all year.

    borowski would be throwing BP up there. lets just hope the tribe gets a big enough lead...

    and the thing that gets me is on paper, the tribe has the edge. their pitching can neutralize the yanks bat, the bullpen is strong. the yanks weak pitching doesnt bode well against the tribe's offense. but you just KNOW the yanks are going to tee off on borowski and thats going to be a HUGE factor. again, ugh...

  2. For what it's worth...

    4.08 Borowski
    3.05 Perez
    2.25 Betancourt

  3. Sometimes having your best relief pitcher be your setup man as opposed to your closer is a good thing. Taking into consideration the way that closers are specifically used to maximize their save totals, having your best relief pitcher pitch the highest leverage situations is what you want. This often turns out to be a close 7th or 8th inning game. These are the innings that your top setup man is likely to pitch in. Closers often start the 9th inning of games that it's team is already ahead by 2 or 3 runs in. This is usually not the highest leverage moment of a game. I liked the old Yankees bullpen when Rivera was the setup man for Wetteland. Rivera was getting more high leverage appearances than Wetteland, and it was due to the manager managing to the "save" statistic. If the Perez/Betancourt combo is that good, and niether one of them is the closer, they are likely going to be pitching in more of the high leverage situations (7th and 8th inning). Yes, the 9th inning can have high leverage situations also, but the closer is often wasted in pitching with 3 run leads and only 3 outs to get. Why not waste a mediocre pitcher like Borowski?
    vr, Xei

  4. i think you should all take a page from the padres/rockies game about bringing in your closer...when you know his record is not good. trot nixon should sit down and explain about what it means to play the yankees and about team pride...all those years w/ the sox should help understanding that not only are cleveland fans watching. everyone who hates the yanks is backing your team. so please don't let us down.

  5. The difference pitching in the 7/8th innings and the 9th inning is like night and day. The final 3 outs are the toughest. 45 out of 48 is very good.

  6. 45/48? Excellent.

    45/53? Not so much.

  7. "Here's what's gonna happen. CC is gonna go seven, and Betancourt will come in for the eighth. He'll get through the inning unscathed, then Borowski will come in to close it."

    boy, were you off.

  8. Very much so. Didn't expect the strike zone to be so tiny, and CC was clearly shaken in the top of the first.

    Can't argue with the result, however.

  9. Ian McCullough10/9/07, 1:55 PM

    Hmm most saves in the AL. Just saved the 4th game in the ALDS.
    Not bad, not bad at all.