05 October 2016

Predictably (And Rightfully), Buck Showalter Is Getting Crushed For Not Using Zach Britton

Buck Showalter's refusal to use Zach Britton in last night's American League Wild Card Game was one of the worst managerial decisions I've ever seen. Showalter is a fantastic manager and one of the greatest the Orioles have ever had, but he messed up in a big way. Yes, the O's offense was also terrible again. They've been terrible for months, and no one is letting them off the hook. But there's no getting around what Showalter did.

Anyway, you don't need me to tell you Showalter made a tactical error. Many other better, more qualified writers did a more than sufficient job of that. Here's a rundown of lots of them:
Are there more of them? Yes, and even more are coming. And they should.

As much good as Showalter has done to bring the Orioles back to respectability, his decision may end up shaping his entire tenure in Baltimore. As much as last night's loss stings, let's do our best to not let that happen.


Anonymous said...

1. Just to play devil's advocate: Considering the Orioles' lack of hitting, you could argue that using Britton to put out the fire would have only delayed the inevitable. Suppose that we end up losing in the bottom of the 13th inning anyway, people would be saying that "Buck used Britton too early."

2. That being said... this could be a good excuse to fire Buck (and maybe send Duquette to Toronto and make Buck the GM). After all, if history is any indication, doing so would guarantee winning the World Series in 2017! ;-)

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Who cares if you delay the inevitable? You want to make sure you use your best players, period. Sullivan's piece above also debunks that level of thinking entirely.

Joking or not, Buck shouldn't be fired. I wouldn't want him as the GM anyway. Plus, the Blue Jays don't need Duquette anymore; they moved on.

Dustin said...

I think that, as high leverage and important the gaff he made yesterday was, it doesn't come close to washing over all of the great that he's done for this team over the course of the last 5+ years.

When I watched this slow motion car crash over the course of the last hour or so last night, the 'should he be fired' question began creeping into my head. When Encarnacion hit that absolute moon shot against Ubaldo, I said to my game-watching buddy "Buck has got to get fired for this. This is, almost literally, about the most incompetent thing a manager could do". Given a night to think it over, I no longer think that. Buck Showalter, more or less, has one GLARING error on his record. He's been lauded over the past several years as being about as positive of a manager that can exist in baseball. One (very public) day doesn't change that.

It's hard for us to recognize this as fans, but no player, manager, GM, or owner comes into their situation fully formed. It's a constantly evolving job, like all of our jobs are. Nobody expects college graduates to come out into the work force at the level of a 40-year veteran. Buck continues to grow, continues to learn. Hopefully, he'll learn from this. He'll come back next year with the perspective of this really big, really life-altering mistake. He'll be better for it.

Let's not fire a manager that, over the course of the last five years, has brought this team to the highest heights this franchise has seen in at least 20-30 years because of one game.

H.D. said...

I understand the frustration of not bringing in Briton, but for me the bigger question is why Bundy wasn't in the bullpen instead of Jimenez. Bundy has a far greater ability as a reliever, especially over Jiminez. There was no reason to save his arm as a starter considering the O's have other options; just a really odd decision.

And the reason the O's lost was the offense, you can't overlook that simple fact. HR or bust doesn't work.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

No one is overlooking the offense. It's mentioned above, and should be mentioned whenever this game is discussed.

If you want to get upset about not using Bundy over Jimenez, that's fine. But that wasn't the worst decision of the night.

Anonymous said...

If you want to get upset about not using Bundy over Jimenez, that's fine. But that wasn't the worst decision of the night.

...that would be starting Davis and Jones (0.759 and 0.690 OPS in September, respectively), right? If it were up to me, I'd be okay about sacrificing a little bit of defense by going with this starting lineup instead:

Kim LF
Bourn CF
Machado 3B
Trumbo RF
Alvarez DH (0.851 OPS in September)
Mancini 1B (1.471 OPS in September, 14 ABs)
Hardy SS (0.833 OPS in September)
Wieters C
Schoop 2B

Matt Kremnitzer said...

You don't set your lineup by who hits well in the preceding month, so yes, that would be ridiculous. And if Jones and Davis are healthy, they're playing.

Roger said...

Matt K, the part of the lineup that might deserve discussion is the Bourn over Alvarez decision. As it played out, Bourn was needed in the outfield and made a couple of excellent plays although even he made a fielding gaffe by not catching the one ball. And he did steal a base providing an extra scoring opportunity. But the lineup flexibility with Trumbo in the field and Alvarez at DH (allowing for the possibility of Mancini to PH) is worth considering. Maybe Alvarez was the one big bat we needed last night. To me, it's a close call.

And, like you have said, ANY mention of firing Buck is ridiculous and outlandish as good as he's done. I thought the Givens decision was bad at the beginning because he often has trouble with first batters but that turned out well and Givnes pitched fantastically. The Jimenez over Bundy decision was awful as was the decision not to pull Jimenez right away for Britton. Buck also had too quick a hook on Donnie Hart. I think Buck only used Hart to get Saunders out of the game. Ubaldo has well documented issues with his first inning after which he settles down and pitches well. It makes him a passable SP and a terrible RP.

James Jones said...

And if Britton had pitched the 9th and 10th innings, or the 10th and the 11th innings, so what? There's no guarantee that the game would have tilted the O's way. Say Britton is used early and the team loses a few innings afterwards. Wouldn't Buck be getting grief for having used him TOO soon?!?

David said...

Just going to counter two things I've heard this morning/late last night.

"Using Britton just delays the inevitable. They were going to lose anyway." - This may well be true. Liriano could've gone 6 shutout on the Orioles for all we know. Maybe the Jays even score on Britton. Ignoring for a moment the fact that Buck let the game get that far along without using Britton (somehow that decision didn't cost them), if he starts the 11th it probably buys the Orioles two more chances to push a run across. If you score in the 12th, great! Britton can close. If you score in the 13th, you have Bundy or Hunter to turn to close. If you still don't score, yes, you have to go to Jimenez and probably lose.

"Fire Showalter" - No. This was an all time blunder. It is now another sad story in Orioles lore right there with Jeffrey Maier and 0-21 and will be brought up years from now when fans reminisce. But the fact is he's still the best manager the Orioles have had in 20 years. Perhaps the best since Weaver. You don't fire a manager for this the same way you wouldn't cut Jones if he made some baserunning blunder that cost them the game. Definitely serves a learning moment, just one you wish happened in April and not a do or die game. Continuing Professional Development is key in any profession.

Roger said...

I think the Calcaterra article is the most incisive on why this tendency persists among even the best managers.

Matt P said...

I felt that the decision to go with O'Day or Givens over Britton were bad but not terrible. But I thought the decision to go with Jimenez over Britton was absolutely horrible and completely inexcusable. I figured it meant that Britton was injured. What happens if the Os scored a run instead of Toronto? The Os would have to bench Jimenez to put in Britton. But if Britton blows the save, the only relievers left in the pen were Hunter and Bundy. Do you want Bundy throwing five innings? If not, there was a reasonably good chance that the Os would run out of relievers due to that decision.

Not to mention that there was a good shot that Jimenez would pitch a number of innings and be unable to start game 1. That would have forced the Os to use Bundy in Game 1 (or Gallardo/Miley) which means he can't be in your bullpen. Very poor decision making.

Unknown said...

This isn't the first time Buck Showalter has been criticized for his bullpen usage in a do-or-die game. In Game 5 of the 1995 AL Division Series between Seattle and the Yankees, Buck let David Cone make 141 pitches in 7 2/3 innings before calling on Mariano Rivera (who, granted, wasn't MARIANO RIVERA yet.) The Yankees led 4-2 before the Mariners scored the tying runs; Cone walked the last two batters he faced (the last a bases-loaded walk to Doug Strange.) The Mariners went on to win in 11 innings.

the muse said...

I might have brought in Bundy over Jimenez. I might have brought in Britton after the first two hits given up by Jimenez. But what happens when the O's don't score in the 12th, or the 13th? No more Britton. Who is your lock down reliever when the O's finally do score? Chris Davis?
Sad to see the game lost on bad defense and zero hitting. But... it is just how it is and this decision by Buck would not have made any difference.


Matt Kremnitzer said...

I mean, that's your opinion that it wouldn't have made a difference. Obviously nothing matters if the Orioles never get another hit or don't score another run. No one is absolving the offense. They were terrible in the second half of the season, and they were terrible in the wild card game.

But the best way to manage is to use your best players. I don't understand what is so confusing about this. Britton was ready to go for at least two innings in that game. He went for none. The Orioles lost while their best reliever -- their best pitcher -- didn't throw a single pitch. That is insane.

Do you know what happens if the Orioles take the lead with Britton in the game? Maybe he stays on for an extra inning. Maybe it's after he's already thrown an inning or two, and someone else has to come in. That's how it goes, and you have to trust that pitcher to get three outs. Plus, you do at least have the benefit of one run being scored and it not ending the game. It's been mentioned elsewhere, but Showalter used that very same strategy in an earlier game in the season against the Blue Jays (http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/orioles/blog/bal-for-zach-britton-proudest-moment-in-perfect-season-was-same-one-orioles-didn-t-use-him-in-20161004-story.html). It helped the Orioles win then, and you know who got the save? Logan Ondrusek.

It was a must-win game, and Showalter messed up. He is not the sole reason the O's lost, but he also a culprit in them not taking the best route to winning the game. That's a problem.

GRob78 said...

I'm not at all upset with Buck not using Britton.

Reimold for Kim, however, is a bit concerning. Granted that Reimold's mishandled play in LF was absolved by the 3 run homer. It was a game breaking bobble. That is a bigger issue than not using Britton as I see it.

This was a great, great baseball game. The Orioles were in hostile (for painfully obviously reasons) territory and held it together. However, the lack of offense, made worse by their first-pitch swinging tendencies, was more significant than the extra innings pitching choices.

Buck has had a tendency this past season to trust his starting rotation too much. We've lost, from my estimate, about a dozen or so games because a pitcher was left in too long. The most recent case was when Miley was allowed to continue in NY after getting beat up the inning before, but saved by a chance DP. Hopefully the Orioles will get this figured out, though I don't know who replaces Dave Wallace as pitching coach.

Ubaldo was a gamble but his stats against the big three in the Jays line up were solid going into that 11th inning. You can't put Tommy Hunter in because he's still balky versus power hitters. I would have liked to have seen Gausman or Bundy come in instead of Ubaldo just because I don't trust Ubaldo in almost any situation regardless of his last month's performance.

Buck is the best bet for the Orioles right now. Duquette...I'd be happy to see him go.

Roger said...

Matt K, you're absolutely correct. All the other decisions had some defense but when Duensing entered in 11th, Buck gave away the "positional" advantage he had gained by using all the other good relievers first. By the time Travis got to 3rd, the game was basically over. Hunter would have been very capable of getting the save if the O's got a lead and Bundy would have been a better choice to follow Britton (better "1st inning" record than Jimenez) in a continued tie. It's hard to complain too much about the O's offense considering Toronto didn't do any better. One of the two would eventually score.