Friday, April 25, 2003

Bottom of the ninth, one run lead, bases loaded, one out.

Your best lefthanded reliever just gave up back to back walks (one semi-intentional) to load the bases. Righthanded batter coming up. Who do you bring in?

Well, if you're Tony La Russa, you bring in Cal Eldred, who has spent his entire career as a starter, has never been brought in to pitch in a situation like that before, and does not seem to be adjusting well to life in the bullpen. But he's righthanded.

Not surprisingly, Andruw Jones promptly hit a two-run single to win the game for the Braves.

Now, with Jason Isringhausen hurt, La Russa may not have had any better options. But the sad part is, the Cardinals had a good bullpen last year! They had Isringhausen, Dave Veres, Mike Crudale, Mike Timlin, Luther Hackman, and leter RIck White from the right side, and Steve Kline from the left.

But that's too imbalanced for La Russa, he likes to have more lefthanders so he can gain the slight platoon advantage by swapping between left and right handed relievers non stop in the final innings. It's enough to drive a viewer bonkers.

What's even more annoying about it is that the last two Cardinals' seasons have ended with a left-handed slap hitter (Tony Womanck then Kenny Lofton) driving in the winning run with a hit off the left-handed (and to be fair, usually very effective) Kline, despite Kline's vaunted platoon advatage. Might this be a clue that it's not as important as La Russa thinks.

Apparently not, since the Cardinals found it neccesary to completely revamp their perfectly good bullpen in order to have the requisite number of left-handers to enable La Russa's platoon gamesmanship. And we can see the results -- Cal Eldred being asked to come into the game in the ninth inning with men on base to get critical outs.
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