Leave it to baseball that your worst decisions pay off and your best ones backfire. Bob Melvin’s bullpen decisions the first 2 games have drawn much scrutiny, so why not a little more? Here’s my take on which decisions have been to his credit and which are worthy of critique:
- Casilla closing Monday: Terrible decision. Casilla had a shortened spring training, has not shown great velocity, hung a few sliders in the Bay Bridge series, and should be eased into high leverage. Melvin got away with a bonehead move there.
- Casilla not closing Tuesday: Great decision. Closing with Casilla on back to back days would have been taking a bad idea to its worse extreme.
- Montas not closing Tuesday: Good decision. Montas is likely the "closer of the near future" but on his way to possibly being Greg Holland he is liable to be more like John Axford — high velocity, little control — and he should not be debuting in save situations. This is a guy who has pitched all of 31 IP the past 2 years and has all of 7 big league games under his belt. Patience, grasshopper.
- Dull closing on Tuesday: Good decision, bummer of an outcome. I called for Dull to be the primary closer, based on his consistency, strike throwing, and holding batters to less than a .200 career batting average. RH batters are a career .172/.187/.344 against Dull and the group coming up in the 9th began with 3 RH batters, followed by a switch hitter who is much better from the right side.
The choice to close with Dull would have looked just fine had Trevor Plouffe fielded a ground ball, or had Cameron Maybin’s ground ball single been a DP ball, or had Dull not hung a slider he was probably trying to bounce, or had he thrown a fastball away to a guy who basically runs into 20 mistakes a year and does nothing in between. Blame, Plouffe, luck, Dull, or Vogt, but not Melvin, for how things played out.
- Doolittle up, but not in, Tuesday: Totally defensible decision. I wouldn’t have minded seeing Doolittle run up 96MPH fastballs to the K-prone Danny Espinosa, and if Dull had given up two searing line drives for the hits I might have called for it. But the fact is, the percentages strongly said "stick with a RHP" because Espinosa’s career splits are pronounced:
career vs. LHP: 256/.326./.452
career vs. RHP: .216/.293/.368
So basically if you make him bat from the left side, his slugging drops from a robust .452 to a sad .368, and at least you figure he won’t launch a gut-wrenching 3-run HR. Sigh.
When you get down to it, I can’t really find fault with Tuesday’s Hendriks-Madson-Dull selection that ended with Dull facing 3 RH batters and a guy who is terrible when he bats LH. I just don’t know how the A’s skipper looked at Doolittle, Madson, and Hendriks and chose Casilla to close Monday’s one-run game. And guess which game blew up in Melvin’s face?
I just hope results don’t win out over process, with Casilla closing the next few games until he pitches his way out of the role, because I think right now there are 4 pitchers, not even counting Montas, who are better choices. Dull is one of them, even if you wouldn’t know it at this exact moment.