Benoit, Leyland and Coke

Posted: October 14, 2013 in In-game strategy, Managers, Pitching, Post-season

No, Benoit and Leyland were not caught using coke. In fact, if you listen to and watch the Tigers’ skipper, you might think he was on anything but cocaine.

In any case, I am wondering if the correct pitcher to face Big Papi wasn’t Coke rather than Benoit. Benoit actually has a career reverse split, likely because he throws so many change ups, but my platoon projection for him is still positive. Coke has a pretty large platoon split, so, accordingly, I have Coke as much better against lefties than Benoit. Even strictly using career numbers, Coke has actually done a little better (wOBA-wise) against LHB than Benoit. And since managers are often reluctant to use closers for more than one inning, it would not be totally unreasonable to nick Benoit just a tad for coming into the 8th inning rather than the 9th.

Now, once the Sox tie up the game and Detroit doesn’t score in the top of the 9th, I can’t think of any reason not to leave in Benoit to pitch the bottom of the 9th. Once he’s out, he obviously can’t come back if the Tigers should take the lead in extra innings. It is hard to say what kind of a pitcher Porcello is as a reliever, but he is probably not one of their better short relievers. In other words, the difference between Porcello and Benoit in the 9th is likely very large.

Leyland has also been criticized in the media and blogosphere for not letting Scherzer go a little longer. I will almost never fault a manager for taking out a starter “too soon.” As many of you know, I am a big believer in taking out starters as soon as possible (especially, especially, especially non-ace starters), since almost all relievers are better than starters once the starter faces the lineup for the 3rd time, especially since you can start looking for favorable platoon match ups. Even a great pitcher like Scherzer gets a lot worse the 3rd and 4th times he faces the batting order. In addition, there is no evidence that a pitcher who is thus far pitching a great game through 6 or 7 innings, is any more likely to continue pitching well than is a pitcher who has been pitching less well. So I think taking out Scherzer after 7 is just fine as long as you replace him with an excellent short reliever, including the effects of chaining.

  1. Alvaro Pizza says:

    My thing with Leyland yesterday was starting with Veras, who is a mediocre reliever. Why give the other team hope with a comeback? I don’t know your projections for both Veras and Smyly, but Smyly had an xFIP a RUN lower than Veras against RHP. 3.03 to 4.08.

    If this is the Yankees, everybody knows the 8th is for Robertson and the 9th is for Rivera.

    Why not start the 8th with Smyly when he is your best reliever? Doesn’t Leyland know his own reliever’s platoon splits? That’s overmanaging and throwing the game to the trash can.

    Also, either one of the Cabrera/Fielder combo should DH. They are awful with the glove, and Cabrera looks like a statue. That run in the 9th is not Porcello’s blame. Any competent 3rd baseman fields Gomes single, any competent 1st baseman doesn’t let Iglesias throw go to the stands and fields the popup from Salty.

    • Peter says:

      I think Leyland over-manages a lot during the regular season, often using his best relievers in big lead/low leverage spots when they aren’t rested and there are no off days approaching…however with the off day today and in the playoffs I didn’t have as much of a problem with it.

      • Alvaro Pizza says:


        The off day doesn’t have anything to do with my comment. Just start the 8th with your best reliever.

        BONUS: Smyly is NOT Leyland’s closer, so the Fredo excuse of not putting Kimbrel in the 8th because he is HIS CLOSER, doesn’t apply here.

        Also, if Smyly doesn’t start the inning, at least let him finish it. Don’t burn your best reliever after giving a BB against a lefty. Smyly isn’t a LOOGY. He is winning 5 – 1 for christ sake.

  2. Peter says:

    I think there are several reasons to ‘nick’ Coke a bunch too. He hasn’t pitched against hitters since the regular season (not on ALDS roster), he’s been hurt, and he’s been under performing consistently all year long.

    I often disagree with Leyland (playing Kelly over Dirks I don’t think is defendable and playing Peralta over Dirks in LF against a righty in ALDS wasn’t either – of course that turned out well), but I agreed with bringing in Benoit in this spot. (I probably would’ve gone with a different sequence to begin the inning, however).

    I was also surprised he didn’t leave Benoit in for the 9th. Its not like Benoit threw more than expected pitches in the 8th.

    I’m a bit surprised you think Porcello isn’t one of their better short relievers. I would think he’d be second only to Benoit, especially if he gets to face a lot of righties. (Does your opinion have anything to do with him being a sinkerballer and perhaps maybe not benefiting from a gain in velocity as much as a non sinkerballer?)

    • MGL says:

      I’ll address all the comments above here.

      No question that Porcello being a sinkerballer makes me skeptical that he would be able to benefit from increased velocity as a reliever. However, in general, I am skeptical that a regular reliever called on to occasionally relieve can derive the full benefit of being a reliever. I guess I am saying we just don’t know. Pitchers in general seem to benefit anywhere from a half run to more than a run per 9 when they relieve as opposed to when they start, but I think that can be quite variable.

      I don’t really have any problem with Benoit over Coke. If Coke is not 100% healthy or ready, then Benoit is probably the better option. I think we can call that a tossup.

      We talked about this on The Book blog – Dirks appears to be much the better option than Kelly – who simply cannot hit.

      As far as using Fielder or Cabrera as DH, I don’t know. Someone would have to look at the numbers. I don’t think you can just say off the top of your head that that should be the case. I also don’t think that Fielder is a bad first baseman, so Fielder is probably not the DH option. I assume you would have to put Iglesias at SS, Cabrera at DH and Peralta at third. I would have to run that through a sim or someone could add up the offensive and defensive numbers to see if that is a better option than leaving Cabrera at third. One of the estimates would have to be Cabrera’s current fielding projection. Maybe -15? -20?

      As far as using Veras, I actually have him rated pretty well, around 11% better than league average in run prevention. He also has fairly large platoon splits so you want to avoid him facing lefties as much as possible. With a 5-1 lead in the 8th, the leverage is really low,.11. So, honestly, it doesn’t matter who you start out with. Obviously the LI starts to climb as runners get on base.

      I think Leyland is a terrible strategist in general, because he is an old school guy and not very smart, but I don’t consider him to be a micro manager by any means. But those are just labels and I only watch maybe 5% of his games.

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