CBS Sports MLB insider Jonah Keri doesn’t think too highly of Buck Showalter right now. That’s because Showalter, in a move that could define his career, decided not to pitch Zach Britton in the Orioles’ 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card on Tuesday.
Showalter used seven different pitchers in that game, and Britton – who was 47-for-47 in save opportunities with a 0.54 ERA and 0.84 WHIP this season – wasn’t one of them. In the end, Ubaldo Jimenez gave up a walk-off three-run homer to Edwin Encarnacion in the 11th inning.
Keri called Showalter’s move – or lack thereof – the dumbest managerial decision he’s ever seen.
“So, managers do this a lot where they hold their closer back in a road game because they want to save him for save situations,” Keri said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “That is fundamentally stupid because often the most important point in the game is not going to be bases empty, up three runs in the ninth inning. But fine. This happens a lot. Okay. Then you go to the playoffs. Well, the playoffs are obviously more important than the regular season, and you’d like to see that not happen as well. This is even more egregious because it’s an elimination game, because they went through six different (relievers) before Zach Britton, and because Zach Britton had the single best season ever – ever – by a relief pitcher this year by ERA.”
Britton had given up just one run in his last 58 appearances.
“He’s a left-handed Mariano Rivera,” Keri said. “And, because on top of everything else, they bring in Ubaldo Jimenez, who is not good, and he gives up two smoked hits. And, even after all that, they say, ‘You know what? We’re still good. Even with the game on the line, even when the best thing we can possibly get is a double play and Zach Britton is the best sinker baller in the game, no, we’re going to leave Ubaldo in against the most terrifying hitter arguably in the American League.’ All of those things happened. That’s why it’s the stupidest move I’ve ever seen.”
Other managers, to be sure, would have done just as Showalter did, but maybe not as many as we think.
“I think a lot of them would have done it in the regular season, but I think that in that spot, I would like to hope that very few of them would have,” Keri said. “Ubaldo blew the game, but honestly, it was just dumb throughout. They could have brought Britton in in the seventh, in the eighth, in the ninth, in the tenth, earlier in the 11th when Encarnacion came to bat. They had all these opportunities. It was the cumulative effect. You get to this point and it’s Edwin Encarnacion with two on and one out and the season on the line. If you’ve got left-handed Mariano Rivera and you’re not using him, if I was running a team, I would have to seriously think about whether or not that’s a fireable offense. It’s unbelievable how bad it was.”