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Baker's Bullpen Mismanagement Costs the Reds Dearly

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I apologize up front for writing a second-guessing post like this one. I try to avoid, as much as possible, falling into the talk-radio traps on this site. However, I read this post from John Fay and my feelings of irritation from last night all came rushing back.

Fay says the big mistake was walking Brendan Ryan, which I completely agree with from a performance perspective. You have to throw strikes to the hitter before Albert Pujols with the game on the line. That is question number one on the MLB entrance exam, and Logan Ondrusek failed that test miserably.

The real issue that I have with Fay's article though is his justification for using Ondrusek in that situation:

Baker is getting ripped for using Ondrusek. But, if you want the right-on-right match-up the choices were Mike Lincoln, Nick Masset and Micah Owings. You could have heard the boos in West Chester if Baker brought in Lincoln. Baker was trying to save Masset for the eighth. It was a tie game, so Owings was needed if it went extra innings and they need three innings from someone. And there’s this: Pujols is 3-for-5 off Owings and Masset.

I'm fine with looking for the right-on-right matchup. I fine with his justification for not using Mike Lincoln, though shouldn't that be an obvious indication that maybe Lincoln doesn't deserve a spot on the roster? I'm even okay with saving Micah Owings for a potential extra inning game. What irritates me to no end is "Baker was trying to save Masset for the eighth."

Look who was batting in the 7th - by the way, we are talking about the 7th inning here, not the 4th or the 2nd, the 7th! It was the top of the Cardinals order. Pujols was due up third in the inning and Matt Holliday was due up fourth. Is this a logical place to bring in a rookie with one inning of big league experience? Why would you save your best relievers for an inning where the bottom half of the order is likely to be batting? Managing your bullpen to the inning is beyond stupid.You have to put your best pitchers into the most important situations in the game.

This shouldn't be a difficult concept to grasp, but managers make these sort of decisions all of the time. I understand wanting to give pitchers clearly defined roles, but those roles do not need to be defined strictly by the inning. Surely Masset can be ready to pitch in the seventh OR eighth inning, right? He's not an eighth inning cyborg, is he?

Side note: Can we please stop using 5 at-bats as justification for batter-pitcher match-ups? Five at-bats has zero predictive power, as we can see by the fact that Masset later struck out Pujols on four pitches in the eighth inning.

Did Dusty Baker single-handedly lose this game? No, of course not. The offense barely managed to put up a threat all night long. But this is two games already where Baker has made glaring bullpen mistakes.Both he and the Reds' offense need to get their butts into gear. This ain't spring training anymore.

It's a long season, so I'm not panicking yet - no where near it. I'd just like to be able to go one game without having to pull my hair out over poor decision making and even worse justifications for it.

There, now I feel better.