It doesn’t take much of a trained baseball eye to see something was off with Shaun Marcum against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night. Pitches were left in the zone; pitches were inside when they were supposed to be outside. Command and control were limited, and when command and control are limited even someone with Stephen Strasburg’s velocity and breaking stuff would struggle. Shaun Marcum? Forget about it.
Kameron Loe was warming in the fifth inning. Shaun Marcum just got the break of his life when Justin Upton didn’t crush a ball against him, even if he did botch the potential double play. Then, the Brewers walked the left-handed Miguel Montero (a questionable decision in itself) to bring up the righty-righty matchup with Paul Goldschmidt. With Kameron Loe watching in the bullpen, Marcum gave up a grand slam to effectively put the game out of reach.
Here, we need to explore a simple question: why do managers leave starting pitchers in for so long?
The answer isn’t as simple as “starting pitchers are better than relievers.” Because they aren’t — they might be more talented, but they aren’t better at preventing runs. Starting pitchers had a 3.94 ERA this season; relievers check in at a mere 3.59.
Clearly, there is something else at work. Specifically, it is the fact that although relievers have better results, they can only pitch so many times over the course of a few days and only so many times over the course of a 162 game season. Especially with only six relievers in the bullpen, one short start and the entire bullpen gets overworked quickly.
But this is the playoffs. There are only four starting pitchers, meaning an extra reliever, typically one who can go multiple innings. There are plenty of off days. And, more importantly, every win is hugely important, and playing for the future doesn’t help nearly as much as it does in the regular season.
In the playoffs, you have to take the best chance you have at recording every single out. The best chance at scoring every run. But Ron Roenicke left Shaun Marcum in for some unfathomable, incorrect reason — because you just don’t pull pitchers in the fifth; because you don’t pull pitchers when they just recorded an out.
For the record, I believe Loe should have been brought in to face Justin Upton. But getting the shut down right-hander in against Paul Goldschmidt is just as good of an opportunity. Loe holds righties to a .601 OPS. Yes, Marcum has a .566 OPS against righties this year, but he clearly wasn’t on top of his game and his career numbers show a much more even split, as typically is the case for changeup specialists.
Loe gave up a run on two very poorly hit balls after being summoned from the bullpen, both coming against right-handed batters. The same kind of poor luck could have struck had he faced Goldschmidt or Upton as well, and the conversation could be moot. But I can say with certitude that Kameron Loe had a better chance of holding the Diamondbacks scoreless in the fifth inning. Whether or not it was a leash too long or some other poor reasoning from Ron Roenicke, he made a mistake Tuesday night in leaving Marcum in to face Paul Goldschmidt, and it cost Milwaukee any chance to hit their way back into the game.