The Rangers need a new bullpen blueprint

DALLAS - Ron Washington would call them “winning pieces.” They were the bullpen guys you would turn to with a lead to ensure it held up. Sam Dyson, right now, is not a “winning piece.”

On Sunday, Jeff Banister was in a no-win situation, even if a win was on the line.

No, the bullpen wasn’t managed perfectly, but until he had no options left, he stayed away from the bullpen arms that were not “winning pieces.” There is a lot to be said about the trust Banister had in his offense to make his strategy work, and it didn’t work out, but there was a strategy in place.

Cole Hamels going five innings and struggling with command (and body language, but that’s something to watch over the course of the season) wasn’t an ideal situation to begin with. It was fairly clear in the early going that the bullpen was going to be a factor.

Even though his strike percentage was better than his previous start (62.5%), Hamels had issues putting hitters away, had a couple of fielding miscues himself, and a 3-run bomb by Haniger ensured that the ride was not going to be without turbulence. After five, the bullpen carousel started.

6-4, with how the bullpen has been going lately, is considered a high-leverage opportunity. Dyson is not a high-leverage guy. Tony Barnette, who was in discussion to be a 9th inning guy but also has the wherewithal to be a multiple-inning arm, took over. There’s no issue there.

Barnette came out on the losing end of a lengthy at-bat against noted Ranger-killer Kyle Seager. A double by Seager and another one two batters later and the score is 6-5. Again, high-leverage. Barnette gave up the tying homer in the next inning before being pulled. That happens, sadly, but the game was not out of hand.

6-6 is still a high-leverage opportunity. Dyson is not a high-leverage guy. Banister turned to Alex Claudio to go lefty-on-lefty against Robinson Cano. Make one thing clear – it’s not Banister’s fault that it took Alex Claudio one pitch to retire Cano.

Using Claudio for one batter, even one pitch, is not something that would have gotten a second look if the Rangers had pulled out the win. With A.J. Griffin slated to go in Oakland on Monday night, having high-leverage Claudio available for multiple innings would be key.

6-6 with Nelson Cruz coming up is still a high-leverage opportunity. Dyson is not a high-leverage guy. Even with Claudio having pretty even splits against righties and lefties, Banister went to Jeremy Jeffress. Make one other thing clear – it’s not Banister’s fault that it took Jeremy Jeffress two pitches to retire Nelson Cruz. The offense again went scoreless.

6-6 with Kyle Seager coming up, with Taylor Motter, who beat you yesterday, coming up is still a high-leverage situation. Dyson is not a high-leverage guy. Jeffress worked an inning and two-thirds on Saturday, 21 pitches. Again, with Griffin going on Monday, a high-leverage someone like Jeffress would be nice to have in reserve. Matt Bush was called upon. He did Matt Bush things. That’s great.

7-6 in the ninth after a Nomar Mazara home run is definitely a high-leverage situation. The inning by Matt Bush was his first after receiving a cortisone injection for an AC joint flare-up, a nagging pain that Bush acknowledged would need surgery…in about seven months. Bringing him out for another inning was not advisable.

Mike Hauschild ate an inning and two-thirds the day before and wasn’t especially good. Dario Alvarez, in a small sample of an inning and a third, might have a 0.00 ERA, but has also surrendered a home run and two unearned runs.

Sam Dyson is not a high-leverage guy. But who else was? The rest of it played out the way it did. Dyson shouldn’t have stuck out his hand to try and grab a bouncer. Dyson also should have let Gallo take the subsequent bunt by Martin. Dyson also shouldn’t have walked Mitch Haniger to force in the tying run.

Baseball’s a retrospective game for us fans. Pitchers, no matter when they’re called on, are supposed to get outs. Sure, Banister was managing for the next few games (ten in a row after six in a row) instead of the current one, but that’s what a manager does.

Instead, the reliever he called on couldn’t get the outs he needed. Maybe on Monday night, we’ll be saying, “It’s a good thing Claudio and Jeffress could be drawn out and Matt Bush is available.”

Or maybe we won’t.

 

Who would you turn to for the next save situation for the Rangers? Share your bullpen thoughts with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.

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