Bullpen mismanagement is becoming big problem for Jeff Banister, Rangers
I’ve noticed a trend over the last two plus years of Jeff Banister’s tenure as the manager of the Texas Rangers. He…elects to make the wrong decision regarding the bullpen more often than a manager of a Major League Baseball team should.
Sunday’s installment was just the latest in a flurry of bullpen blunders by Banister, some proving to be more costly than others. Winning 95 games undoubtedly masks a lot of issues, but Banister’s mismanagement of his bullpen may have prevented his team from winning 100+ games last season.
Banister’s bullpen management certainly didn’t help in Game 3 of the 2016 ALDS against the Toronto Blue Jays, where Banister elected to go with Jake Diekman, who had struggled in the month of September, and in Game 1; Diekman gave up 3 runs on 4 hits in just an inning of work. On the first pitch, he gives up a rope down the left field line.
Saturday, after Andrew Cashner’s respectable debut for the Rangers, Banister elected to go with Mike Hauschild in the highest leverage situation in the game. On the first pitch, Mitch Haniger took him deep to left to put the game out of reach.
Today’s management of the bullpen was a series of bad moves. After Cole Hamels’ lackluster performance, Banister chose to go to Tony Barnette in the sixth inning, which was the correct move. Barnette is comfortable there, and has earned the right to pitch in that situation. He gave up a run, but it was the sensible move nevertheless. What followed…well, that’s where things got dicey.
Barnette gave up a home run to Guillermo Heredia, and then got Haniger out. Banister then brings in Alex Claudio. Again, the sensible move. Robinson Cano was up, and Claudio is tough on lefties. Claudio gets Cano out, and there is one out in the inning. Instead of leaving Claudio in, Banister chose to go to Jeremy Jeffress, who was only available for one batter.
In that situation, if you know Jeffress can only go one batter, he simply can’t be used in that situation. Getting three outs and a full inning from Claudio would have provided him more flexibility later in the game. Claudio is capable of getting righties out, and using him in a one-batter situation is wasting a reliever who, on that given day, has the capability to go more than one hitter.
The Rangers go scoreless in the 8th, leaving the bases loaded, and in comes Matt Bush. Bush was nothing short of dominant in his outing, striking out all three batters on just 11 pitches, and the Mariners trio was not close to hitting him. Not pitching for a week, Bush was well rested, and looked poised to take the ninth inning. After having such a good inning in such an efficient manner, the easy, obvious, and only decision at that point was to leave Matt Bush in the game.
Nomar Mazara hit a huge home run in the ninth inning off Mariners closer Edwin Diaz to give the Rangers the lead. At this point, with Bush on the mound in the ninth inning, I felt comfortable about the Rangers chances of salvaging a game in this series. Then the television turned to Sam Dyson warming up in the bullpen, and I—along with every other Ranger fan watching the game—had a singular reaction: “Oh, no.”
There is not a situation where Sam Dyson should be pitching that ninth inning with the game undecided. Given the current state of the bullpen and the need for a win, there is no way Sam Dyson is pitching that ninth inning. Period. Bush was dominant the inning before, and looked like he was ready to go get three more outs to bring home the win. If they are concerned about Bush’s shoulder, fine. Flip him and Dyson, and let Dyson throw the 8th. Under no circumstance should Dyson have seen the mound in the ninth. The decision seemed like a bad idea to everyone save for one person—and that person happens to be the one making the decision.
Nevertheless, Dyson threw the ninth. He walked in the tying run before getting an out, and gave up a hard grounder to short to end the game. They were on the verge of being 5-7, and now they are staring 4-8 right in the face.
Jeff Banister is a player’s manager. The players adore him, because they know he has their back under any circumstance. He has enormous trust in his players. With his bullpen, it has become trust to a fault. With Shawn Tolleson early last season, Diekman late last season, and Dyson now, Banister has put the Rangers in some very tough spots with his bullpen management. A 4-8 start is by no means insurmountable, but it is not an ideal beginning to the season.
Hopefully, the manager has learned where the line is between trusting his guys, and winning games.