League-wide, we're seeing managers make questionable decisions with their use of the bench and bullpen, and it usually involves the batter due up, or the pitcher on the mound being left-handed. Well Lou Piniella is taking it to another level, and he really displayed that Monday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.
As is usually the case, the Cubs manager decided to go with left-hander Neal Cotts out of the bullpen because of left-handed batters due up for the opposition. And as usually is the case, Cotts was ineffective, allowing four hits and three runs in an inning of work.
Yes, the bullpen was short-handed with Carlos Marmol in New York where his wife was scheduled to give birth, and starting pitcher Ryan Dempster was only able to go four innings, so it's very possible Cotts would have to pitch at some point in the game. However, the Cubs had just taken a lead, and that was quite a big deal considering they had a seven-game losing streak. Maintaining that lead was a must, it should've been treated like the seventh game of the World Series.
Really that's beside the point though. It just bothers me that I know the reason Cotts was in for that particular situation was because of the left-handed hitters due up. Lou just assumes that because Cotts throws left-handed, he'll be great at getting left-handed hitters out, and that's certainly not the case.
Left-handed hitters had an .860 OPS against Cotts in 2008. He was actually good at getting right-handed hitters out, as they only had just a .716 OPS against him. This year, he's allowed three home runs in 22 at bats against lefties, and a 1.255 OPS. He's far from a traditional LOOGY(Lefty One Out Guy), yet Lou treats him as such and it seems like that will be the case until Cotts is off the roster(which needs to happen as well). He usually throws straight four-seam fastballs, an average slider, and has no deception in his motion to throw off a left-handed hitter. Really, he might be the last guy I'd want in against lefties out of the seven relievers in the bullpen, and he's the first one Lou will choose about every time.
The same thinking also came into play on offense last night in the ninth inning. The Cubs were trailing 10-8 with a runner on first and one out. Left-hander Sean Burnett was on the hill for the Pirates, with closer Matt Capps leaving with an elbow injury in the inning. Kosuke Fukudome's been arguably the best player on this team in the early going, and he was available off the bench. Instead, Lou chose to let the light-hitting Ryan Freel and Aaron Miles bat, and predictably neither was able to get the job done.
Fukudome has a higher batting average against lefties compared to righties in his early career, and has a homer in his five at bats versus southpaws this season. He has a higher OPS against lefties than right-handed-hitting Freel or the switch-hitting Miles. Freel is batting .143 and Miles is batting .204. Mike Fontenot was the only infielder available off the bench at the time, and he would've had to replace one of them, but you have to get to that situation first. Fukudome gave the team a better chance to do that.
I've loved Lou and believe his personality is ideal for this franchise, but he's used the bench and bullpen horribly in the first two months, particularly when it involves a left-handed pitcher or batter on the field prior to the move. With the bullpen, we know by now it's not going to stop, so I think it's time Jim Hendry looks to go out and get a legitimate LOOGY for Lou.
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