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Yeah, Another Look At Clint Hurdle And The Bullpen


Yes, this horse has been beaten. But when Clint Hurdle uses the bullpen the way he did on Sunday and again last night, a game which Charlie did a great job of recapping, I can't help myself.

Here is what I wrote on April 9 as part of open letter to Clint:

But Clint, sorry to ramble on. There is one thing I need to point out to you. Remember last year when you guys were tied for first place in the NL Central on July 26 with a 53-47 record and the Pirates were the talk of the baseball world? You played that 19-inning game that night against the Braves and got jobbed by Jerry Meals and lost 4-3? Yeah, you didn't use Joel Hanrahan that game.

Yep, your relievers did do a great job in that 19-inning game. But then the next night you had to go extra innings again. You lost 2-1 in 10 innings. You kept Hanrahan in the pen that game too. You did use Hanny the following day and even brought him in for a four-out save, but your team would go on to lose the next 10 in a row, and you ended up using Hanrahan three times in that stretch just to get him work. In the middle of that losing streak, in an extra-inning game in Philadelphia, you chose not to use him and the team lost 6-5 after being ahead 5-3 going to the bottom of the eighth.

In fact, I looked it up. Over the course of last year, your team went 1-5 in extra-inning road games. You used Joel Hanrahan in only two of those games, and not in the "extra" part. They were both save situations where he blew the lead, which led directly to the games going to extra innings. It happens, no problem there. But in the other four road extra-inning contests last year, you did exactly what Manuel did this weekend and left your best reliever in the bullpen. You lost on every occasion. That doesn't even count games in which you were tied or ahead in the eighth or ninth and ended up losing while your man Hanrahan went unused. There were a bunch of those too.

Looks familiar, doesn't it? The Pirates have played three extra-inning road games this year. On June 7 they beat the Reds 5-4 in 10 innings. Joel Hanrahan came on to save it in the ninth, but game up a run and ended up getting the win as the Pirates rallied in the tenth. Sunday Hanrahan pitched the 14th inning in what would be a 19-inning win. Last night Joel stayed in the pen as the Bucs lost in ten.

In the past two years the Pirates have played nine extra inning road games. Joel Hanrahan has been used four times. Three times he was used in the ninth, blew the save and the game went to extras. As I said above, that happens. Closers blow saves. The other time he pitched the 14th inning. Essentially he has been used once in six extra-inning road games in two seasons and it took 14 innings to do it.

Matt Bandi today looks at Clint's use of Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan over at Pirates Prospects. Pat also nails it over at WHYGAVS. Charlie and I have written about it so many times the past two years I can't count them all.

We are all dumbfounded by Hurdle's use of his staff. The most important aspect of the 19 inning game isn't necessarily that they won or lost, it's that they played 19 innings and it screws with the pitching staff for an extended period of time. Last year they went 1-10 immediately afterward. This year they are 0-2.

The organization's choices since that game have been, uh, surprising. I don't care how much guts and courage and team-playerness Kevin Correia had by volunteering to pitch, he shouldn't have started Monday. I applauded the decision to bring up Kyle McPherson and Justin Wilson to supplement the pen, and they were both outstanding in their debuts. Now they are gone. Chad Qualls and Dan McCutchen in their place. You've got to be kidding me. Hurdle has been clamoring for another lefty in the pen all year. Wilson, who the Pirates have said is going to the pen just for this reason, strikes out the side ... and is now back in Indy. (McPherson, I agree, should be back in Indy.) Qualls and McCutchen shouldn't be on the team. Wilson, Chris Leroux, Bryan Morris and Jeff Locke all are better options. This is bordering on negligent, if I can use that term when discussing a baseball team's roster.

I've also been railing on Neal Huntington's roster construction for awhile now. A lot of people disagreed with me about Neal and Clint's comments regarding September call-ups. It's not September, but I can't help but look at Huntington's comments and wonder if he's at least slightly concerned with "raiding" Indianapolis. It sounds ludicrous, I know, but I really can't come up with another reason he is going with the roster that he is.

Simply put, the Pirates' brain trust is butchering its roster management and bullpen usage right now. (I didn't even touch on two games blown because Hurdle wouldn't pull his starter in the fourth inning.) This is a pennant race and those leading the Pirates are putting the team at a disadvantage on a nightly basis.

And the problem is, as noted above, it's nothing new. But now it really counts.