A couple days ago, we ran an impromptu poll on our Bucs Dugout Twitter page asking how fans would grade Derek Shelton’s bullpen management lately.
Needless to say, fans are not impressed.
POLL TIME: How would you grade Derek Shelton’s bullpen management as of late?— Bucs Dugout (@BucsDugout) July 2, 2022
Out of 253 total votes, 45 percent of voters would categorize the bullpen use as embarrassing, 38 percent said it was poor, 15 percent said it was average, and only two percent of voters said it was good.
In fairness, this was tweeted less than 24 hours after the Pirates fell to the Milwaukee Brewers, 19-2, and after Cam Vieaux was deemed the sacrificial lamb in that game, so there is some recency bias in when it was tweeted. That, however, was just another spoke on the wheel of poor management decisions with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ pen.
In early May, fans were impressed with how Shelton handled his relievers, but the admiration quickly turned into anger as May and June progressed, but he may not be the only one to blame for this.
One tweet from @mrgoodstuff23 expresses dissatisfaction with upper management for not giving Shelton enough tools to work with.
Cherington is more to blame at this point. Has completely neglected pitching all throughout the organization— ... (@mrgoodstuff23) July 2, 2022
To a point, this is true.
Cherington has supplied some serviceable arms to the pen, like Dillon Peters, David Bednar and Duane Underwood Jr., but Cherington has also allowed some of the guys in the Minor Leagues to showcase what they can bring to the team. Some being Vieaux, Cam Alldred, Beau Sulser and Yerry De Los Santos.
That last list does foreshadow some of Cherington’s faults in supplying adequate talent, as he designated Alldred and Sulser for assignment without really giving them a chance, with Sulser getting picked up by the Baltimore Orioles.
Let’s not forget Cherington’s “Hall of Bullpen Infamy”, however.
Miguel Del Pozo, Aaron Fletcher and Austin Davis are just a couple names that come to mind.
While he’s given Shelton some tools to work with during the tanking period, he has yet to make any real effort in bolstering the pen.
the whole "we are getting blown out, someone needs to fall on the sword" thought process is bs in today's game.— Mr.America (@DocMcShockens) July 2, 2022
This tweet doesn’t get as much love as it should.
Earlier in the story, the term “sacrificial lamb” was used to describe Vieaux in his game against Milwaukee, but the bigger picture is that there have been more pitchers that have “fallen on the sword” when games get really bad.
Vieaux is not a bad pitcher by any means, but casual fans might look at his last outing and label him as a bad pitcher because of it. Meanwhile, fans who’ve watched him while he’s been up know that he has some talent.
Shelton went on record after that game saying that he “didn’t sleep very much because of it.” It’s hard to tell what caused him unrest, whether it was seeing a good pitcher get dealt a rough hand or it’s because he knew he could’ve gotten Vieaux out of it by subbing in a position player or another reliever. Either way, letting players bite the bullet is not a good way to manage a ballgame.
Lastly, there’s been a growing concern that Shelton is ruining David Bednar’s arm since he’s used him in more ways than one. While this cannot be proven, an argument can be made that Bednar’s arm could be affected in a negative way with all the ways that Shelton has utilized him.
No matter what way you look at it, bullpen management needs to be improved from both an upper management and on-field standpoint.