clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Final thoughts on Jeff Banister and Shawn Tolleson

Evan Grant called my description of Jeff Banister's decision to leave Shawn Tolleson out there in the 11th yesterday "emotional knee-jerking." I figured I'd respond.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I thought we were done with the discussion of Shawn Tolleson and the decision to leave him in the game for almost 50 pitches yesterday once the Rangers took an eight run lead, but Evan Grant has a blog post up today that takes a shot at me while defending Banister's decision.  In relevant part:

The discussion on social media has gotten silly today with one person suggesting that Banister managed "scared." That’s beyond emotional knee-jerking. To put the winning run on third base via a pair of intentional walks is the opposite of pitching scared.

There is plenty of reason to be curious about the move.

But, given that Tolleson was already in the game and that the Rangers rallied after he was in the game, the manager shouldn’t be criticized for it.

That one person, of course, was me:

Although I'm not the only person who has made that claim about Banister.  Still, since I'm the only one whose assertion was described as "beyond emotional knee-jerking," I figured I'd explain.

Let's put the game situation in context.  The Rangers took an 8 run lead into the bottom of the 11th.  No team in MLB history has blown an 8 run extra inning lead.  Only one team, it appears, has blown a 9th inning 8 run lead, and that happened in 1901.

And we aren't talking about playing a game in Coors Field.  This is a game at Safeco, one of the most hitter-pitcher-friendly stadiums in baseball.  And it is against Seattle, one of the worst hitting teams in baseball.  Seattle is 13th in the league in runs scored, 15th in average, 13th in OBP, 9th in slugging.  The chances of Seattle scoring 8 runs and tying the game up in the bottom of the 11th are, effectively, zero, regardless of who Texas sends to the mound.

And yet, Jeff Banister's explanation for sending Tolleson back out there?  From Evan's column:

"I felt it was necessary as opposed to unnecessary," Banister said. "Given the emotional roller coaster of that game and that we’ve had games like that here before, the players needed that game to be closed out then. I know it’s not conventional thought process."

* * *

"There are extenuating circumstances," Banister acknowledged. "There are times you make decisions so you don’t have collateral damage. And there are times you make decisions to win the game in front of you today."

Banister wanted the game closed out and to win the game in front of you today.  He said last night that he was concerned about Anthony Bass not being able to get out of the inning, and then having to turn to Luke Jackson, who has never pitched in a major league game (although Sam Freeman and Spencer Patton were both in the pen as well).

When you say that, with four other pitchers available in the bullpen and a lead in extra innings which, literally, no team has ever blown in extras in major league history, you had to send your closer out there for a second inning's worth of work after he'd already thrown 26 pitches...

And when that results in your closer throwing more pitches than he ever has before, either in the majors or (for the teams B-R has the data for) the minors...

And your closer was just coming off a stretch where he threw six times in seven days...

And when that decision means that you will not be able to use your closer today, whereas he would have been available today if you hadn't used him for that extra inning...

Well, I'm sorry, but that seems to be managing scared.  It is being so fearful of the de minimis possibility of losing a game that you make a bad decision, one that impacts you going forward.

And I want to make a couple of things clear here.  First, I'm not calling for Banister to be fired, calling him a bad manager, or anything like that.  I think he's done a very good job in his first year here...but at the same time, I think he's got a bullpen he doesn't trust, outside of a couple of pitchers, while being on the fringe of a playoff race where every win seems critical.  That's a recipe for overusing your trusted relievers (and, I suspect, helps explain why Keone Kela was sent down).

Secondly, I'm not blasting Evan or calling him out.  I like and respect Evan, and I think he does a great job of covering the Rangers.

I'm sure a lot of folks are tired of this topic, and I figured I was done writing about it before this.  And I've had people say, the team won, who cares, let it go.

And there's something to this.  But at the same time, this is the sort of thing that provides some insight into the type of manager Banister is, and I think it is the type of mistake that a first year manager makes that a more experienced manager probably doesn't.  It is more of a big picture issue, and sheds some light on a potential problem that we, as fans, probably want to think about and discuss.