After the two ugly losses in Detroit, I thought a discussion about bullpen usage would be timely. I'm not here to bash Gardenhire--that isn't interesting to me. My point is this: in two straight games, the Twins had late leads. In two straight games Detroit scored the winning runs against the Twins bullpen. In two straight games, the Twins best reliever didn't pitch.
2008: Joe Nathan is behind Guerrier, Neshek, and Bass in innings
2007: Behind Guerrier in innings, even with Neshek and behind him in appearances
2006: Behind Crain, Rincon, and Guerrier
Here's the thing: this is what every team does, and it makes very little sense to me. Wouldn't you want your best pitchers to pitch more than your lesser pitchers? And yet, because of a nonsensical rule, it doesn't happen.
I understand the value in having defined roles for your pitching staff. What I don't understand is the definition of the "closer" role. It is so limiting in the use of your best reliever that the role doesn't include, say, tie games. Further, I don't understand being so inflexible within those roles that your best reliever pitches so infrequently.
It seems to me that the rigidity with which we use relievers has gone well past the point of usefulness. It's one of the reasons why teams now have 12 man staffs, and it didn't help the Twins in Detroit.
I'm interested in what others think. Is there a better way? Without asking your best guy to go 120 innings?