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Wedged out of the Series
Posted by James Benkard at 10/21/2007 9:52:00 PM
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While the Red Sox deserve every bit of credit for coming back to beat the Indians in seven games tonight, Indians fans can hang a lot of blame on manager Eric Wedge. He didn't spread the work out over his whole team, and was a conservative, boring in-game manager who wasn't able to push the right buttons to steal a win from the Red Sox. Wedge's biggest mistake was using essentially a five-man bullpen of Joe Borowski, Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez, Tom Mastny and Jensen Lewis to back up his four-man rotation. Nine pitchers might be enough to win if you have a Mariano Rivera or two, but it wasn't enough against the Red Sox. Long man Aaron Laffey was a forgotten man until game five, when he threw 4 2/3 good innings. Spot lefty Aaron Fultz appeared in just game one, walking the only two men he faced. What made this strategy especially short-sighted was that Perez, Lewis and Mastny had a combined 176 innings of major league experience headed into the playoffs. Nevertheless, they were thrust into leading roles in a shrunken bullpen. Wedge kept using the same relievers over and over until they finally crumbled. He used Betancourt and Perez whether the Indians were ahead or behind. Perez threw six innings in the four-game Yankees series, and was never effective against Boston. Betancourt pitched in seven of the 11 playoff games, finally hitting the wall tonight as the Red Sox battered him for seven runs. I'm not a huge fan of the Tony LaRussa mix-and-match, burn-three-pitchers-in-an-inning managerial strategy, but Wedge was the opposite. He was Joe Torre on steroids. Betancourt threw 41 pitches tonight, and with each of them the game slipped further away. With supposedly "all hands on deck" for a seventh game, the most Wedge could do was summon Lewis after the game was 9-2. One pitcher who could have helped ease the burden on the bullpen was Cliff Lee, who had a 6.29 ERA but came back from a minor league stint in September and pitched pretty well. Winner of 46 games from 2004-2006, one would think Lee could have contributed more than the two walks that Wedge got out of Fultz. Another pitcher they could have used was Jeremy Guthrie, whom the Indians released this past January and went on to post a 3.70 ERA in 175 innings for the Orioles. That blunder hangs on GM Mark Shapiro, like his ill-advised April 2006 trade of second baseman Brandon Phillips for a sack of peanuts. As far as offensive strategy, I didn't see Wedge hit and run once. The only bunts I saw the Indians lay down were for sacrifices. Wedge repeatedly played Franklin Gutierrez, a young, righthanded power hitter who hit .232 against righthanders during the year (.330 versus lefties) against righthanders and kept veteran lefthanded hitter Trot Nixon on the bench. Nixon hit .455 in the playoffs, while Gutierrez brought his average up to .211 with two hits tonight. Wedge's style reminded me of Dusty Baker, who came close with the Cubs and Giants in 2002 and 2003. These managers lay back and let their team duke it out. They aren't able to adjust and be aggressive when the situation calls for it. Beating the Red Sox needed a dose of creativity, and Wedge wasn't the man for the job.


Cleveland was outscored 30-5 over the last three games. How could Eric Wedge let that happen?
Posted by spianow at 10/22/2007 7:06:00 AM
Some good points, but the series didn't turn on Wedge's handling of the pen, I don't think. I agree, though, that he could have been more aggressive offensively -- hit-and-runs, stealing bases, etc. At some point, you have to force the action to make things happen, and, like Ellsbury playing for Crisp (think we'll see him once in the WS?), I would have liked to have seen Trot instead of Gutierrez. In my view, though, Game 7 turned on three plays. The first was the first-inning RBI single by Manny that should have been a double play. Just a bad hop because of the poor Fenway infield. The second was the Lofton throw out at second. He was clearly safe. And after singles by the next two hitters, the game would have totally changed if Lofton had been safe. The third was the Lofton play at third. What a horrible, horrible job of coaching third base. You're not going to challenge Manny's arm? Even if Manny had gotten to the ball before Lofton turned third, I'd still have run. Make Manny make the play. No way he would have thrown him out. As it was, Manny wasn't even looking to go home. Just a bad, bad decision by the third base coach. None of those things are Wedge's fault.

Posted by Jason Thornbury at 10/22/2007 7:22:00 AM
Wedge let the Indians be outscored over the last three games by mismanaging his bullpen, in my opinion. It's the manager's responsibility to quash big innings, and Wedge didn't do it.
Posted by Benkard at 10/22/2007 1:03:00 PM
Not that Wedge managed a perfect series, but you're reading too much into his impact here. The big story is how poorly Sabathia and Carmona pitched over four games.
Posted by spianow at 10/22/2007 1:17:00 PM

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