Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas
It happens often now in major league baseball with the inability of most pitchers to last past the sixth or seventh inning. You have plenty of relievers in numerous games. The days of the complete-game pitcher, long gone, have given way to the days of the five- or six-inning starter, with multiple relief “specialists” coming in all the time to attempt to hold the lead and win the game.
Which leads us to last night’s New York Yankees – Tampa Bay Rays game and winning pitcher Brian Bruney. Bruney came into the game in the bottom of the seventh with the Yankees leading 7-4 and one man on base with one out. He promptly gave up two moon-shot home runs to B. J. Upton (to deep center) and rookie sensation Evan Longoria (to deep left). Bruney, now in a tie ballgame (caused by him), then got two outs against the number six and seven hitters in the Tampa Bay lineup to finish the inning.
Fortunately for Bruney and the Yankees, Robinson Cano hit a home run in the top of the eighth to gain the lead back for the Yankees. In the bottom of the eighth, with no Joba Chamberlain available (due to the health of his father), Bruney went out to pitch to the number eight and nine hitters in the lineup. After Bruney got number eight hitter Nathan Haynes, number nine hitter Jason Bartlett hit a deep drive down the left field line that was hauled in by Johnny Damon, very close to a third home run.
Joe Girardi had seen enough and brought in Mariano Rivera for the four-out save. So Bruney pitched horribly in the seventh inning (two long home runs that scored three runs to tie up the game) and not-so-well in the eighth (got two outs but almost gave up a home run to the weak-hitting number nine hitter on the Tampa Bay Rays).
Despite about as bad a performance as you can have, Brian Bruney gets the win. HOW CAN THIS BE? Well, it’s right there in the comment to Rule 10.17(a) of the Major League Rule Book: Whenever the score is tied, the game becomes a new contest insofar as the winning pitcher is concerned.” Since Bruney allowed the score to be tied, he becomes the pitcher of record. But it would be better if the comment to Rule 10.17(b) applied: it states that the relief pitcher who was “most effective” (Rivera far more effective than Bruney or Traber, for that matter) should get the win.
But Rule 10.17(b) only applies if the starter hasn’t pitched enough innings to get the win. Why? That’s preposterous! If starter Ian Kennedy had pitched four innings rather than six, Mariano Rivera would have received credit for the win. Even though Kennedy pitched six, Bruney was still terrible.
Thus, on last night’s events, Mariano Rivera should have received the win.
But last night’s events are a perfect example of why there should be two rule changes. The most obvious (and there are literally hundreds of examples of this over the years) is this: NO RELIEF PITCHER WHO BLOWS A SAVE SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO GET THE WIN NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS BEFORE, DURING OR AFTER HE PITCHES POORLY. That would be a rule that would make perfect sense and, remember, when the win rules were devised, there weren’t relief specialists, there weren’t closers per se like today and, for the first 80 or so years of baseball, there wasn’t anything known as a “save,” one of the (or maybe the) most misleading stats in baseball.
To take it one step beyond (and while the no-win-for-a-blown-save rule could and should be implemented tomorrow — hey, the NHL just instituted the Sean Avery penalty rule with no notice or anything in the middle of the playoffs – but that’s for another time), this leads to a more interesting and rule-changing notion that would never be implemented: WHEN THE RELIEF PITCHERS (LIKE BRUNEY LAST NIGHT) ARE HORRIBLE, WHY NOT GIVE THE WIN TO THE STARTER WHO PITCHED WELL? (Last night, starter Ian Kennedy for the Yankees gave up three earned runs in six plus innings – for you old-timers, today that’s considered a “quality” start. Seriously.)
Here’s an even better example: Suppose a starter pitches lights-out for seven innings and leaves with a 2-0 lead. Then a reliever (like Bruney) gives up two home runs in the eighth for a tie game. Then the team that was leading squeaks out a run and the same reliever gets the side out in hair-raising fashion (or, worse, another reliever gets the losers out one-two-three) in the ninth. Why not give the win to the starter? The answer, of course, will be that’s not how it’s been done for 130 years. But that’s not a good reason.
To recap, it’s a joke that Brian Bruney, who pitched about as bad as you can pitch (after giving up two monster homers, the four outs that Bruney did get were against guys with a combined average of about .225 and were numbers six through nine in the lineup), gets a win which should have been given to Mariano Rivera. But it would be intelligent to implement the Blown-Save-Can’t-Get-A-Win Rule now and it would be ahead of the curve to think about, in this age of relievers, reverting the win to the starting pitcher who, through no fault of his own, didn’t win a game he should have won.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.