Callaway’s Sewald/Blevins Decision About His Odd Thought Process
In the sixth inning of yesterday’s game, Mickey Callaway was faced with a crucial decision. Does he go to the well rested Jerry Blevinsto get out the left-handed pinch hitter Nick Williams? Does he stick with Paul Sewald, who has good splits against left-handed batters? It was also remotely possible he could have gone with AJ Ramos, who also has good splits against left-handed batters.
Starting backwards, Ramos would have been an intriguing and possibly inspired decision. On the season, Ramos has limited left-handed batters to a .211/.348/.263 batting line. Basically, if he isn’t walking the left-handed batter, they’re not getting on base.
If Callaway turns to Ramos, this could have prevented Gabe Kapler from switching to a right-handed batter to undo the decision to go to the LOOGY.
Now, you could understand Callaway’s reluctance to go to that LOOGY. Blevins hasn’t been good this season allowing left-handed batters to hit .273/.333/.364 off of him. It’s a big reason why Blevins has a 5.63 ERA and a 1.500 WHIP this year.
Still, he is your LOOGY in the bullpen, and Williams was 0-3 against Blevins. More than that, Callaway got Blevins up for exactly this type of situation. It was Blevins’ job to go out there and get the left-handed batter out in a key spot.
Instead, Callaway went with Sewald. You can make differing opinions on Sewald. On the one hand, he has been much better against left-handed batters than Blevins this year. Sewald came into the game limiting left-handed batters to a .220/.238/.341 batting line, and if we’re looking a small sample size pitcher-batter matchups, Williams was 0-1 against Sewald.
However at 35 pitches, Sewald was nearing his pitch limit, which was part of the reason Ramos and Blevins were warming in the first place. He had also been struggling in the Month of May. Prior to this appearance, Sewald had a 5.63 ERA and batters were hitting .273/.273/.515 off of him, and that was with a low .269 BABIP.
Overall, the point is you had your reasons to both stick with Sewald and to pull Sewald from the game. Really, you could go in either direction. However, that’s not the point. Far from it.
Sticking with Sewald goes to the thought process, and frankly, this was one that was lacking with Callaway.
As the manager, he is likely well aware Sewald hasn’t been the Sewald of April. Aside from that, he is aware Sewald is nearing his pitch limit for the game. This is the exact reason he had Ramos and Blevins warming in that spot.
At this point, the Mets margin of error is razor thin. They need to find a way to get out of that inning with a 1-0 lead AND find a way to manage their bullpen for the final 3.1 innings because Jacob deGrom needed to be lifted after a 45 pitch first inning.
When analyzing whether or not Callaway made the correct decision, you need to put aside the Williams’ home run. It’s easy to look at that home run and say Callaway made the wrong decision. It’s possible Ramos or Blevins allows that same homer, and the Phillies continue the rally to making a 3-1 lead a 4 or 5-1 lead. You don’t know.
Here’s what we know. Callaway knew his reliever was tiring. He had a right-handed reliever who pitches well against left-handed batters up and ready to go. He had his LOOGY up whose sole role is to get a left-handed batter out in a key situation. We also know he thought this out:
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) May 13, 2018
Hearing him, it was almost paralysis by analysis. Reading more into it, his thought process was lacking.
That was is a little hard to believe.
No, this was a case where Callaway had Blevins warmed up to either face a left-handed batter or try to prevent Gabe Kapler from using Williams.
If it was a deke, Kepler not only called his bluff, but to that extent, he out-managed Callaway.
If it was Callaway using his gut over his head, well, his guy failed him.
Whatever that case, there was a scenario where Callaway set everything up to have Blevins face Williams, and he didn’t pull the trigger. Perhaps, this is an indictment on Blevins.
Quite possibly, this is part of the growing pains of a former pitching coach who has never managed professionally and is surrounded by a coaching staff with zero Major League managerial experience.
Whatever the case, when you set everything up for one key matchup, and you don’t immediately go to that pitcher, you not only set yourself up for second guessing, you also make everyone wonder what’s the thought process behind any of his decisions.