I just got back from the Brewers action packed 8-6 loss against the Cincinnati Reds. Anytime the home team posts a five spot in the ninth to tie it, it was a great game. I found the excitement of the Brewers comeback overweighted by my frustration with Ken Macha's use of the bullpen. It is really starting to get out of hand.
I have mentioned numerous times on this blog of how poorly Macha has managed the pitching staff this season. I think that he can be to blame for the second worst earned run average in the National League.
Tonight, Macha threw Todd Coffey for three straight innings, in which Coffey threw a season high 46 pitches.
Although Coffey has shown an ability to go multiple innings before, there is no telling what kind of stress this is putting on his arm. Including tonight, Coffey has pitched more than one inning 19 times this season. He has pitched in back-to-back games 12 times. Although Coffey has been successful this season, this can only last for so long.
The majority of Coffey's overuse has come recently, while the bullpen has begun to falter. The first half of the season, the Brewers had one of the best bullpen's in the league. That bullpen was flourishing with great work from Coffey, Hoffman, DiFelice, Carlos Villanueva and Mitch Stetter. Everyone but Coffey and Hoffman have pitched horribly since then. Hoffman is unable to be overworked because the Brewers, simply, haven't had leads to bring him in. That is not the case for Coffey.
Lately, it seems that there is no lead too small or large for Todd to appear. Just last week Coffey pitched a scoreless 7th inning while the Brewers were leading 10-2. What is the point in using Coffey in a decided game. That is the reason we traded for David Weathers and Claudio Vargas. Those are the types of pitchers that are able to eat innings and help save a bullpen.
In his third inning tonight, Coffey gave up two home runs and the Brewers lost 8-6. What was the point in Coffey coming back out for the 13th? The only viable reason would have been that the Brewers were running out of pitchers. However, this was not the case. The Brewers had three pitchers remaining in their bullpen. Deadline acquisitions David Weathers and Claudio Vargas were not used. Lefty specialist Mitch Stetter was not used, even though Joey Votto was leading off the 13th. There were other options, but Macha has the most trust in Coffey. Sometimes, it seems that he only trusts Coffey.
This has been my biggest problem with Ken Macha. He seems to get his mind set with just some certain guys.
Mark DiFelice had a rough week against lefties earlier this season, where he surrendered a couple of home runs. Since then, DiFelice has been used primarily as a ROOGY (righty one out guy). That term is thrown out for someone who can't get lefties out. Although for that week he struggled, throughout his entire career in the minor leagues, he handled lefties pretty well. There is no question that Mark handles righties better, but that doesn't mean that he can't also get lefties. Anybody with DiFelice's control and ability to strike out batter should not be working in the fifth inning constantly- a role that Mark has found himself in lately.
I just wanted to point out one case in which Macha has lost trust in one of his relievers. There are for sure many other instances. The important thing is to regain the trust that he had earlier this season. The reason that this bullpen worked so well was that Macha had more than two pitchers that he trusted.
Coffey hasn't lost his effectiveness yet, but it has to be coming soon. Reliever pitchers in major league baseball are so delicate. Constant overuse of the will lead to ineffectiveness. Coffey is under control for the Brewers for a couple of years yet. There is no reason to waste his arm trying to finish .500 this season. I'm just saying why risk one of our best relievers to finish one game better. In the big picture, it's just not worth it.