Jake Diekman Should Not Be the “Eighth-Inning Guy”
Reliever Jake Diekman ran into a bit of trouble in the eighth inning of last night’s eventual 14-inning victory over the Miami Marlins. The lefty started the inning and Marlins manager Mike Redmond opted to have the right-handed Reed Johnson pinch-hit for reliever Bryan Morris. Johnson would eventually fly out to right field.
The Marlins’ lineup was entirely stacked with right-handed hitters one through eight, including the switch-hitting Jarrod Saltalamacchia batting seventh. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg opted to let Diekman stay in the game to face Jake Marisnick. With the bases empty and one out, it’s not a big deal and Diekman is good enough that you trust him to retire the odd right-handed hitter every now and then. Marisnick bunted to third base and Cody Asche threw him out for the second out of the inning.
That brought up Ed Lucas, and Lucas was able to keep the inning alive, dunking a single into shallow left field. All in all, a pretty good inning for Diekman. With Giancarlo Stanton coming up, it’s a no-brainer to bring in Justin De Fratus. Diekman has allowed a .334 weighted on-base average to right-handed hitters this season (.335 career), and Stanton has hit lefties to the tune of .489 (.409 career). Thanks for a solid inning, Jake.
The only problem was Sandberg left Diekman in the game. Stanton eventually drew a walk, and then both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Then Casey McGehee was intentionally walked to bring up Marcell Ozuna, who also hits lefties well (.349 for the season, .356 over his career). With the count 2-2, Diekman was able to blow a 99 MPH fastball past Ozuna to end the threat and the inning.
While the end result was good — Diekman showcased his elite fastball to escape danger — the decision-making was poor, and it was not the only time it has been made recently. Corinne Landrey said it best on Twitter:
This obsession with Diekman as The 8th Inning Guy is my least favorite part of the 2014 Phillies.
— Corinne (@Ut26) June 27, 2014
On Saturday against the Cardinals, Diekman relieved Cole Hamels after Hamels had allowed a one-out run-scoring double to Matt Holliday. Diekman entered to face the right-handed Yadier Molina and Jhonny Peralta, the left-handed Matt Adams, and the right-handed Peter Bourjos. Diekman hit Molina, and both runners moved up on a passed ball. Peralta reached on a fielder’s choice to shortstop — Jimmy Rollins threw to the plate to nab Molina, but Carlos Ruiz couldn’t handle the throw. Adams plated a run with a sacrifice fly before Diekman was able to retire Peter Bourjos on a ground out.
Diekman hasn’t been horribly misused by any means, but there are some obvious spots where more judicious usage — rather than blind use of a pitcher in a pre-defined role — would be beneficial. Two-thirds of the batters Diekman has faced this year (104 of 155) have been right-handed. That ratio could easily be brought down to 50/50 with a bit of forethought. To find an example of how playing the match-ups can work out, one need look no further than the 2008 Phillies. J.C. Romero‘s RHB/LHB ratio was 144/111 (56.5% right-handed). Scott Eyre‘s was 53/53.