Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kevin Gregg is not better than Koji Uehara

With a 5-4 lead in the ninth tonight, Buck Showalter brought in Kevin Gregg for the save. Gregg retired the first batter, but he eventually blew the save, allowing a run on an RBI single by Casey Kotchman. (The O's eventually lost 7-5 in 11 innings.) Gregg has pitched moderately well this year, but there was a pitcher still in the bullpen who Showalter should have went to instead: Koji Uehara.

This situation isn't something new; Showalter seems to like having Gregg in the closer role, and Gregg has racked up 12 saves. But acquiring saves doesn't make a pitcher great. Consider the career numbers of both pitchers:

Gregg: 3.99 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 8.28 K/9, 3.88 BB/9, 134 saves
Uehara: 3.32 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 8.98 K/9, 1.43 BB/9, 13 saves

In parts of nine major league seasons, Gregg has accumulated 4.9 fWAR. In parts of only three seasons, Uehara has already been worth 3.6 fWAR.

The Orioles may not have the greatest bullpen in the league, but the team does have some decent relievers. Jim Johnson, who's also been solid this year, pitched two scoreless innings before Gregg entered the game.

I've argued before that using Gregg in a save situation when Uehara (or Johnson) is sitting in the bullpen is pretty silly, especially when both pitchers are well rested. In this case, Uehara pitched last night -- when the O's were already leading 5-0, which is another matter entirely. However, Uehara ended up pitching the 10th inning tonight after Gregg departed, meaning he was just fine to pitch the ninth. Does it really make a ton of sense to use one guy instead of another clearly better option just because the former has racked up more saves? That logic applies even more so since the O's were leading by only a single run.

Uehara is the better pitcher. He very well may have blown the save just as Gregg did. But a manager's job is to put his team in the best position to win, and it doesn't look like Showalter did that tonight.

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