Mickey Callaway threw away the math in mystifying Mets call
ATLANTA — The daily challenge of deciding how and when to utilize the Mets bullpen grips Mickey Callaway harder by the day.
It was one thing earlier in the season when so many of his relievers had set roles, but the seventh, eighth and ninth innings on any given night can belong to almost anybody.
On Thursday, Callaway was still faced with questions based on his decisions from the previous night, when Seth Lugo replaced Steven Matz — who had retired 14 straight batters and thrown only 79 pitches — and allowed five runs in the seventh inning after the Mets had taken a 2-1 lead. The Mets never recovered, losing 6-4 to the Braves in their third straight defeat.
Though Lugo had been dominant over the previous six weeks — he was NL Reliever of the Month for July — the decision to insert him was head-scratching in that even if the right-hander pitched two scoreless innings, the ninth would be wide open, as Edwin Diaz continues to struggle.
“It can be challenging,” Callaway said before the Mets completed their series against the Braves at SunTrust Park. “There is a reason a lot of teams are going on analytics, because it says, ‘This guy for this spot, this guy for that spot.’ That doesn’t always work, we all know that.
“You have to understand what is going on with a player lately. That has to come into play, so it does add a little bit of a dynamic if certain struggles are there, but that is what you have to deal with, so we’ll continue to try to make the best decisions we possibly can and hopefully we get performance from it.”
Factors Callaway used in deciding to remove Matz were the fact the Braves had gotten solid contact against him the previous inning. Also, Matz had to run the bases in scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the inning. Lastly, Callaway didn’t like the idea of the lefty Matz facing Josh Donaldson leading off the inning in a one-run game.
“I bet 85 percent of our decisions go against the analytics,” Callaway said. “And that is how it’s always going to be, because that is just on paper. It doesn’t take into account the person is a human being, how he performs in these big spots, all these things a manager looks at.
“You’re going against analytics most of the time, but I think there is something to be said when all things are equal and you are taking all these things into consideration and the decision still feels very equal, let’s lean on what does the matchup look like? What does the projection that our analytics department is coming up with, what does it look like, and if it’s a lot of points one way or the other I think that is something to take into consideration to try to make a better decision.”
Lugo, who had held opponents hitless over 35 at-bats before Anthony Rendon homered against him last weekend, said he checked with the analytics staff after Wednesday’s game to have many of his suspicions confirmed: He was more a victim of bad luck with well-placed balls by the Braves than poor pitches.
“My pitches were consistent with how they have been over the last month,” Lugo said. “I think I got squeezed on a couple of pitches that started the inning on the wrong foot and then a lot of bloopers, you get soft contact. I remember a couple of outings ago every ball they hit was a rocket, but right at people. That is just the way it goes.”
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