Last night saw a wild bottom of the seventh inning in Houston.
Breaking with tradition, Angels manager MIke Scioscia did not bring Jered Weaver out to start the home half of the seventh inning despite the veteran having only thrown 86 pitches. With a 3-2 lead, this was uncharacteristic.
Jose Alvarez with a one-run lead in the seventh? The first thought was that if the bullpen has depth, why go with Alvarez? Every Angels follower knows Scioscia has followed rigid bullpen roles and this would have been an indicator that Alvarez just rocketed up the ladder of high pressure situations - a curious choice indeed.
When Alvarez gave up a freak bloop hit to the first batter, though, Scioscia miraculously did the right thing in taking him out. Did he do the right thing in not bringing in Mike Morin? His choice of Vinnie Pestano delivered a bloop, a walk and a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Scioscia then brought in Cesar Ramos - and not as a situational lefty. A double play ended the chaos, but has the chaso only begun?
This inning was the antithesis of Scioscia's rigid philosophy of strict bullpen roles. Ninety Nine times out of a hundred, or so it seems, Scioscia would have left Weaver in or left Alvarez - or whomever began the seventh - out on the mound to face at least two more batters. MLB's mouthpiece tweeted Scioscia turning over a new leaf:
Scioscia said Ramos, Alvarez, Pestano, Morin, Salas all options in 7th. Will continue to be a matchup inning for him. #Angels— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) April 18, 2015
Is this the end of rigid roles? Sure, Joe Smith and Huston Street followed in the path of the righteous rigid role and finished up the game in grand Scioscialist style. But with no cementing of Morin or even Pestano into three-batter seventh inning situations, we can ask if Mike is looking at the data rather than the simpleton flowchart that has guided a decade and a half of team management.