Everyone would say, especially in the playoffs, put in your best pitcher. Who is the Rangers best pitcher? Well, it depends on what you’re looking at. Darren Oliver has the best FIP (2.68 to Feliz’s 2.96) and xFIP (2.86 to Feliz’s 3.68) of anyone available, but you also have to look at platoon-splits at this point because it’s so late in the game. Both pitchers are death to left-handers (Feliz is surprisingly better against LH this season … interesting), but Oliver has been much worse against RH. Feliz’s FIP against LH was 2.58, but his xFIP is 3.58 against them (xFIP, remember, standardizes HR/FB to 10.6%). Feliz prevents HR pretty well, but at a 2.3% clip? Oliver, on the other hand, is just completely different against the different sides of the plate with a 2 point difference in xFIP (1.74 vs. LH and 3.90 vs. RH). Feliz is clearly the best choice, right?
Well, what about the future? Feliz has gotten 6 outs before, but he only pitched the day after that once. Guess what happened—August 11th (the day after the famous August 10th 6-out save against the Yankees) and Feliz blows a lead by giving up 2 runs and getting one out. That’s only one game, but it can’t give anyone confidence that Feliz could go back-to-back now and against the same team. If he pitches 6 outs in Game 1, he probably doesn’t go Game 2 (some would argue that you can’t think that way, which is valid, but don’t you have to somewhat? If you have similarly good options, isn’t it best to ensure Feliz could pitch today in Game 2). Oliver, though not as great against RH, is not awful against RH, and a 3.38 BB/9 against them isn’t enough to think that the strike zone becomes the problem it did. Let’s also remember that Feliz “caved under the pressure” in Round 1 by walking 3, striking out 2, and giving up a home run. Oliver, unfortunately, isn’t much better with a 4.45 ERA in 30 career postseason innings. So while Feliz is the best pitcher for this place in time, it may not be the clear-cut best decision.
Next is ARod, and Washington brings in Darren II (O’Day). If you want to bitch, now is your opportunity. O’Day is a side-armer, which should make it difficult for RH, but Alexi Ogando is actually the much better pitcher against RH. His FIP (2.07 to O’Day’s 3.62), xFIP (2.90 to 3.73), and K/9 (10.36 to 7.57) are far superior to O’Day’s (that just looks weird with the two apostrophes), and even disregarding Feliz, Washington had a better choice. For what it’s worth, Ogando is better than Feliz against RH.
I also can’t explain bringing in Clay Rapada next instead of Derek Holland, who also would have been a better choice than Feliz against LH (FIP and xFIP—1.39 and 2.44—are better than Feliz’s—2.28 and 3.58—against LH). Holland then has to face Thames, but he’s the best choice against Granderson and Gardner, who he actually gets out to end this miserable inning for the Rangers.
Okay Mark, so what is your conclusion? Take a side. Washington’s move to not bring in Feliz was not clearly awful. With the two switch-hitters coming up, Feliz is the better option, but I don’t know that Feliz could go 2 innings and then come back today. After that, the match-ups actually favor using other pitchers, though I’ll admit they’re all based on small sample sizes, but I’ll blame Washington for using the wrong ones. However, why did Feliz have to pitch 6 outs like so many have suggested? Why not bring in Feliz for the inning and play match-ups in the ninth? If you want my opinion, this is where Washington (AND EVERY OTHER MANAGER) screwed up. Bring in Feliz to end the eighth and bring in Ogando and Holland to pitch the ninth. But, as I said, no manager is willing to do it. Because of that, I don’t blame Washington for doing what he did. He did what he’s been taught to do. I blame GMs and front-office people who are supposed to be able to see past this and make decisions based on better information for not pushing their managers to do more of this, but GMs don’t want to lose their jobs, either. No one loses jobs for going with orthodoxy, but bucking it might get you canned. Criticize the move if you want but don’t blame Washington. He put in guys, except for Rapada (really? WTF, Washington?), who could get the job done, and they didn’t, though I’ll admit that bringing in Feliz for 6 outs could have been the better decision. Hats off to the Yankees.