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Mariners win despite odd choice of reliever

Yes, the Mariners beat the A's last night. But this is 2010 and we've got bloggers like Dave Cameron who can't help seeing the killer UV rays in each beam of sunlight ...

    I’d like to start off on a cheerful note, but unfortunately, there is one glaringly obvious thing to talk about, and it’s not positive; the seventh inning choice of relief pitchers.

    Sean White had a nice ERA last year. Wak has a belief system with him. I get it. He’s still not a good pitcher, and the M’s need to be smart enough to realize that. His xFIP, a much better indicator of actual ability, was 4.80, two full runs higher. His ERA was a massive fluke, based on an unsustainable .235 batting average on balls in play. He struck out 28 batters in 64 innings, which is terrible, and he doesn’t make up for it with good command. He’s got a decent sinker, but nothing else, and that doesn’t even work all that well against LHBs.

    But, despite having a fully rested bullpen, Wak went to Sean White to get a lefty out with the tying run on base in the 7th inning. With Brandon League and Mark Lowe just sitting there, Wak bypassed them both to put in the 5th or 6th best reliever on the team (depending on how much you like Kanekoa Teixeira). White doesn’t do anything better than League, and the only advantage he has over Lowe (ground balls) doesn’t matter when there’s two outs. White, predictably, gives up a couple of hits and the game ended up tied.

    Wak doesn’t have long to get over his Sean White fetish. Sean White is not a good pitcher, and his manager has to learn this in a hurry. He should not be used in close games unless he’s the only available option. When he’s the first guy out of the pen on opening day in a close game, that’s a problem. Learn from this, Wak.

I need to get organized and start a list: Silly Things That Managers Need to Stop Doing Before They Lose Too Many Games, with this being the first entry. I don't mean using low ERA/high FIP pitchers in key situations; managers are never going to stop doing that. I mean using Sean White this way, specifically.

We shouldn't have to tell Wakamatsu this. When White was advancing through the minors, with each step (roughly speaking) his strikeout-to-walk ratio got lower and his ERA got higher. His ERA in Double-A was 4.30, and in Triple-A it was 5.21.

He was a starting pitcher in those days. Some pitchers just aren't good enough to start in the majors, but thrive (relatively speaking) when given relief chores. Regrettably, that doesn't seem to be the case with White, who turns 29 in a few weeks. He's pitched exactly 100 innings in the majors as a reliever, and in those 100 innings he's struck out 44 hitters. That's viable only if you've got a great sinker (check) and great control (no check). White's also walked 40 hitters.

Not to be all simplistic or anything, but the math just doesn't work. For White, it never has worked. Managers love pitchers who throw low-90s sinkers, and they should. But if the results aren't there, at some point you have to just figure maybe the sinker isn't quite enough. Keep an eye on White's role. It's going to be tight in the American League West this season.