Monday night in the sixth inning, Joe Maddon got the wrong pitcher. He wanted Randy Choate to face Curtis Granderson, and instead he got Grant Balfour. And of course Granderson hit a three-run homer. It's still not clear exactly how this happened, but we've got a little window here, courtesy of Marc Topkin:
Typically Maddon plots before the game what relievers he’ll use in different situations – often based on “slots” in the opposing lineup that particular relievers do best against – and shares those with Hickey.
Then at the time, he’ll discuss and decide what to do and tell Hickey, who will then call down to the bullpen and tell coach Bobby Ramos what relievers to get up and what situations they’ll be used in.
Choate was an option against Granderson, though Granderson was 5-for-6 against him. He also was an option later for Cano, who was 1-for-4 against him. Balfour, with his hard fastball, is good against A-Rod (1-for-9). Teixiera was 0-for-3 against Chad Qualls.
The point is they were a number of options and scenarios so it’s certainly possible that there was basic confusion between Hickey and Maddon over when they were going to use Choate, their only experienced lefty.
The interesting story here isn't about this temporary breakdown in communication. These things do occasionally happen, and it's not likely that this occasion will materially impact the Rays' chances of winning the East or the World Series.
The interesting story here is the numbers that Joe Maddon uses to choose his relief pitchers.
Those numbers are not meaningless ... but they're as close to meaningless as we can get, with our little brains.
There are far better ways of choosing relievers. Gaining the platoon advantage is a big one. Choosing your best pitcher is a big one. And if you want to go really deep, you can try to find a type of reliever that the hitter typically fares poorly (or relatively poorly) against. We call this sort of thing "complex platooning," and I'm sure that it's happening all the time, right under our noses.
Because I really can't believe that a manager who's supposedly as smart as Joe Maddon cares, or even bothers to know, that Mark Teixeira is hitless in three at-bats against Chad Qualls.