Farrell managing for the save and costing Red Sox wins

Bill Foley
Contributing Writer

John Farrell has been managing as if he cares more about the number of Craig Kimbrel saves than the number of Red Sox wins.

That seems to be the crux of the problem of the Red Sox recent bullpen woes. The manager won’t bring in his best weapon into the game in the eighth inning.

This isn’t a call to fire the manager. At this point, that would probably be the dumbest thing the first-place ball club could do. Farrell certainly has his shortcomings, but his 2013 World Series ring and his place in the standings the past two seasons show us that he has also a lot of things right.
(Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

But, the manager is managing for Kimbrel’s saves instead of wins, and it is costing the Red Sox the latter.

Monday night was a perfect example. Matt Barnes led off the eighth inning by issuing a walk and giving up a sharp single.

So, with two on and nobody out, Farrell summoned Heath Hembree — while every Red Sox fan around the globe was screaming “noooooo” at his or her television, radio or phone. Hembree has been a serviceable reliever, but lately he has allowed about 108 percent of his inherited runners to touch home plate.

It’s hard to say why Farrell didn’t go with Brandon Workman or Addison Reed in that situation. Fans and media aren’t usually privy to the behind-the-scenes info that goes into those decisions. One thing is clear, though. There was never a better time to bring in Kimbrel.

The Red Sox have perhaps the best late-innings weapon in Kimbrel, who has been about as good as a closer can be this season. Lately, though, Farrell has misfired by not using that weapon when he really needs it.

Understandably, the Red Sox don’t want to bring Kimbrel into the game for more than one inning, and nobody is saying that he had to go for a six-out save in that situation. In the eighth, though, the Indians had the tying and go-ahead runs on base and the heart of the order coming to the plate.

If there was one pitcher in the bullpen who could have — and likely would have — gotten out of that jam, it is Kimbrel.

Then, Workman could have pitched a potentially much less stressful ninth inning.

That, though, would mean that the closer wouldn’t get the save. You know what? That would be OK. Or, at least it should be OK.

For the blueprint on how to use your best relief pitcher at the most critical times, Farrell had to simply look across the field to the Indians dugout and his good friend Terry Francona.

Tito used Andrew Miller brilliantly last year, and that was one of the biggest — if not the biggest — reasons why he came within an eyelash of winning the World Series. In Cleveland.

Granted, all closers want to get those last three outs, and Kimbrel likely wants to pick up the save, which is one of the most overrated stats in baseball.

Had Hembree somehow worked a Houdini act and sent the lead to the ninth, he would have been the one who truly saved the day for Boston, even if Kimbrel struck out the Nos. 6, 7 and 8 batters to end the game.

We’ve heard it said that manager decisions can be the difference in about five wins during the season. Farrell has probably made decisions that led to at least that many victories. Those are just hard to remember when he gives games away like he did Monday night.

The Red Sox skipper has the best tool a manager can hope for in late-inning situations. Once again, he left it in the shed.

Follow Bill Foley on Twitter — @Foles74