Bruce Bochy has some moves
Examining Giants manager's LDS decisions and what he might do against Phillies in LCS
Sometimes it's easy to forget about San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, a likable man with a quiet demeanor and a sense of humor as dry as sandpaper. If you aren't quite looking for it, you might miss one of his jokes. If you aren't trying to listen, you might miss what he says since his deep voice, at times, doesn't raise past a mumble.
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No one will confuse him with the gregarious Ozzie Guillen or the meticulous Buck Showalter, but regardless, Bochy has had success. In 16 seasons, Bochy has managed a division winner five times, an admirable achievement considering most of his managing career was spent with the cost-conscious San Diego Padres.
Yet entering this National League Championship Series, Bochy may be the most under-the-radar manager still in the playoffs.
There is, of course, the New York Yankees' Joe Girardi, who gets skewered constantly for his use of his bullpen. The Texas Rangers' Ron Washington carries the much-publicized burden of a failed drug test this offseason that almost cost him his job. The Philadelphia Phillies' Charlie Manuel is a World Series winner with a country bumpkin sensibility. And then there's Bochy, the forgotten manager.
If there's anything remarkable about Bochy's managing skills it is that he is fairly predictable. To predict just what Bochy may be thinking in the NLCS it would be helpful to look at some of his most important decisions in San Francisco's NLDS against the Atlanta Braves and how those decisions affect what the Giants might do against Philadelphia.
Leaves Barry Zito off the roster
Bochy's decision regarding Zito was the hottest topic entering the playoffs. Zito had basically pitched his way out of the postseason rotation by allowing four runs in three innings against the Padres during the final weekend of the season. But in Zito, Bochy had a player with postseason experience, which was something rookie Madison Bumgarner lacked.
Yet Bumgarner's hot finish (1.13 ERA in September), forced Bochy's hand. Again, it appears likely that Bumgarner, who allowed two runs in six innings against the Braves in Game 4, will join the NLCS rotation instead of Zito. What's more interesting is that Bochy told reporters in San Francisco on Wednesday that Bumgarner is "penciled in" to start Game 4, meaning it's likely Game 1 starter Tim Lincecum won't start three times in the series. Remember, Lincecum has never started on short rest in his career.
Uses Santiago Casilla in the seventh and eighth innings of Game 4
It's quite amazing that in all but two of his 16 years as manager, Bochy has never had a closer controversy. From 1995-2006 Bochy's closer was Trevor Hoffman, with the exception of 2003 when Hoffman was recovering from shoulder surgery. In Bochy's first season in San Francisco in 2007, Brad Hennessey was the team's leader in saves, but since then Brian Wilson has been the undisputed closer.
In short, Bochy likes to keep his bullpen in roles. Entering the playoffs, Sergio Romo was Wilson's setup man, but two shaky appearances against Atlanta (three runs allowed in two-thirds of an inning) forced Bochy to turn to Casilla in the seventh inning of Game 4. Casilla pitched a perfect inning.
"They told me right away I was going to pitch the eighth," Casilla said.
Casilla's impressive turn in Game 4, and Bochy's decision to let him pitch the eighth inning, makes it likely that he's become the team's new setup man -- at least for the moment. Expect to see more of Romo in the seventh and Casilla in the eighth.
Names Aaron Rowand to the roster instead of Jose Guillen
Even if Jose Guillen had been completely healthy and not bothered by a bulging disk in his back, it's quite possible that Bochy would still have chosen to include Rowand on the roster. In Rowand, Bochy had a more versatile player who could pinch-run and play all three outfield positions. But in the NLDS, Rowand's only purpose was as a late-inning pinch hitter. Bochy did not need Rowand's versatility. In late-inning defensive situations, Bochy turned to Nate Schierholtz.
For that reason, it's possible that Bochy this time may use Guillen, who has had success against several Phillies pitchers, albeit in small sample sizes. Guillen is a combined 21-for-48 against Jose Contreras, Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson. Though he's still likely to start the outfield rotation of Pat Burrell, Andres Torres and Cody Ross, Bochy could use Guillen as a late-inning pinch hitter, as he did with Rowand.
Replaces Pablo Sandoval with Mike Fontenot
Pablo Sandoval's collapse this year has been stunning. Predicted to be on the verge of stardom, Sandoval instead slumped to a .738 OPS after posting a .943 mark in his first full season in 2009. Though Sandoval's fielding at third improved from his rookie season (1.5 UZR/150 this season compared to minus-5.4 last season), he's still a liability. And if Sandoval isn't hitting or fielding, then he's not of much use.
In Game 2 of the NLDS, Sandoval made a critical eighth-inning error, which at the time allowed Atlanta to tie the game at 4. Atlanta eventually won the game in extra innings. Faced with a slumping Sandoval at the plate and on the field, Bochy benched Sandoval and used Fontenot in his place for Games 3 and 4.
Bochy told reporters in San Francisco this week that Sandoval will be on the team's NLCS roster, but that he hadn't determined a role for him. Expect Fontenot to get at least a few starts at third base, though it's likely Sandoval will start against Hamels, whom Sandoval has had success against (3-for-9 with a home run).
Uses Javier Lopez as his primary lefty
Though Jeremy Affeldt is the higher-paid player, Bochy turned to midseason acquisition Javier Lopez as his primary lefty out of the bullpen. Twice in the NLDS, Lopez struck out Braves superstar rookie Jason Heyward in late-inning situations; Affeldt did not pitch at all in the series.
With the Phillies having so many lefties in the lineup, expect to see a heavy dose of both Lopez and Affeldt. But in key situations, the Giants are likely to turn to Lopez. Against Lopez, Phillies batters are hitting just .148 with a .493 OPS. Against Affeldt, the Phillies are hitting a robust .281 with a .958 OPS.
Jorge Arangure Jr. is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
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