Tonight Narron left Arroyo in for the first two batters of the 8th. It seemed unnecessary. Narron has a slow hook. Baseball Prospectus has written about it. It has been observed on this website. There are some pluses to the slow hook (see Harang pitching really well later than it would have seemed likely on opening day, two pitchers with 200+ IP last season, avoiding a weak bullpen, etc), but many minuses (see first two batters on base in the 8th of a frigid game with bullpen rested, why starters get pulled -- getting tired and giving up hits, one too many times through the lineup, not trusting the bullpen). John Fay suggested the following tonight folowing the game:
I don't think the Fay suggestion is an interesting debate. The debate should be about Narron's slow hook. Is his hook glacially and unnecessarily slow (read: should he have something resembling the Sparky Anderson approach?)? Or is the guy, by trusting and showing confidence in his starters, more likely to get more out of them? I tend to go with the former approach (as did the Boston Red Sox after the 2003 season when Grady Little was chased out of town despite nearly making the WS because he trusted and had confidence in one of the greatest pitchers in the last 15 years), especially with a deep and rested bullpen, which the Reds presumably have on day number 2. Still, I don't want to focus on tonight. Game-by-game, every manager is bound to be wrong or right based on outcome. The question is whether Narron's slow hook tendencies are more helpful or detrimental to the team. I have to think it is a slight negative with the current bullpen. If the bullpen proves to be solid, I think it becomes a much more significant detriment (assuming, of course, that Narron doesn't hasten his hook, which may have been slow last year because of his uncertain bullpen).I'm sure there will be debate about whether Arroyo should have started the eighth.
Argument for: He retired 10 of 11 going into the inning.
Argument against: The bullpen was rested and he was facing Chicago's best hitters (Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez) for the fourth time.
Looking longer term, the slow hook approach seems short-sighted. It saves the bullpen for the next few games, but it taxes the starter if he is left in to pitch after he begins to struggle. In doing this, the manager may be showing confidence in his tiring starter, but how much trust and confidence are the guys in the bullpen feeling? By leaving the starter in for 7+ innings on a frigid night, will the starter be as solid the next night. Moreover, is the confidence of the manager's trust more important than the confidence of a quality start, lower ERA, and win credit for the starter?
Those are my views, but I'd like to read a broader and more informed sample of viewpoints.