I had this discussion once before in a diary, and I think I remember some people vehemently disagreeing with me. I am sure that many still will, but I'm glad to see that Rob Neyer agrees with me.
The discussion is regarding saving your best pitcher for a time in a game (a save situation) that may never come if you let your inferior pitchers screw up earlier in the game.
At one point in this season, our best relief pitcher (Todd Jones for those who missed it) went something like 25 (or so) straight appearences recording a save. It was a new record. This was all good, but I was a bit miffed since we had been losing a lot of games in that stretch due to crappy relief pitching. My contention at the time was that there were a few times (like late in a tied home game) where a true save situation might never materialize, and that the most important at-bats were being pitched by bad pitchers. Other times, a save situation was possible, but only if you made it there without already losing. Why leave your best pitcher in the bullpen?
Some people here said something to the effect of "Todd Jones is our closer (period). He's there to get saves." While I agree that he was there to get saves, I'd argue that he's really there to pitch the most important innings late in games. Usually, that's the ninth. Sometimes, though, it's the 7th or eigth, or the 10th or 11th innings.
By using Todd in exclusively save situations, Jack Mckeon limitied his appearences and limited our late-game pitching. Obviously it's a moot point now, but it looks like Neyer thinks the same thing (by Joe Torre) cost the Yankees some games.Suppose you're playing a one-inning game for all the marbles (or at least some of them). One inning, and then everybody goes home. Who do you select to start the game? Your pitcher with the 2.57 ERA? Or your pitcher with the 4.02 ERA? Here's what I think happens, inside Torre's mind: He recognizes the urgency of the situation but he doesn't understand it, and he worries that if he uses his best reliever and the Yankees aren't ahead, later he'll wind up losing with somebody like Tanyon Sturtze on the mound. And boy, will that look bad. So in road games, he holds Rivera in reserve for that magical save situation, ignoring the distinct possibility that the magical save situation will never make its magical appearance.
What do you all think about the philosophies here? Save your closer for saves, or use your best pitcher against the most dangerous hitters in whatever inning you need to? Somewhere in between? Where?