Zach Britton and the Two Possible Explanations

The Blue Jays just walked off against the Orioles, with Ubaldo Jimenez giving up the game-losing home run to Edwin Encarnacion in the bottom of the 11th inning. The story, though, is that the Orioles used seven pitchers in their final game of the season, and potential Cy Young winning closer Zach Britton was not one of them. The Blue Jays beat the Orioles in large part because the Orioles didn’t use their best pitcher tonight.

At this point, there are two possible explanations for Buck Showalter’s decision.

1. Zach Britton wasn’t available, or felt something off when he warmed up in the 8th inning. Given that Buck Showalter seems like a reasonable human being, this should probably be our default assumption right now. Often times, when a manager does something inexplicable with their bullpen usage, there’s information asymmetry, and they know something we don’t know. That may very well be the case here.


2. The “save” stat just cost the Orioles their 2016 season. If Showalter really used Brian Duensing and Ubaldo Jimenez before Zach Britton because he was waiting to get Britton a lead so that he could earn a save, then this is the craziest managerial decision that I can remember in my baseball-watching life.

I don’t see another possibility, really. Either Britton is hurt or Buck Showalter just screwed up in an historic way. It will be interesting to find out how honest the team is about Britton’s availability in postgame comments.

Update: It was option #2. A few quotes from Showalter.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Mark Davidson
7 years ago

Percent of minds that will be as reasonable as this post tomorrow…. < 1%
..I guess especially if it's reason 2. I love October baseball