Roenicke’s Bullpen Management Improving, But…

LaTroy Hawkins
In the past two games, Ron Roenicke has done something he’s been reluctant to do for much of the season — go to someone other than Kameron Loe in the 8th inning of a close game. Loe’s last few outings as the “8th Inning Guy” led to a bunch of frustration, but it is important to note that it wasn’t the fact that Loe was being used that was the problem — the was the guys he was being used against.

Loe’s stuff does not play well against left-handed batters. It never has, and at this point, we’ve seen enough to guess that it never really will. What made the “8th Inning Guy” meme so frustrating was that for better or worse, Loe was pitching the entire inning, even if it meant facing a tough left-handed hitter with runners on base. In the series finale against Arizona and the first game against Cincinnati, Roenicke has opted to use LaTroy Hawkins in the 8th inning instead.

From a public reaction standpoint, Roenicke couldn’t keep running Loe out there, even if he would have been justified by the match-ups. Hawkins has converted the Hold in both appearances as the new “8th Inning Guy,” but that’s kind of the problem — Roenicke has replaced one “8th Inning Guy” with another without really addressing the match-up issues.

Against the Reds, Hawkins was put in to face the L-R-L trio of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce. Roenicke was asked about the lefty splits for Hawkins compared to Loe after the game, and while he’s right in saying that Hawkins’ are better, they aren’t by much. Entering Thursday night:

Hawkins career vs LHB

Loe career vs LHB

Considering the situation, going with Hawkins over Loe was a good decision. It shows progress in Roenicke’s bullpen management. But a better decision would have been letting Zach Braddock navigate that L-R-L portion of the lineup himself. Braddock has held lefties to a .154/.284/.205 line. For whatever reason, Roenicke seems to view Braddock as a LOOGY that can’t be trusted against right-handed batters. While righties have hit Braddock for a .255/.346/.382 line so far in his career, that line does look a bit better than Hawkins’ line against lefties.

I don’t proclaim myself to be an expert on anything, but I would’ve been more comfortable letting Braddock face one right-handed hitter than letting Hawkins face two left-handed batters. In the end, it was a decision that didn’t cost the Brewers the game — it just might not have been the best decision Roenicke could have made. These are the types of things a rookie manager will struggle with from time-to-time, even as he finishes up the first half of the season.