Tracy Ringolsby

Q&A: Lachemann delves into playoff 'pen usage

Q&A: Lachemann delves into playoff 'pen usage

Marcel Lachemann is a pitching guru. A product of Rod Dedeaux and the University of Southern California baseball program, the 75-year-old Lachemann has worked at every level in the game. Originally signed by the Kansas City A's, he pitched in the big leagues with the franchise after it moved to Oakland.

Lachemann was an assistant coach to Dedeaux at USC, worked as Minor League pitching coach with the A's, was the pitching coordinator for the Angels and was a pitching coach with the Angels, Marlins and Rockies before becoming a special assistant to former Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd.

He has seen a complete overhaul of the usage of pitchers, including in this year's postseason, which he discusses in this week's Q&A: Surprised at all by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts' use of the bullpen in the late innings on Thursday?

Lachemann: To be honest, I was surprised when he took Rich Hill out in the third inning. It's not like he was getting his brains beat out. It's the third inning, and then he goes and brings in Joe Blanton. After that, I could see Dave was taking an all-hands-on-board attitude. He knew he had to win, and he was going to use whoever he had to use to do that. He wasn't worried about the NLCS, was he?

Lachemann: Sure, by winning they had to play Saturday, but if you are in that situation and are trying to save guys for the next game, you are getting ahead of yourself, because there is no next game if you don't win Thursday. And he showed that. He had his closer, Kenley Jansen, in there in the seventh, and he throws more pitches than he has in his life. Then you have Clayton Kershaw, your best guy, who threw 110 pitches the previous game, out there on one day's rest, and he comes back and closes the game. The whole mentality changes in the postseason.

Kershaw's heroic performance Unlike Buck Showalter with Zach Britton not pitching in extra innings in the Wild Card Game?

Lachemann: It was the opposite move and a lot of questions have been asked, but one thing I will say for Buck is he has shown that he is as good as there is in the game when it comes to running a game. He is on top of his club and the situations he needs to use people. He has reasons for what he does. Could Thursday's game be a sign of a new approach to the bullpens in baseball?

Lachemann: This is something that you will see teams doing in the postseason, where it's all hands on deck. You can ask a guy to go two, three innings instead of that inning at a time, because you have your days off slotted in there, time for guys to get rest. And you also are getting near the end of the season. If it's a best of seven, you play two games, have a day off, play three games, have a day off and then play two days. You can employ your bullpen differently than if you are in a stretch of 20 games in 20 days. You think the agents would be reluctant for their clients to assume a bigger workload?

Lachemann: Sure. These guys see by pitching one-inning slots, they can do this for a long time, whereas when guys had to go three innings to get a save, they didn't have as many saves and they didn't last as long. You tack a couple, three years, on at the end of a career where you are making $10, $12, $15 million a year, you are talking big money. The agents want to try and get more out of guys, especially at the back end, where they are earning big money. I don't blame them. Mark Eichhorn pitched (157) innings with Toronto in (1986). Now, we try and get 150 innings out of a starter. Where did the bullpen usage change so drastically, expanding pitching staffs from eight men to 12, 13 pitchers today?

Lachemann: It is tough to pinpoint where we got into this one inning, but it has probably been the last 25 years or so, where we really got into the specialist stuff, the left-handed specialist and all the rest of that stuff. That started whittling away from when a guy would pitch three innings. Now, we have setup guys working one inning. Look back at Goose Gossage and those guys. They were two- to three-inning guys. Then you started having the Ron Davis guys who pitched the eighth inning. That evolved into where you can save your guy for the ninth, but the point is a lot of games are lost in the seventh, eighth inning before you get to that guy. Then, what have you accomplished? You never used your best guy. But that's the regular season, not the postseason.

Lachemann: Correct. In the playoffs, it is a different cat. You throw a lot of that stuff out the window. Look at what Kansas City did the last two postseasons, where they had those three guys basically pitch the seventh, eighth, ninth innings two, three days in a row. You can do that in the playoffs, but you can't do it all season long or you are going to burn those guys out in July. The postseason is a different ballgame. Look at Thursday. It was a prime example.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.