The Constant Derek Shelton Bashing is Unwarranted

Photo credit: Kelsey Grant/Getty Images

Remember to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for continued Pittsburgh Sports coverage: 

While at the Pittsburgh Pirate game on Saturday, I thought to myself, "man, Shelton is really managing to win this game."  It was like a game back in the old days when you could take a pitcher out whenever you wanted.  Obviously Shelton was playing by the new rules and his pitcher were required to face the minimum three batters, but he had no regard for resting our bullpen on Saturday, in a good way.  He was going to exhaust his resources to win the game.  And the Pirates did win.  

So I couldn't believe my eyes last night.  The Pirates were on the precipice of a 6-game winning streak yet the negative Twitter fingers of Pirate "fans" were out in full force.  As soon as Rob Zastryzny gave up the Pirates brief lead in the top of the 8th, it was manager Derek Shelton's fault.  He had blown another game according to many many tweets.  It was totally unwarranted and the constant Shelton bashing needs to stop.

Isn't this what we've wanted?  A manager who throws out the analytics and just manages to win.  That's what I want.  Even after depleting his bullpen Saturday, he managed to win again on Sunday, using David Bednar for a third game in a row!  Bednar would register his third straight save in the series, giving the Pirates a series sweep over the St. Louis Cardinals.  So spare me with any Shelton blame when he coached the team to win, and did so by sweeping a divisional foe.

However, we all then knew going into last night's game, the bullpen was short of rested arms.  Given that our starter, Johan Oviedo, gave us seven solid innings against the historically bad Oakland A's, the bullpen shouldn't have needed much depth.  Unfortunately the Pirates did find themselves in a spot where they had high leverage outs that needed recorded by some of our typically non-high-leverage guys.

The obvious move was saving Colin Holderman until the 9th.  He has been spectacular this season, and would be the primary closer on half of the teams in baseball.  He just happens to be behind, who I would consider the best closer in baseball, David Bednar.  

So given that Holderman was being saved for the 9th, and given the state of the bullpen, Shelton had limited options.  Of course hindsight would show us that Angel Perdomo had his strikeout pitch working last night, but he also has just one appearance this season and a career 7.15 ERA in 22.2 innings pitch.  He doesn't scream "high leverage guy".  Or how about Chase De Jong who was just called back up after being sent down for poor play?  Not a great option either.

So what did you want?  Shelton to not manage the way he did against the Cardinals?  Give up the series sweep to rest our bullpen arms?  I don't want that.  

But this has been the theme of Shelton's career with the Pirates.  Fans spend all offseason (and most of the regular season) complaining about the roster and how Bob Nutting doesn't open up the wallet enough to form a winning roster.  Then those same fans want to blame Shelton who only has that same roster at his disposable that people spend all their time complaining about!  What vicious cycle.  

Shelton has spent his whole Pirates career playing the MLB manager version of Chopped.  The Food Network show where the chefs open their basket of ingredients to find Oreos, cow testicles, canned chicken, and unripe bananas and are expected to make a 5-star appetizer in 30 minutes.  That's Derek Shelton's basket for most of his Pirates career thus far.  

And yet Shelton is still taking blame when his team is on pace to smash their preseason anticipated win total.  Give the guy a break.  I think Shelton deserves praise for managing the team to a win given the state of the bullpen.  So stop tweeting, leave your couch, and go touch grass for once.  And just enjoy the Pirates winning when it happens.