Yesterday the Brewers were beating the Phillies 10-4 going into the bottom of the 8th inning. It seemed like a most opportune time to give Wei-Chung Wang his major league debut. Instead they used Brandon Kinztler and Jim Henderson. That makes 7 games without an appearance for Wang. It’s a tricky situation for the Brewers. Wang has never pitched above rookie ball and the team is hoping to compete for a playoff spot so they can’t just put him in at anytime. However, he needs to pitch and if they won’t put him in a game where they possess a 6 run lead against a team as unimposing as the Phillies, when will they?
I was fine with Henderson pitching the 9th because he seemingly needs to be eased back in and he had a really nice inning too, so that was a positive. My problem is that they pitched Kintzler in the 8th. If I recall correctly, the top of the line-up was due up so perhaps that’s part of it. It’s also possible that they put Kintzler in the game because he had already been warming up. I expect that’s the reasoning, but I still think it’s flawed. I doubt he would have messed up his arm had he not pitched. If anything, it was all the more reason to put Wang in there. Kintzler would be available quickly should the kid get into trouble.
I’ve seen it suggested that it makes more sense to put Wang in a game where the Brewers are losing by 6 runs, than in one where they’re leading by 6. I agree that is the traditional way of thinking about it and the most likely real world scenario, but I disagree that it’s the correct way of thinking about it. The fear is that Wang will give up runs. If they’re already losing by 6 runs, turning that into a 7, 8, or 9 run deficit helps insure that you aren’t going to win that game. If Wang gives up runs in a game where they’re winning by 6 runs, then they can pull him for a better reliever and still have a 3, 4, or 5 run lead. You’re in the better position when you’re leading.
Wang didn’t make the team for his ability to get hitters out now. That’s not to say that he can’t get outs. He wouldn’t have made the team if they thought he was completely useless, but his ability to do so is of secondary concern. He made the team for what he could be in the future. He’s already the 3rd or 4th best pitching prospect in the system, depending on how you feel about Johnny Hellweg. MLB Pipeline has him currently ranked as the Brewers 11th best prospect overall. The future of the farm system isn’t one of the things a major league manager thinks about, nor should it be. This is a unique situation where Ron Roenicke’s thought process might have a direct influence on that farm system.
At the end of the day it’s not that big of a deal when Wang makes his debut. It’s just a little worrisome that he didn’t pitch yesterday. I really don’t believe a trade is going to happen, especially now that the season is underway, so if they’re going to keep him they’ll have to pitch him. If it’s simply that they wanted to get Kintzler in the game because he was already warm or they didn’t want Wang facing the Phillies best hitters, well okay I guess. But, if the reasoning really is that they didn’t want to put him in a game where they were leading it’s at best a failure in logic. At worst it could be a sign that Ron Roenicke doesn’t have faith in Wang’s ability. If that’s the case then, in a season where the Brewers are trying to compete, I fear he won’t last the season.