While setting a lineup card and deciding who plays and who sits might be the most important decision a manager makes each day, how he deploys his bullpen is almost certainly a close second. Among in-game decisions, proper bullpen usage has a larger effect on the outcome than pretty much anything else, and wise use of the assets that are available can have a significant impact in deciding close games. With a continuing move toward larger bullpens and more emphasis on matchups, reliever usage is now a critical part of a manager's job, but not every team is getting it right this year. Here are a few examples of some teams that could benefit from changing up the way they're deploying their bullpens.
Over the winter, the Phillies gave Jonathan Papelbon $52 million to take over their closer role and solidify their bullpen, and so far he has lived up to expectations: 17-for-17 in save opportunities, a 2.10 ERA and a fantastic 29:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. However, the Phillies are 6-11 in one-run games, the worst mark of any team in the National League, which is one of the main reasons they find themselves in last place in the National League East. With an elite closer, the team should be better at winning close games, but the problem is manager Charlie Manuel is just not willing to use him in any situation except when there's a save opportunity.