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Kevin Towers is a smart shopper, maybe a little lucky

You might have seen this yesterday, but Verducci has a pretty good article on Towers and his knack for finding relievers. It's a good read and keeps me confident in Towers overall, but the thing that irks me a little bit is this passage:

"The first time you get here you may get the fifth or sixth," Towers says. "If you handle that you graduate to the seventh. And if you show you've got [guts] you'll graduate to the eighth."
I have a big issue with this. I don't like the idea that there's somehow a progression from the 5th inning up to the 8th inning in terms of importance. We've talked about it before, but to say that protecting a lead in the 5th inning is less important than protecting a lead in the 8th inning just doesn't make sense strategically (and probably stastically, though I haven't run any numbers).

What's funny about that is the fact that the Padres may have ended up backing into the optimal strategy several times. For a long stretch of time, Linebrink was the guy for the 8th inning last season. Trevor will always be the 9th. However, as any self-respecting Padres fan quickly realized over the last few years, Towers had been finding f_cking gems to relief pitch for us. Several guys who, by all accounts, were probably better pitchers fundamentally than Linebrink and Hoffman. Bringing those guys in during the 5th or 6th inning would likely have been the more important game situations as there would likely be both men on base and a surging opposing offense as the other team knocks out our starter. By finding really talented no-name guys, and sticking them in during the 5th inning by default, you're also potentially putting them in during the most critical point of the game in terms of protecting a lead. GENIUS.