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Sports Medley: Adherence to Simplistic Nonsense by Baker and Bochy lost the playoffs 17 Oct 16

by Tony Medley

There’s an old baseball axiom, “Managers don’t win games; players do.” But the converse of that is that managers do lose games more often than players do. That is seen more and more in today’s game which has come down to managers changing pitchers.

Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy was criticized here last week for saying that he would have pulled his starter, Madison Baumgarner, from a 0-0 game he was dominating for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth inning if the Giants had not just taken the lead.

On Tuesday, October 11, he confirmed that ludicrous position when he pulled starter Matt Moore after eight innings of equally dominating 2 hit, 2 walk, 10 strikeout pitching, leading 5 to 2, and put in five grossly inferior pitchers from his bullpen. Combined, they allowed 4 hits and 4 runs to lose the game. What would Bochy have risked to have Moore go out to start the ninth inning and see if he still had it? Moore had struck out his last batter; he was still on top of his game.

Not to be outdone, on Thursday, Washington manager Dusty Baker pulled his best pitcher, Max Scherzer, immediately after he allowed a solo leadoff home run to Dodgers Joc Pederson in the top of the seventh-inning, tying that game at 1-1. Scherzer up until then had held the Dodgers scoreless with only four hits while striking out seven and walking only 2. Baker proceeded to use six pitchers in that seventh inning, a playoff record for pitchers in one inning, an inning that lasted a disgraceful 63 minutes. Combined, they allowed three hits and three more runs, allowing the Dodgers to achieve 4-1 lead.

There was no earthly reason for Baker to pull Scherzer or for Bochy to pull Baumgarner except for the meaningless pitch count. Moore had thrown 120 pitches (and had struck out the last batter he faced in the eighth inning) and Scherzer had thrown 99 pitches. So out they came and down went their teams to defeat; an entire season down the drain due to indefensible pitching changes.

Not to be outdone by Bochy, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts inserted rookie Grant Dayton to preserve the lead. Dayton proceeded to walk the leadoff man on four straight balls.

What happened next proves that major league managers know only two things about pitching; pitch count and having right handed pitchers throw to right handed batters and vice-versa. They fail to take quality of pitches, location, quality of batted balls, or anything else into consideration.

When a relief pitcher in a close game comes out of the bullpen and walks his first batter on four straight bad pitches, he should be pulled immediately. Roberts is a guy who set a major league record by making over 600 pitching changes during the season. He’s a manager I criticized a few weeks ago for using four pitchers to face four batters in one single inning, the 6th.

But he left Dayton in. The next batter belted a home run to bring Washington to within a run and putting them back in the game. Still, Roberts stayed in the dugout. He can pull a pitcher five outs from a perfect game as he did earlier in the year, but he can’t pull a reliever who walks his first batter on four pitches and then allows a two run home run? After the next batter singled, Roberts finally pulled him. Is there any logic or common sense involved in his reasoning? If so, where is it?

Here’s the bottom line: when any good pitcher, like Scherzer and Moore, is in a tight spot in a tight game, he has earned the right to pitch himself out of it, assuming he is still throwing well, hitting his spots, and not being hit hard (which defines Moore and Scherzer in the games discussed). If you’re going to lose, lose with your best, not your worst. When managers pop out of the dugout and pull starters for inferior pitchers from the bullpen because of their adherence to simplistic nonsense like pitch count, they destroy the quality of the game.

I did agree with Roberts pulling Kershaw for Jansen on Sunday. Kershaw had lost it and his pitches were being hit hard, but right at fielders for outs. The 390-foot blast hit by Kershaw’s last batter, Javier Baez, caught by Joc Peterson at the center field ivy, would have been a game winning home run in Ebbets Field.