Out of left field (opening day version)

Out of left field is a My Baseball Page post where there isn’t a necessity for 1,500 words of analyzation, but there are some things that can and need to be addressed with some brevity.  In no particular order…

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss:

With the Yankees leading by 5 runs in the 9th inning and with nobody on base for Toronto, Yankee manager Joe Girar…whoops…sorry…Aaron Boone brought Aroldis Chapman in to close out the game.

I’ve covered this here previously, so there’s no need to re-hash completely, but the short version:

Using your best relief pitcher, in what is essentially mop up duty, is about as dumb a thing a manager can do.  Save the big gun’s bullets for when the battle is still in doubt.  Use the number 12 pitcher on your staff with a 5 run lead – that’s why he’s there.  And don’t give me the “he needed work” line:  A) You just came off 6 weeks of get ready time.  B) For future reference, if he does need work, you put him in early when the outcome is still in doubt.

The times, they are a changin’ (for the better)

In 2018 we know what any teenager who played Strat-O-Matic in 1984 could have told you:

In the middle innings of a close game, you do not let you pitcher hit.  You gain enormous competitive advantages by using a pinch hitter and going to the pen in that situation.

Bringing in a relief pitcher who throws with the opposite arm gives you a platoon advantage for 2-3 innings.  The reliever will also be going through the lineup for the first time, as opposed to the starter’s 2nd or 3rd (advantage #2).  Hitting for your pitcher puts a major league hitter at the plate instead of an automatic out for 2 or 3 more at bats (advantage #3).

Side note: Of course, this is in the National League where the pitcher still hits as opposed to utilizing the DH.  Every time I see a pitcher bat I wonder if the NL still uses flannel uniforms and travels by train.  I digress…

For example:

Yesterday, Cardinals leading the Mets 3-2 in the top of the 5th:  Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny sent Cardinals’ pitcher Carlos Martinez to the plate to hit to lead off the 5th.

Note to Matheny: Your best hitters bat after your pitcher.  The leadoff batter is pretty important in that spot.

St. Louis did not score.

Matheny then removed Martinez after he faced 3 batters in the bottom of 5th.  Yes, seriously.  He let the pitcher hit then took him out after 3 three batters anyway.

The Mets scored 2 off Martinez in the 5th (5 in the inning all told) on the way to a 9-4 win.

Meanwhile, a little farther south, the Cubs were leading the Marlins 5-4 in the bottom of the 4th.  With Jon Lester pitching to the Marlins in the bottom of the 4th, Cubs manager Joe Maddon removed an ineffective Lester, knowing Lester was due up in the 5th.

Maddon got a better pitching option in, created a platoon advantage and batted major league hitters in the 9 spot for the rest of the game.

Cubs won 8-4.

Now, I’m not one to use the ends to justify the means.  But the big picture directions in which the Cubs and Cardinals organizations have been trending lately, combined with the track records of Matheny (awful) and Maddon (phenomenal) should tell you something:

The smart play is to not let your pitcher hit in the middle innings of a close game.  I’ve actually had this conversation offline several times and it ends the same way every time:

People who think the pitcher should stay in the game in those situations have no reason for believing so other than that’s the way it’s always been done.  That’s a heads up for the next time you hear Al Leiter provide some high level analysis in that spot by saying “I’d like to see the pitcher stay in there and gut out a win.”  Uugghhhh…

Speaking of analysis…

The Simpleton Summer Camp crew was in mid-season form yesterday:  During the post game show, the serious minded, custom suit wearing, hair slicked back crew in the studio told us that the NL home run leader, who the Yankees got in a trade, hit two home runs.  This was good for the Yankees.  (Who knew?)  Then they tossed it over to the hard questioning journalist who asked the player what it was like to hit two home runs in game 1.  He said it was cool.

To paraphrase Mark Wahlberg in “The Departed”: Seriously, who forged your diplomas?

Thanks for reading.  If you’re here it means you find that stuff as cretinous as I do.


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