That’s the title of Grant’s latest post, over at McCovey’s Chronicles. First, let me say that I am a huge fan of Grant’s work. His site is simply terrific, and his writing is first rate. That said, he’s wrong here. It’s a reasonable position, but it is clearly wrong:
…. When Shane Victorino walked in the ninth inning, the Giants still had a 96.8% chance of winning the game. That’s assuming average players across the board of course – there’s no way to tweak the formula to account for Tim Lincecum or the ridiculous heart of the Phillies order. But even factoring those things in wouldn’t make a big difference. When a team has a three-run lead with one out in the ninth inning, that team wins about 95 times out of 100, whether it’s a tired starting pitcher, an All-Star closer, or a tub of slurry trying to close out the game.
…. when Lincecum got under four straight fastballs and walked a weenie he’d effortlessly dispatched all day, I wasn’t really worried about the game yet. I wanted him out of the game because he’s still a young pitcher. There’s no need to push him in that situation if you think he’s fatigued in any way. You don’t want a tired Tim Lincecum struggling through a 12-pitch at bat to Chase Utley in a game that’s almost impossible to lose.
That’s Grant’s argument. Bochy made the right move, because there wasn’t a wrong move. Protect the lead, protect the pitcher. The chances of losing are so slim, it doesn’t matter what you do.
That’s not correct. In fact, that’s not even relevant.
What matters here is the indecisive, unclear, thoughtless, “everybody does it this way,” stupidity involved in how our manager handled the closing innings of yesterday’s horrible loss.
Up to the bottom of the eighth inning, the Giants had completely outplayed the Phillies in every way. We’d banged their ace around, won with our worst starting pitcher, out-hit them, out-pitched them, out-hustled them…. in every way possible, the Giants had opened up a can of whoop-ass on the two-time, defending National League Champions. How badly had we outplayed them? Glad you asked. At the end of the eighth inning on Wednesday, the Giants and the Phillies had played 26 innings. Here’s what the important stats looked like at that point:
Giants hitters 15 Runs Scored 35 hits 21 SO
Phillies hitters 4 Runs Scored 13 hits 29 SO
Are you looking at that? Three times as many hits, more than three times as any runs scored…. I mean, we were kicking their ass.
So, at the start of the bottom of the eighth inning, if you are the manager of the Giants, you have to ask yourself, how do I handle the end of the game? How do I handle the last three outs for each team? Lincecum is gonna be up second. If somebody gets on, you either pinch hit, or have Lincecum bunt. If you pinch hit, you have already made the choice. If you let him sacrifice, you leave your options open. Seems like an easy choice, once the leadoff man gets on, right? Leave your options open. Right?
Wrong. Let’s take it a step further. The whole reason you’re facing a tough decision is because you want to protect your ace as well as protect the lead. So, what happens after Lincecum sacrifices? What happens if the Giants put together a couple of decent at-bats, and end up adding a run or two? Pitching changes, hits, walks, runs scoring…. these things take time. It is this element of the analysis that is being conveniently forgotten in the rush to defend Bochy for this supposed once in a season type of loss.
If Lincecum and the Giants are successful during that eighth inning, then using Lincecum is a mistake, NO MATTER HOW TIRED HE MAY OR MAY NOT BE. If the question is whether to use a possibly tired young pitcher, then you absolutely have to ask yourself what happens if you are successful, and what happens if you are not. If you use a possibly tired Lincecum and nobody gets on, and the Giants don’t score, you’ve wasted an out in a critical late inning. If you use him, and the Giants do score, it’s gonna take some time, and you’re not gonna be able to send him out for the ninth anyway.
Why bring Lincecum out for the ninth if you’re not gonna let him go for at least a run allowed? Four pitch walk? Whatever. Who cares. These are questions you ask after you lose. Why have Wilson start the inning from the stretch? WHO CARES!?!
This series was shaping up to be a season starter, an inspirational, team-rallying, “WE JUST BEAT THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF THE TWO-TIME DEFENDING NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPS!!!” kind of series. And our manager sleepwalked through “the book,” and did what he was supposed to do, *yawn* just like all baseball lifers are supposed to do.
That was his mistake. That’s why he was wrong to handle it the way he did. He acted like it was just any old win, “Sure, Lincecum could move into the front-runner’s spot for the Cy Young Award again,” “Sure we could sweep the best team in the NL two years running, but remember, it’s a long season,” blah blah blah.
WRONG. WRONG. WRONG.
After four seasons of worthless, third and fourth place, worst offense in the league, almost no reason to care at all baseball, this team –and it’s fans, by the way– have been waiting for a season-defining moment, dreaming for a chance to show the league that they don’t just have enough pitching, that they’re coming at you game after game, with everything they have, all season long. You know, like the fucking gamers we’re endlessly told the Giants are.
Instead, their manager handled this game like he handles every game. Like he was in a coma. No urgency, no imagination, no cutting edge approach, no nothing. Because he’s asleep at the wheel, just like the GM, just like the owners. The Giants win in spite of the leadership, or lack, thereof, demonstrated by these men. And fans are subjected to more excuses, lies, and bullshit.