The View From Wisconsin
Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.
Monday, June 30, 2008
It's a warm Thursday evening in late April. Your team is hosting an evening contest against a pretty decent ball club. They still have some components in their lineup from the team that just a few years prior had won the pennant. As the year goes on, they will be in the thick of things in the race for the pennant, only missing out in the final days of the season.
You, however, are just trying to hold on to your job. This is your third season at the helm of this team (admittedly, an expansion squad), and though your team won more games last year than your first year, they slipped in the standings. Your team has high hopes for the future, though – and it starts with the big ballpark that's going up in the parking lot outside your stadium. You'd love to manage your team there next year, but you have to get through this season first.
Your little ballpark tends to be very pitcher-friendly. Run scoring tends to be low, and tonight's game is proving that fact as both your pitcher (a soon-to-be 31-year-old right-hander) and your opponent's pitcher (a veteran 36-year-old lefty who's been in the majors for two decades) are engaged in a pitcher's duel.
Your starter has the upper hand, as he has gone eight full innings, striking out nine batters, walking two – and not allowing a single hit. However, the veteran lefty (who is getting the spot-start because of the Thursday game) has scattered four hits through seven innings, and hasn't allowed a single one of your players past second base. In fact, last inning was the first time you'd gotten a runner to second – and he was promptly eliminated on a strange shortstop-to-third-to-shortstop double play.
It's now the bottom of the eighth. Your lead-off batter, the left fielder who may end up as the future of the franchise, finally lines a double to center. Your center fielder, batting seventh, strikes out – only the fourth strike out victim on your side of the night. You're a bit tentative about asking your catcher to sacrifice bunt, as he's not very swift of foot (he will hit into 6 double plays this year, and get caught both times he attempts to steal) and he isn't very good about getting the bat down. He proves this by popping up to foul ground, where the first baseman nabs it for the second out.
So, it's decision time. Do you remove your pitcher for a pinch hitter, or do you let him hit?
Here's a few things to consider:
- Your pitcher is not a very good batter – surprise, surprise; he is a fireballer, though, and he is pretty much your ace pitcher. This is very likely the best outing of his career so far.
- You do have a decent pair of pitchers in the bullpen – a lefty who's more of your closer, and a righty who's more of a setup guy that you can use in long relief.
- The opposing pitcher is due up first to lead off the ninth, then two switch-hitters and a lefty.
- You don't have much on the bench in terms of pinch hitters, at least from the right side of the plate. Your best right-handed hitter (an outfielder, normally) will only bat .271 without a homer in 89 games for your this season.
- You do have a pair of veteran pinch-hitters on the bench – one who has some serious pop, and will end up taking over at first base by year's end. The other isn't quite as good, and is more of a contact hitter.
- You have a third lefty on the bench, but he's a fresh-faced 20-year-old rookie with an outrageous look and a wide-eyed attitude.
- Your opposing manager is a smart cookie, and isn't afraid to start pulling strings if you put in a new pitcher.
- As if you could forget, your starting pitcher is throwing a no-hitter. This could be a turning point for your team if he were to get it – and your team wins the game.
I would personally bet that 90% of all managers in the majors today would have pinch-hit for their starting pitcher – regardless of the situation.