Saturday Chess Match: Gone in 90 pitches (and a bonus)

The situation: End of the seventh inning. Cardinals lead, 3-1. 9-1-2 spots in Reds order coming to the plate.
The decision: TLR and Duncan elect to remove Kyle Lohse after 90 pitches and seven strong innings, going with Blake Hawksworth to start the eighth.
The outcome: It’s an adventurous eighth for the Cardinals, as they go through three pitchers and allow the Reds to tie the game. They rally in the bottom of the eighth to take the win, but what might have been a two-reliever game becomes a bit more complicated. Dennys Reyes pitched on a game when he might not have, and Ryan Franklin gets four outs (though on only 16 pitches).
The analysis: The coaching staff felt that Lohse was fading and wanted to get him out before he could get in trouble. Kyle McClellan was, ideally, not available, which complicated things a bit. Ideally that would have been a McClellan inning, and he could even have stayed in to face the lefties rather than Reyes being needed.
The Cardinals are in a stretch of 2 1/2 weeks without a day off, which means that none of the starters will get extra days’ rest any time soon, and they’ve made it clear they intend to avoid pushing the starters too hard. So it’s in line with recent thinking to err on the side of pulling Lohse early, rather than later.
The comment: “It’s a tough call when one of us disagrees. But Dave and I really felt like with a couple breaking balls he had lost a little bit of pop. He’d done a really good job. We had decided before the runs scored [in the bottom of the seventh].” — TLR
My verdict: As I mentioned, it’s consistent, which certainly increases the defensibility of the decision. The thought process is sound.
With that said, it was a close game, and to my eye, Lohse still looked strong. He struck out the last two batters of the seventh, and at least the first couple of batters of the eighth shouldn’t have been too taxing for him. The fact that McClellan was unavailable also argued against going to the ‘pen.
I think I would have stayed with Lohse, who was only at 90 pitches. But there’s a philosophy at play here, and it makes a lot of sense. This team will go as far, in the regular season and October, as the rotation takes it. So while I probably would have asked for another inning out of the starter, I definitely see the opposing argument and I definitely don’t think it was a slam dunk.
Bonus chess match:
Some of you also asked about the decision to leave Dennys Reyes in to face Scott Rolen in the 8th. I theorized that the matchup was a factor, with Rolen being 6-for-10 against Ryan Franklin. But TLR said that the plan all along was for Reyes to face three batters: lefty Joey Votto, right-hander Rolen and lefty Jay Bruce. Reyes was supposed to pitch Rolen “tough,” meaning hope he chases a bad pitch. Not quite the unintentional-intentional walk, but in that neighborhood.
Then Franklin was going to come on for Cabrera. It wasn’t a matter of the batter-vs-pitcher matchup.
The quote: “When Scott’s swinging good like he’s swinging, righty-lefty doesn’t make any difference. Then you have Bruce on deck. So [Reyes] was going to pitch Scott tough.” — TLR
-M.

6 Comments

Love these write-ups. Wonderful job, Dude.

These are indeed awesome, keep ‘em comin’. It would be fun to see a collection of these from the 20-inning marathon… there were at least 5 questionable “chess match” decisions that I can think of.

Matt, I know this is off topic and may be something out of place here but, with the MLBPA coming out against AZ SB1070, players from other clubs speaking up, the many protests at ballgames across the country, the prospect of pulling the All-Star Game from Phoenix, the recent statements by the Phoenix Suns ownership and anticipated opposition from the NBAPA, is there any sense that StL Cardinals ownership, its various players and coaches or other representatives will be taking a stance? How awful would it be for our first baseman, catcher, third base coach or other important folks to be profiled?

I may have missed something but I have not seen any recent posts—what gives?

Budget cuts……
Will Johnny Mo just outright tell the TLR Mafia to hit the P 9th again or are we goin to see more of our 9/1 leadoff hitters flail throughout the season(.190 avg combined), was not this the reason for the P hitting 8th???
McGwire has wrecked a sparkling baseball town’s entire rep as well as the best player in baseball. The Cardinals as a team are on a record pace of K’s in a season.
Having said that we all should be thankful that the Cards play in the weakest divison in baseball, hopefully the Cubs or BrewCrew don’t figure it out and leave us wondering what if

The strikeouts may or may not be McGwires influence but the lack of offense is not. We are seeing the same anemia that we saw last year. There is little consistency. Yesterday they couldn’t get tmore than 4 hits off of a pitcher that has a 7+ ERA IN THE MINOR LEAGUES. I don’t now about the rest of Cardinal Nation but I’m incredibly frustrated by the fact that they are scoring an average of just slightly above 4 runs a game with the likes of Pujols and Holliday and Molina and Ludwick in the lineup. I can only hope they going to turn it around or the Holliday deal is going to look REALLY BAD. Oh and by the way the Loshe deal is starting to smell worse and worse. He certainly hasn’t performed up to expectations. Last year it was written off to injury BUT there is no excuse this year.

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