Chess Match: Quick hook for K-Mac

The situation: Bottom of the eighth inning, no outs, runners on first and second, Cardinals lead 5-1. Middle of the Cubs order coming to bat against Kyle McClellan, who hit a batter and allowed a single in his first two batters faced.

The decision: TLR immediately goes to Jason Motte, letting McClellan face only the two batters.

The outcome: Motte mows them down, getting a fly out from Aramis Ramirez and strikeouts of Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd.

The analysis: This was a very aggressive move, especially in a four-run game. TLR made the assessment quickly that McClellan wasn’t right and wasn’t about to get right, and the 4-5-6 spots in the order were the wrong guys to try it against. This would have been a very, very bad game for the Cardinals to lose, with Carpenter having pitched so well and the offense having knocked out a good pitcher in the first inning.
It was too early to go to Ryan Franklin, and the Cubs had a run of right-handed hitters coming up. The only real alternative was Motte, who has been pitching very well — and who can get a strikeout even if he’s not your guy to get a double play.

The comment: “First of all, McClellan has been outstanding. The first two pitches he threw to get strike two [against Ryan Theriot] were both up — breaking ball, fastball. Then he tried to throw the sinker [and hit Theriot].”
“He got really bothered by that hit-by guy. You could tell. He kept looking over there. … So we saw he was not right, and he wasn’t going to get right.”

My verdict: I like it. I liked it at the time and I still do. One of my personal beliefs is that you should roll with a reliever who’s going well; I’m a big believer in the value of a 100-inning, 60-appearance reliever if you can find one. But the flipside of that is not riding a guy who doesn’t have it.
You have an alternative. You have enough of a lead that extra innings are not a concern. Your closer can come in within a couple of outs if you need him. And those are some dangerous hitters coming to the plate. So make the move. Get the outs.
TLR is often accused of overmanaging, but I don’t think this was a case of that. It wasn’t obsessively playing the percentages or matchups. He saw his guy was off, and he made the move.
-M.

4 Comments

will a Cardinals starting pitcher, this season, be able to pitch a complete game ??? if not, why.

First, to toad41: I’m pretty sure Wainwright already has 2 complete games. If you mean someone besides Wainwright (and this comment even goes for Wainwright), it seems to me that it is more important for the starting rotation to be effective the entire 6 months and both Penney and Carpenter are not exactly spring chickens and Garcia has been in the minors where the seasons are shorter. Furthermore the bullpen has been VERY EFFECTIVE this year. It seems to me that the management of the number of innings pitched has been prudent and wise. It seems to me to be more important to get wins than to get complete games.

Second, I agree with above analysis of the decision to pull McClellan. He didn’t seem to have it today and he was going to face some VERY DANGEROUS hitters.

I see this one as a complete no-brainer. If you’ve got a guy out there who “wasn’t right and wasn’t about to get right,” you don’t want him pitching AT ALL for fear of the possibility that it’s going to cascade into a physical, not just emotional, problem. TLR handled this one the only way he could.

Agree wholeheartedly with your analysis. Too many times, it seems like Tony leaves guys in who clearly don’t have it and takes guys out who are on a roll (most often, Trevor Miller). I was really pleased to see the quick hook with McClellan because he clearly didn’t have it. If anyone wants to call that overmanaging, it’s a kind of overmanaging I can live with. The obsessive matchup garbage regardless of how the pitcher is going is what drives me nuts. I also agree with riding the hot hand and wish Tony would do that more. I’ve never really looked into it, but it seems like the matchups often don’t work. Sometimes the sample size is way too small to be staking a game on it.

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