Second Guessing McCuller’s Removal in 7th

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Is it too late to make a deal for another late inning pitcher? I saw one this week in a bullpen near me that could be the kind of guy the Astros are looking for.

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LAST MINUTE QUICK NEWS ADDITION: LARRY MIGGINS WILL APPEAR IN A QUICK BASEBALL SEGMENT TONIGHT ON THE CHANNEL 13 TV NEWS AT 10:00! It’s a baseball story that reporter Priscilla Roijas did last Friday in an effort to tie in Houston’s baseball past with its very big present and bright future. – Tune in to KTRK-TV, Channel 13, Houston, at 10 pm tonight, if you get this notice on the day of Wednesday, October 18, 2017!

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The Fox Sports studio panel of Alex Rodriguez, David “Big Pappy” Ortiz, Keith Hernandez, and Hall of Famer Frank Thomas had a field day with the moderator’s ALCS Game Four post-game autopsy question: “What did you think of Astros Manager A.J. Hinch’s decision to remove starter Lance McCullers after 81 pitches right after Aaron Judge led off the Yankees’ 7th with that club’s 2nd hit, a monster HR blast to center field as a blast that narrowed Houston’s lead to 4-1?”

It landed like a foul ball in the Knothole Gang at Buff Stadium back in 1951. The smiling, gleeful panelists were all over it. We should be glad they did not have cokes to knock over or hot dogs to throw down in hot pursuit.

What follows is an excerpted taste of what they said – and a feel for the general flow of conversation from one smiling participant to another. None spoke with any kind of mean-spirited dead aim at Hinch in particular, but it was also clear that none of these guys are boosters of analytics as the code book on game-in-progress decision-making, nor were any of them going to miss out on the opportunity for doing something they each had lived with as players: getting second-guessed for something they each once did, or failed to do, at a critical game moment.

Here’s a short taste of the bump and buzz that ignited on Hinch taking out McCullers when he did:

Keith Hernandez: (In reference to a preceding clip in which Hinch affirmed that McCullers was quite OK when he was taken out.) “Hinch said McCullers  felt great. So, I don’t understand. The game has changed in this regard. It’s more relying now on bullpens, but when you’ve got a got a guy who’s going like that, given up only two hits, even if he’s just given up a home run and it’s now 4-1, so what? Let him get through the 7th inning. This is just a new part of the game that I have a hard time with.”

Moderator Kevin Burkhardt: “But Hinch went with Verlander all the way in Game 2. What’s the difference here? Why does he pull McCullers, if he’s not hurt?”

Alex Rodriguez: “McCullers gave up 2 hits on breaking balls, but 65% of his pitches in this game were breaking balls and he was spinning the ball so well. If you’ve got an Indians or Yankees bullpen, maybe you take him out in the 7th, but I say, let him go a bit. Let him go.”

Frank Thomas: “Yes. McCullers has got that make up. His dad was a big leaguer. You got to trust your eyes. The guy wasn’t even sweating yet.”

David Ortiz: “Don’t make sense. Only 81 pitches. The guy is controlling the hitters’ actions. I mean, I don’t get it.”

Alex Rodriguez: “Pappy, when you’re sitting in the Yankees dugout – you are saying – YES! – GET THAT GUY OUTTA HERE! – NOW WE GOT A SHOT!”

David Ortiz: (eyes excited; sitting to left of A Rod and now excitedly pointing both index fingers at him) “THANK YOU! – THANK YOU VERY MUCH!”

Everything else was embroidery to the points the panel made in the safe shadows of second-guessing what someone else did in his job on the firing line.

I personally think that A.J. Hinch is one of the principal reasons the Astros are even playing for the AL pennant and their second ticket to the World Series. I wish he had stayed with McCullers too, but I don’t get paid to second guess in the company of my buddies about something none of us were in the line of fire for handling in real-time-real-life. Hinch’s awareness and skill at pulling together “talent” into a championship competitive “team” that takes care of each other member in their common pursuit of baseball’s holy grail has been fun to watch. For many of us, that’s what makes the Astros games both fun and exciting to see. Like the rest of us, Hinch is not perfect either, but I guess that’s what managers are paid to be, regardless.  – Right, John Farrell?

Sadly, what Game 4 exposed was the dirty little non-secret we’ve lived with all season. The Astros Achilles Heel is its bullpen. When several of its prime suspects show up in the same critical game, as they did yesterday, it’s going to make the decision-making of the manager who made their appearances possible in that moment pay the disappointment toll. And, since this is all second-guessing, “what if” Hinch had left McCullers in the game until all the runs that actually scored had crossed the plate at Lance’s expense? Would that have produced a chorus of “why have a bullpen, if you aren’t going to use it” comments?

Let’s just hope that Dallas Keuchel can get us a win in Game 5 – and spare us another serious challenge to our bullpen’s abilities – or our manager’s magical pitching change decision-making skills in real-time. We’ve now seen another post-game variation on how the studio second guess version on pitching change decisions works – and that after-the-fact variation – separate, apart, and detached from personal consequence to those who freely speak out about the behavior of others later – seems to go pretty smoothly.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

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5 Responses to “Second Guessing McCuller’s Removal in 7th”

  1. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Test copy.

  2. jeff share Says:

    over a long season your weaknesses always come back to haunt you as wel saw yesterday. a big flaw in today’s game is pulling the starter at the first indication that there might be trouble. Girardi did it with Gray like he’s done it all season. I don’t think the Astros starters had more than 1 complete game all year. How is a pitcher going to learn to pitch himself out of a jam if you pull him right away? This goes back to 2003 when the Astros had Dotel, Lidge and Wagner, so it was somewhat understandable, but now everything is predicated on the metrics which don’t always work. Devinski has been awfujl since the all star game; Musgrove has been inconsistent and Giles is good but never a sure thing. And that’s the cream of the crop out there. Shows why they wanted and needed Zack Britton. Liriano and Clippard? Give me a brea,

  3. gregclucas Says:

    My thoughts have to be tempered with the era in which I began watching baseball. Gibson, Koufax, Drysdale, Jim Maloney, Warren Spahn, etc. When they started a game the goal was always to finish it. No one counted pitches. Managers used their eyes and results to see if a pitcher was “losing it.” The game is played with numbers and not eye balls any more. Remember when the Nationals would not use one of their young star pitchers, Stephen Strasburg, in the post season a few years back because he had thrown too many pitches during the year and they didn’t want to push him? That would have NEVER been a concern back in the day. Who is right? More pitchers throw harder now and more pitchers need arm surgery than before. Who is right?

    I like the old game more, but I also prefer no DH. Find anyone born after 1980 that doesn’t prefer the DH and you are looking at fan older than their age.

    Admittedly, over time all sports evolve. My contention is simply that not all evolution is for the better…its just different.

  4. Rick B. Says:

    It might help if any of the Astros players had a batting average number greater than his weight in this series. The vaunted Yankees bullpen hasn’t had much work to do since the starters have shut the Astros down quite well enough, thank you.

  5. Cliff Blau Says:

    Want Betances?

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