Game 3: Two Half Game Starters Works Again!

A.J. HINCH
Manager
HOUSTON ASTROS

 

A.J. Hinch did it again!

By design, quiet sub-conscious self-utterance, or simply by effect, the Astros have brought home a win this playoff season by manager A.J. Hinch’s use of two starters in two half-game-each outings. The first time came in the ALCS Boston Series in which Hinch used Morton for 5.0 innings and McCullers for 4.0 innings to knock off the Red Sox. This time the came over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Three of the World Series as McCullers this time worked 5.1 innings and Peacock followed brilliantly for 3.2 stanzas – in almost the same outs-split. – In each game, the first pitcher up got the win and the second man took credit for a long and dutiful “save”  for his mound partner and team.

One could argue in favor of coincidence here and write the whole thing off to an appearance of two long saves by a second long-relief pitcher who won critical games for his Astros club.

Maybe. Maybe not.

As we’ve written previously, and quite recently, we think that this sort of game could be an evolutionary next development in the historical use of starters.

A crude look at the history of starting pitcher psychology will suffice to suggest what may be coming next – and, thanks to Mr. Hinch, may already be here:

  1. Iron Man Starters: “Give them the ball and get the hell out of the way.” Old Hoss Radbourn, Iron Man McGinnity, Walter Johnson (19th century to somewhere in the 1920s.)
  2. Relief Pitchers Become Respectable: (Wilcy Moore) Jazz Age starters needed relief from the daily onslaught of night-time living, day-time working, and hangovers, etc.
  3. Relief Pitching Specialists (Bruce Sutter, etc.) Mid-20th century to 21st century saw the advent of relief pitcher specialists (early/late, long/short, set-up/closer, etc.)
  4. Analytic Determinations begin to induce Pitch-Counting, and Shorter Expectations for How Long a Starter Should Go per game; (21st Century Analytics begins to shape pitching.)
  5. Now we have pitchers whose psychological grasp of a complete game is closer to 5 than it is 9 innings.

…. So, here it comes …. Why not take two of these really good “5 innings-is-a-CG” conditioned-mind pitchers and start them serially together to cover the full 9 innings of the same game. Let them fend for themselves without throwing in other “relief” pitchers to further lower their expectations of themselves in matters of endurance. The goal is to find combos of two guys who can work together to win a 9 inning game as one man alone used to go about the same task.

And we’ll see. But that seems to be very much what Mr. Hinch is both trying to do – and on the road to getting it done – as the next evolution in pitcher usage. We don’t see the end of the one-man starter, but if the two-man approach works in some instances, why not use it? Frankly, I thought Peacock pitched like a man who didn’t want to let his predecessor McCullers down last night. We can’t know that to be true, but we can know this much: Something was pumping Peacock to new heights in Game Three – and whether that was just being in a World Series, we will never know for sure. At any rate, Peacock’s caring, control, or a sense of confidence in his own abilities riding to a new high doesn’t really matter so much today. What matters is – Brad Peacock was pitching in Game Three like King Kong in the early 1930s movie, when he punched out that elevated train he saw coming at him, deep in the heart of the big city.

And what a great place to carry out this kind of research Astros Manager Hinch has chosen – smack dab in the middle of this very exciting World Series!

 

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

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One Response to “Game 3: Two Half Game Starters Works Again!”

  1. Fred Soland Says:

    Don’t be surprised tonight if you were to see the tandem of Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh used in exactly the same way either. The Dodger starter, Alex Wood, is not known for going deep into games. He more than likely will not last until the 5th inning. Last night, the Dodgers used 5 of their bullpen pitchers. The only ones not used were Josh Fields (who we roasted in game 2 with HR,HR,2B in the 3 batters he faced), Brandon McCarthy ( who gave up 2 runs on 2 hits including Springer’s bomb to take the loss in game 2) and Kenley Jansen, their closer ( who pitched 2 innings and got nicked for the Marwin Gonzales game tying Home run). Now tonight, we will either see those we have already toasted, or repeaters from last night. Jansen won’t be good for more than an inning or two. If he throws 2, he will be wasted, or at least diminished for Sunday use.

    The chess game is on and the Dodgers are down a piece. Let’s hope the bats come out tonight loud and strong against Wood to force the Dodgers into the bullpen quickly. If they use that bullpen a lot again tonight, there will be added pressure on Clayton Kershaw to go deep in his game on Sunday.

    Advantage Houston!!

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