Learning from others — a lesson in baseball progression

Last night’s Wild Card game was wild. The Yankees starting pitching ace, Luis Severino, was hooked quickly after 6 batters in the first inning with one recorded out, and wisely deduced by the Yankees manager Joe Girardi because he kept the game in check at a 3-0 deficit and before it got out-of-hand.

The great news for Girardi is every move he made worked, and only one more run would be given up by his team but by that point it didn’t put his team in a deficit and the Yankees went on to win by a final score of 8-to-4.

When Severino was pulled with one out and runners on 3rd base and 2nd base, the new pitcher, Chad Green, got the strikeout on Byron Buxton for the second out of the inning and then struck out Jason Castro to keep the score at 3-to-0.  Later in the 6th inning with the Yankees leading 7-to-4, David Robertson gave up a lead-off single and a two-out walk and the tying run entered the batter’s box. Girardi went to his bullpen and summoned Tommy Kahnle to get Joe Mauer out and he did — by mere feet. Mauer hit a flyball to the opposite field where the ball was caught at the wall, and in the boxscore it is just a flyball F-7 out.

Baseball is a funny game. Some moves work out like you know what you’re doing. If Buxton hits a triple in the first inning making the score 5-0 and later scores — it is a full-blown disaster.  If Mauer’s flyball went a few feet further in the 6th inning, it’s a game tying home run.  That is baseball.

What we learned in mineralogy is pressure makes great diamonds but pressure built-up internally within the anatomical structure of a baseball player will really cause issues. Luis Severino was “jacked-up” and under extreme pressure last night to start that game and not locating his pitches. Today’s batters like Brian Dozier can barrel up 98 cheese if it is down the middle. Players are now conditioned for it. Those baby-blue squares (below) in the middle of that box and those green squares several inches outside of the box told you Severino was not locating. He couldn’t control the situation and the pressure got to him.

The game of baseball has been around for 178 years according to historians from the early beginnings of Abner Doubleday, and while the game changes ever-so-slightly over time, Joe Girardi showed the world how to manage an elimination game.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel — just build a better mousetrap. We all saw what Buck Showalter didn’t do a year ago when he lost a wild-card game and didn’t use his best reliever Zach Britton and Girardi did not make the same mistakes last night  and went to his best reliever — David Robertson. Maybe Girardi leaned too hard on David Robertson as he soared past the danger zone of 40-pitches for a one-inning guy. That will be another chapter for a different day. On this day, everything Girardi did worked like a charm from the point he yanked Luis Severino.

Today’s lesson is from Herm Edwards simply said,

“You play to win the game.”

Girardi did it and everything he did from the time he removed Luis Severino worked. Players sometimes make managers look like geniuses when the plan works. It’s a lesson to know and anticipate your next move and subsequent moves and also out-think your opponent.

Dusty Baker hopefully saw that game last night. It might influence him on choosing his roster. He must find 7-or-8 bullpen arms who have steady heartbeats and can handle the pressure and the moment. The Nationals have been down this road before with players with the yips like Aaron Barrett if you remember his inning of the elimination game in San Francisco.

Fox Sports wrote, “There is so much more to managing a baseball team than what we see during the games. We see only the lineups, the batting order and the pitching changes; we don’t see the human interactions, the coaching and all of the work that goes into keeping so many large personalities pointed in the right direction. Managing a baseball team is about a lot more than just in-game strategy.

But in-game strategy is part of the job, and on Tuesday night, Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams failed at that part of the job in the most important game of his team’s season. And while we cannot know what would have happened if different decisions had been made, we do know that maybe the best team in baseball just got bounced in the first round due, at least in part, to a series of decisions that strain credulity.”

Harsh, but very accurate to describe how the Nats got bounced in the elimination game of the 2014 NLDS. The shame of it is that game #4 should not have been an elimination game. In each of these crucial games decisions must be made, and for these 2017 Nats, the first crucial decision could be the last players on the roster.

Can Enny Romero come into an NLDS to get his batter(s)? Do you have that confidence in him. The same could be said for Matt Grace and Sammy Solis and any other pitcher who has not been “battle tested” which eliminates most of these bullpen arms outside of Ryan Madson. Even though Sean Doolittle has pitched in 3 post-seasons, his record is not stellar, but small sample sizes could distort his 4.00 ERA over 8 career post-season games. Kintzler and Albers have no post-season experience, and all Dusty Baker needs them to do is to pitch as well as they did all season.  There is no room for Drew Storen moments to Pablo Sandoval or Yadier Molina or Aaaron Barrett to Hunter Pence. You saw last night what wins games and what loses games.

There is no need to recreate the wheel, just build a better mousetrap.


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