Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Not So Special

How good was Matt Cain last night versus the Chicago Cubs at AT&T Park? Not good enough to get the chance at a complete game shutout.

The line on Matt Cain was 8-innings pitched, 3-bases on balls, 2-hits, 0-runs, 10-strikeouts on 113 pitches.
For Brian Don'tWorry Baby Wilson, 1-inning pitched, 3-hits, 1-run, 1-K, on 25 pitches.

Why couldn't Matt Cain finish the game? He's a big guy (listed at 6'3" and 231 pounds) what are the coaches and or powers that be afraid of?

Remember Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn? They were both 6 feet tall and about 175 pounds. These guys generally finished what they started. (Spahn, winner of 363 games, completed 382 of the 665 games he started. Juan, the Dominican Dandy, winner of 243 games, completed 244 of the 457 games he started.) Probably because they wanted the ball and didn't trust anyone else to do their work for them.

I understand the game has strategies where there are situations when the manager uses a reliever based on the side-of-the-plate the batter stands and the same for pinch-hitters, depending on the arm of the pitcher throwing the ball.

But to bring in a lefty because the batter is a lefty or vice versa or to bring in a reliever to get just one out because the starter experienced a little turbulence is pushing the panic button.

Last night, Matt Cain dominated the 8th inning.

When it was announced that Brian Wilson had come into relieve Matt Cain, I bet the whole Cub team collectively sighed and thanked the baseball gods because it meant they still had 3 outs.
And for a moment, Brian "Don't Worry Baby" Wilson was once again the sarcastic reference to the lead Beach Boy-Wouldn't It Be Nice (as in Wouldn't It Be Nice if he got the opponents out 1-2-3.)

Why not go with the hot hand? Why take a chance on disrupting the rhythm of the game with someone fresh out of the bullpen?

And please don't tell me you have a pitch count to protect the pitcher from overuse. You signed the guy in hopes of winning games not eating innings. All pitchers want to win games. Those who are assigned the task of saving games understand that is why they are there but they know better than anyone that being brought into a game just to face one batter can disrupt the flow of the game and that is when bad things can happen.

The only reason you would want to disrupt the flow of the game is if your team was on the losing end. If the game is tied a manager may consider the possibilities of using someone in a situation that may get the best results for that player because that player thrives in those sort of magnified moments and this is perfectly acceptable. It's what managers should be doing, and that is working on ways that best put the team in position to win the game.

I'm not so sure pulling a starter, who has dominated or been in control of the game, for the set-up man or closer just because that's the point of the game that has been reached, according to the way the game is played nowadays-with its specialized usage of players- is the best move. Because, in being a fan, I've been on the other side of the Not So Special pitching change. That's when the Jumbo Tron flashes the animated BIG hippopotamus sigh of relief on the big screen, because we all knew the only chance our team had to win was to get that guy off the mound!

The move is not so special when the lead changes hands and your team is now the team trailing, with three outs to go, if you're lucky. Sometimes it's walk off , gut-wrenching ugly.

Kevin Marquez