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The Reverse Grady Little

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Congrats to the Red Sox; having reconstructed last year’s debacle into the the best team in the league is just flat-out impressive.

When I compare Leyland to Grady Little, I don’t of course mean to suggest that yanking Scherzer in the 7th last night was a firable offense as obviously indefensible as Little leaving Pedro to pitch the 8th when he had nothing in the 7th. And, yes, a lot of the Tigers’ issues were the result of fundamental problems inherent in the construction of the team (although I don’t think the manager can be held entirely blameless for either the little league-quality baserunning or the bullpen.) Scherzer did give up one rocket to left field in the 7th and could have given up another.

Still, taking him out strikes me as a rather obvious blunder that was even worse in the execution:

  • McCarver was, in a sense, right that Leyland was a prisoner of the pitch count.  But his implication was that number-crunching NERDS would tell Leyland to take Scherzer out.  They may exist — there are analytic types obsessed with lineup orders although all the evidence shows that the effects are trivial — but it’s worth noting that there’s nothing magical about a triple-digit pitch count and no evidence whatsoever that there’s anything damaging about going over 110 pitches in any given game.  No sabermetric evidence should have compelled Leyland to pull Scherzer.
  • I like the move even less if he was going to use Smyly for only one batter.  Even if Veras can get out of it you’ve burned one of your few decent relievers with 6 outs left to go.
  • Here’s what I think is the definitive argument against yanking Scherzer.  Does Leyland pull him if  Bogaerts strikes out? I think there’s a virtually 100% chance he lets him have Ellsbury under those circumstances.  Well, here’s the thing: Scherzer did strike out Bogaerts. He threw a perfect pitch, clearly in the strike zone, that froze the hitter.  That Iassogna blew the call isn’t the reason the Tigers lost, but it’s not a good reason to take out your Cy Young winner to throw the game to your below-average bullpen when he’s still throwing hard with decent command.   (And, by the way — and, again, the Red Sox were plainly the better team and this wasn’t why the Tigers lost — but when we’re talking about the length of games can we talk about Iassogna’s I-love-the-80s strike zone?  Were any of the first three balls called to Pedrioa in the 6th actually balls?  UPDATE: No. )

The lack of quality arms in the pen isn’t Leyland’s fault.  But it does seem to me that when you don’t have much of a bullpen and a great rotation in the ALCS you need to get as many innings out your starters as possible.  Maybe the Red Sox win Games 2 and 6 anyway, but Leyland both times pulled Scherzer before he had to and both times he crapped out.  And at least in Game 6, I don’t really understand the logic.

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