Well, yeah. But it’s still a hot topic around the water cooler, so bear with me.
When Shane Victorino walked in the ninth inning, the Giants still had a 96.8% chance of winning the game. That’s assuming average players across the board of course – there’s no way to tweak the formula to account for Tim Lincecum or the ridiculous heart of the Phillies order. But even factoring those things in wouldn’t make a big difference. When a team has a three-run lead with one out in the ninth inning, that team wins about 95 times out of 100, whether it’s a tired starting pitcher, an All-Star closer, or a tub of slurry trying to close out the game.
If Bochy made the wrong strategic move, and that’s still a very debatable point, he might have lopped off 1% or so from that expected winning percentage. So the move that Bruce Bochy made shouldn’t be viewed strictly in terms of winning and losing. And Bochy didn’t bring in Wayne Franklin – he brought in a hard-throwing closer who has been pitching extremely well this season. The Giants were overwhelming favorites to win, whether Lincecum or Brandon Medders finished.
In that context, I want a manager who a) gives his ace a chance to finish the game, and b) doesn’t mess around if that ace shows any sign of fatigue. Because, hey, the game’s in the bag anyways. Cough. But when Lincecum got under four straight fastballs and walked a weenie he’d effortlessly dispatched all day, I wasn’t really worried about the game yet. I wanted him out of the game because he’s still a young pitcher. There’s no need to push him in that situation if you think he’s fatigued in any way. You don’t want a tired Tim Lincecum struggling through a 12-pitch at bat to Chase Utley in a game that’s almost impossible to lose. Cough.
I’m not trying to suggest that another ten pitches would have melted Lincecum’s labrum, but why make him throw pitches when he’s tired? For that extra 1% chance of winning? The risks might not be tangible, but there’s no reason to extend a young pitcher in a situation like that if you suspect he might be tired. Handling a young pitcher is always a balancing act – if you want to go the reducto ad absurdum route, you can argue that people who are overly concerned with fatigued pitchers should pull their pitchers after 40 pitches, just to make sure. People who freak out after 100 pitches are goofballs, and so are the people who think pitchers should pitch complete games because that’s what Speckled Eggs McGaffin used to do for the Superbas in 1887.
The middle ground is filled with context-loving folks who can all agree that unnecessary risks are to be avoided. And on a team that has a closer with a pulse, putting Lincecum through the ninth inning after his control raised a red flag would have been unnecessary. Maybe the health (or cumulative stamina) risk was minimal, but so was the chance that the Giants were in danger of losing.
Awful game. And I’m tired of thinking about it. But if I’m going to second-guess every decision Bochy makes, I can at least give him credit for the ones I agree with.