Turns out managing games in which the pitching staff gives up runs is a little tougher than when they don’t. Who knew?
In his first bit of controversy as Dodgers manager, Dave Roberts opted to keep Wood in after a tough fifth inning, which featured the first runs scored on the Dodgers this season (the Giants would plate three in the frame).
Wood was due to hit third in the top of the sixth, so the consensus was he’d be pinch-hit for, with Yimi Garcia (who was warming up) ready to come in the following inning. Roberts instead let Wood hit and, to start the bottom of the sixth, Wood gave up two hits — albeit lazy grounders that grew eyes to get through the infield.
After the game, Roberts had this to say about his decision, transcribed from an interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNetLA’s Alanna Rizzo:
I think at that point in time, in the fifth inning he had 24 pitches and he gave up a couple doubles. Then there was still some weak contact and I felt his velocity was still there. After the fifth inning, there was 74 pitches he had, and so as far as stamina and where he was at, I didn’t see him missing arm-side or I didn’t see him losing velocity and I think his stuff held and so, I wanted him to go back out there.”
First and foremost, it’s worth pointing out this was Roberts’ first experience in this spot as a manager. This was truly a learning experience for everyone involved. For Roberts, he gets to find out the end result of his call and what to take away moving forward. For Wood and other pitchers on the staff, they learn at least the initial tendencies to expect from their manager. As I tweeted during the game, I’m perfectly fine with these kinds of “mistakes” (if you want to call it that) right now, with more than 150 games to go in this arduous MLB season.
I used quotation marks in the previous sentence for a reason, in case you noticed.
Look, we’re coming off Don Mattingly’s tenure in which it felt like he never really dialed up the right choice when it came to call for a pitcher, who to even call if he went that route or whether to stick with the starter. Of course we’re going to be scarred somewhat in managerial decision like we saw this afternoon.
It also feels important to note that we’ll always notice the mistake (especially after the aforementioned tenure) over the proper choice when it’s made. That isn’t changing anytime soon, either.
I do, however, think the decisions on pulling pitchers in San Diego (all three starters were obviously rolling in their respective games) and keeping Wood in today when he wasn’t rolling are at least defensible. Optically, they both look weird given the situation, but the explanation is there.
Would I have made those calls? Maybe not, but fans already calling Roberts Mattingly 2.0 are jumping the gun.
First, the pitchers Roberts pulled in San Diego are all veteran pitchers throwing their first game of a really long season. Yes, Maeda is technically a rookie, but he had those concerns about his arm health, which led to the kind of contract he signed to come to L.A. Pulling those guys early, knowing they’ll be absolutely crucial is perfectly fine in my opinion, given what’s expected moving forward.
Now, the obvious question to ask after today’s decision is: “Wait, you’re going to pull those guys while they’re rolling but keep Wood in as he struggles?” That’s a perfectly legitimate question to ask, too.
Thing is, Wood is considerably younger than all three of the above-mentioned starters. The pitcher closest to Wood’s 25 years is Maeda, who is 27, followed by Kershaw (28) and Kazmir (32). Wood was only at 74 pitches and, had he been able to get through that sixth inning, he’ll have some positive momentum heading into his next start. It’s obviously a gamble, but there was something to gain by keeping him in — making the move defensible.
Just to be absolutely clear, I’m not saying those are the moves I would’ve made, as evidenced by the tweet I sent at the time of the decision (seen below).
Wood strikes out to end the top of the sixth. He’ll come back out to pitch after that tough fifth. pic.twitter.com/hxOvzF8cqy
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) April 7, 2016
I’m also not going to jump down a rookie coach’s throat for the first tough decision of his major-league managerial career.
You hear it all the time: The great thing about baseball is that there usually a game tomorrow (there is — the Dodgers play this same Giants team at 7:15 PM PDT). If Roberts doesn’t have to make this same decision tomorrow, chances are he’ll have to in the not-so-distant future. When he does, he’ll have today to build on.
Until then, freaking out about a decision in game four of a 162-game season just makes for unneeded stress. Just how it probably wouldn’t have been smart to anoint him manager of the year for having made just about every right call until that point, calling him a bum now seems… Extreme.
Step off the ledge, Dodgers fans. It’s National Beer Day, after all. Grab a cold one, take a deep breath and let’s hope the Dodgers bounce back tomorrow against those damn Giants.