Lessons From ALCS Game One
By Jim Henneman
A couple of things were made clear again during the Yankees' Game One comeback win over the Rangers. One should be obvious by now; the other, a bit of a surprise to those who buy into some of the statistical propaganda fans are force-fed a little too often.
First of all, as many have suspected, the system is broken and needs fixing. When a team loses a four-run lead with six outs remaining in the game without retiring one hitter or utilizing its best relief pitcher, it should be obvious they're going about this the wrong way. That's what happened to Rangers manager Ron Washington last night as he watched a 5-1 lead turn into a 6-5 defeat.
Even though the guys on television were ready to nominate C.J. Wilson for a medal of courage when he started the eighth inning, having thrown 100 pitches (normal for a good seven innings), Washington can't be criticized for leaving his starter in the game. Had transplanted first baseman Jorge Cantu been quicker delivering the ball as Wilson was covering first base on Brett Gardner's inning-opening grounder, everything might have turned out differently.
But when Derek Jeter followed with a double, Washington had no choice but to go to his bullpen. What happened with the next five hitters, however, really is hard to imagine.
Netfali Feliz is only a rookie, but he throws 100 mph, and he's without question the best the Rangers have in the late innings. Yet ,he never got in the game as Texas went from four runs ahead to a one-run deficit in the space of a few pitches.
Darren Oliver walking the only hitters he faced should've been a wakeup call for Washington to get his closer ready and into the game. What happened instead is what happens far too often, not necessarily with the Rangers but with a lot of teams: The least effective pitchers end up on the mound when the game is decided. Losing the game last night after getting rid of CC Sabathia in four innings was like losing two games for the Rangers, who aren't likely to survive their bullpen implosion.
Once he went to his bullpen, Washington had no choice but to keep searching for a hot hand. The problem was he never got to the one guy most capable of giving it to him. Rookie or not, Perez should have been in that game before the lead was lost.
In the meantime, the Yankees proved once again all the stuff about how selective they are at the plate, how much they make pitchers work, how much they build up the pitch count, how much they get to see everything a pitcher has to offer should once again be laid to rest. The second and third relievers summoned by Washington each threw one pitch, accounting for three runs to basically seal the Rangers' fate. Both Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano drilled the first pitch they saw from pitchers they couldn't even recognize.
The reason the Yankees, as a team, see so many pitches is because they have perhaps the most potent lineup in baseball and pitchers are not too anxious to just serve up cupcakes in an effort to get ahead in the count. The Yankees see a lot of pitches because pitchers spend a lot of time trying to lure them into swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. Yes, they have good plate discipline as a team. But don't ever believe the reason they see all these pitches is because they "work" the pitchers.
Patience is a wonderful asset. But in the case of the Yankees, it is grossly overrated. As we found out last night ... again.
Posted October 16, 2010