March 23, 2017

Whatever happened to finish what you start?

April 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

For some reason, I can’t get Joe Girardi’s comments about possibly pulling C.C. Sabathia in the late innings of his start against Tampa Bay on Saturday, April 10 with a no-hitter intact because of his rising pitch count out of my head.  I understand that high pitch counts, especially early on in the season, can result in injury.  But I think it’s been taken to an all-new ridiculous level and I no longer blame just management or managers and them simply trying to protect themselves.  I blame the pitchers too.

On Sunday night, Adam Wainwright gave the Cardinals exactly what they needed after playing 20 innings the night before against the Mets.  Wainwright went out and tossed a complete-game and gave the bullpen the night off.  He gave up three runs early on in the second inning, but took care of the rest and allowed just three hitters to reach safely (a hit, a walk and a hit batter) from the third inning on.  He finished up by retiring the final 11 hitters that he faced and needed 107 pitches (75 for strikes) for the entire night.

Keep that in mind when I also tell you that Wainwright’s counterpart, John Maine, lasted five innings on the night when his club certainly could have benefited from him going seven or eight.  Instead, Maine, who could (and maybe should) be on his way out of the rotation, threw 99 pitches through four innings and 115 (70 for strikes) for five.  No pitcher is going to have success throwing 25 pitches per inning or close to it.  The Cardinals did not score over the first four, but finally got to him in the fifth when Colby Rasmus touched him up for a three-run home run that tied the game up.

This has been Maine, probably since the beginning, with the occasional glimpse of a great performance where he is actually economical in the number of pitches he throws.  When he throws one of those gems, it’s probably more frustrating more than anything else because he shows he can do it.  He just can’t do it 25 to 30 times a year.

Is it that pitchers are afraid to pitch to contact?  Is it that they don’t know any other way except to constantly nibble and are unable to find a way to put a hitter away?  Are they babied in the minors?  How many pitchers actually know how to fight through a tough inning from the sixth inning or later, and do they know that the end is near and sometime soon the manager will call to the pen?  Is it some or all of the above?

Oliver Perez was throwing a great game for the Mets on Friday night and was working with runner on second and pitch count at 97.  He’s in control.  Jerry Manuel pops out of the dugout and heads to the hill.  On the Mets’ broadcast on SNY, play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen, one of the best in the business, thought perhaps Manuel was going out to help get him through a couple more hitters.  Keith Hernandez was quick to point out that the call was already made to the pen.

Perez was not even given a chance to plead his case or fight to stay in.  In this one particular case, I would not have been upset at all if Perez screamed and yelled and had shown up his manager in order to stay in game.  Instead, with a look of relief on his face, he high-fived the infielders and headed off for the dugout.

After a hit batter and walk and one more call to the pen, Felipe Lopez hit a grand slam to put the Cardinals in front, 4-1.

In this case, Perez was still the best option.  He’d gotten through the early innings and was turning in one of those “Good Ollie” performances.  Instead of being worried about not getting the loss, they should have let him finish what he started.

Often, you’ll hear announcers say that a pitcher seemingly got stronger as the game went on.  This statement or other versions drive me to the brink of hurling something at the radio or television.  No one is going to get stronger as they continue to perform physical act.  I’ll grant you that a pitcher may become more effective as the game goes along, but not stronger.

I am not piling on the Mets, although it’s pretty easy to do right now.  I have noticed several pitchers early on this season that have reached 90+ pitches in the fifth or even before getting to the point where they might qualify for the win.

On Sunday, the Brewers staked starting pitcher Doug Davis to a 10-0 lead after the first half inning.  Davis did not make it through five, giving up five runs on 11 hits and a walk over four and two-thirds innings.  He threw 107 pitches, and yes, I agree that it certainly seems as if he was not afraid to pitch to contact.

Also on Sunday, the Yankees completed a sweep over the Rangers with 5-2 win.  Rich Harden threw 94 pitches over three and two-thirds before being removed.  Harden’s teammate, Scott Feldman lasted only two and a third innings and threw 73 pitches.

I could go on and on as I scour through the boxscores of the first two-plus weeks of the season, but my point is made.

You never know when a pitcher is going to go the distance and there have been several complete-game efforts this season.  But when it happens, let’s throw a parade and salute an effort like Mitch Talbot’s when he goes the full nine like he did on April 17 against the White Sox with just 97 pitches.  Job well done!

Sugar’s Observations…

Going smokeless…

I have read a lot on the internet in the last week or so about major league baseball cracking down once again on players, managers and coaches using smokeless tobacco, and the player’s association’s supposed willingness to discuss it during future collective bargaining talks.  MLB instituted a ban in the minors in the early 1990’s, but I can assure you that usage continues down on the farm and likely during games.

I have seen several minor league players over the years try to quit in their own way and it wasn’t easy.

Cause for concern?

In looking at the boxscores and recaps from Monday’s games (April 19), I came across something that might be cause for concern for MLB.  The Mariners, Nationals, and Blue Jays all had their smallest crowds in the history of their ballparks.

14,528             Safeco Field                 vs. Orioles

12,473             Nationals Park              vs. Rockies

10,314             Rogers Centre              vs. Royals

Glenn’s thoughts on Jorge…

Jorge Cantu’s streak of collecting a hit and RBI came to an end at 10 in a row on Friday, April 16 when he went 1-for-5 without an RBI.  Going into Tuesday’s series opener at Houston, Cantu has hit safely in 13 in a row and has 16 RBIs.  I emailed Marlins’ broadcaster Glenn Geffner (one of the best in the biz) over the weekend and he shared his thoughts on the streak.

Here’s what Glenn had to say…

“I know there has been debate among the many “experts” in the blogosphere over how significant an accomplishment this is.  Did Jorge hit in 56 consecutive games?  No.  Did he hit 800 home runs?  No.  Should ESPN have been breaking into live programming to show his every at-bat?  Certainly not.

But, to me, any time you do something that has never been done before in the history of the game, that is a significant feat.  I don’t buy the argument being advanced in some circles that the RBI is an insignificant statistic because it is dependent on what other people in your lineup do.

Virtually everything you can accomplish individually in baseball is based, on some level, on what other people do.  That is why, despite being a series of one-on-one encounters, baseball is the ultimate team sport.  You can’t throw a perfect game if your defenders don’t have a perfect night.  You can’t go 7-for-7 unless other people in your lineup get on base enough to get you to the plate seven times.  You can’t hit three grand slams in a game unless you come up with the bases loaded at least three times.  Cantu is a run producer.  He knocks in runs (195 over the last two seasons).  That’s what he does.  He has a knack for putting the bat on the ball, getting runners in from third base and, no matter how coincidental some would suggest clutch hitting is, delivering big runs late in games, including four walk-off game-winners last year and one already this season.

All of that has to count for something.  If 10 consecutive games with an RBI to begin a season is not an accomplishment, why hasn’t anyone else ever done it before?  Some have argued that this is some kind of random achievement.  No, it’s certainly not neatly wrapped like 300 wins or 3,000 hits.

But that’s the beauty of baseball.  Players often have the chance, due to their own greatness or even circumstance, to do things that have never been done before in the game.  And four years from now, when someone knocks in a run in each of his team’s first six games, people will reflect back upon what Jorge Cantu did back in 2010 the same way Bob Feller’s name gets mentioned any time a starter goes into the 5th inning without allowing a hit on Opening Day, or Wayne Nordhagen’s name gets mentioned any time someone hits a grand slam then comes up a second time with the bases loaded.  That’s what makes baseball such a great game.

Does this streak send Jorge Cantu to Cooperstown?  Of course not.  But it certainly deserves to be celebrated, and it is silly for anyone to try to diminish an achievement that is unprecedented in the history of the game.”

Thanks, Glenn.  Good stuff!

Welcome to the Show!

The Mets called up prospect Ike Davis from AAA-Buffalo on Monday and he made his debut on Monday night at home against the Chicago Cubs.  Davis, who had a terrific spring with the big club, hit .364 (12-for-33) with three doubles, 2 home runs and 4 RBIs in 10 games with Triple-A Buffalo (International League).

Through Monday, April 19 — 27 players have made their big league debuts…9 position players and 18 pitchers.  Davis is the fifth Mets’ player to debut in 2010.

2010 Debuts

C         Drew Butera                 Twins               April 9, 2010

INF      Scott Sizemore Tigers               April 5, 2010

OF       Austin Jackson Tigers               April 5, 2010

OF       Jason Heyward Braves              April 5, 2010

INF      Ruben Tejada               Mets                April 7, 2010

1B        Ike Davis                     Mets                April 19, 2010

OF       Allen Craig                   Cardinals          April 8, 2010

C         Bryan Anderson           Cardinals          April 15, 2010

OF       John Raynor                 Pirates              April 8, 2010

RHP     Alex Burnett                 Twins               April 8, 2010

RHP     Sergio Santos               White Sox        April 8, 2010

RHP     Tyrone Ross                 A’s                   April 7, 2010

RHP     Kanekoa Texeira          Seattle              April 6, 2010

RHP     Bobby Cassevah          Angels              April 9, 2010

RHP     Francisco Rodriguez     Angels              April, 15 2010

RHP     David Herndon Phillies  April 5, 2010

LHP     Jonny Venters               Braves              April 17, 2010

LHP     Jesse English                 Nationals          April 5, 2010

LHP     Raul Valdes                  Mets                April 11, 2010

RHP     Jenrry Mejia                 Mets                April 7, 2010

RHP     Ryota Igarashi              Mets                April 8, 2010

LHP     Hisanori Takahashi       Mets                April 7, 2010

LHP     James Russell               Cubs                April 5, 2010

RHP     Mike Leake                  Reds                April 11, 2010

RHP     Logan Ondrusek           Reds                April 5, 2010

RHP     Carlos Monasterios      Dodgers           April 5, 2010

LHP     Jordan Norberto           Arizona            April 6, 2010

– End –

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