But there’s no way to analyze the Dodgers’ title, watch the pile of bodies in those gorgeous blue and white uniforms to celebrate the achievement, and not think, “What if Kevin Cash left Blake Snell behind? “
“Fair question,” said Cash, the Rays manager, when the Dodgers received the trophy on the field. “I don’t know if I have the best answer right now. He did everything any of us could have asked. “
Snell’s reward for his work: the catch. That was what Tuesday night meant: the analytics-driven Rays removed a starting pitcher that had a 1-0 lead, that had brought out one in the sixth, that had beaten nine, that had given up two skimpy singles and no one left.
Read this sentence. Do you know the result. Think about whether it makes sense.
“I only believe in myself,” said Snell. “I believe in myself.”
Such psychology is secondary nowadays, if at all. As he walked off the hill at the end of sixth place, Snell gave up both baseball and the Rays’ clear advantage in game 6. Snell had faced 18 Los Angeles Dodgers. Only three had managed to hit a ball that reached the outfield. The third came in Snell’s 73rd place, which Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes hovered in midfield, a single, only Los Angeles’ second base runner of the night.
The next three players were at the forefront of the Dodgers: Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner. All are dangerous. No one had touched Snell – six times, six times.
But with an out came cash.
This must have been a discussion of strategy and approach to Betts, one of the best players in the game, right? Instead, Cash asked for the ball. In disbelief, Snell gave it to him.
“For most of this game, I’ve dominated every possible outcome,” said Snell. “And this lineup is so talented, man. So talented. “
As Snell left the hill, the socially distant, decidedly pro-Dodgers crowd of 11,437 broke out. The Dodgers had no chance against Snell. Against everyone else they had. . . something.
This is the part of modern day baseball that honestly just stinks. It’s based on analysis and probability, and there’s nothing wrong with that – until it takes away the ability of the people who play and execute the game to make decisions based on what they feel, what they see. Any casual fan could see what Snell was working with, a pinpoint fastball and an absolute hammer of a corner. The Dodgers were confused.
Of those 18 Los Angeles hits Snell faced, only Chris Taylor’s single with the third inning and AJ Pollock’s scalded line drive on the third punch could later be hit as hard, even remotely. If the Rays forced a seventh game, Snell would force it for them. Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver, rest their souls, would be proud.
The basis for such a move would be twofold: Cash has full faith in a long list of his aides, a group he called the “boys throwing 98 stable” during a heated exchange with the New York Yankees. Snell, however, spent the days leading up to his start arguing he should be part of the stable – at least in spirit. He is a former Cy Young Award winner. And since his team had a 1-0 lead in a game they had to win to extend their season, he was allowed to score 16 outs.
“I’d rather be the guy who stays out as long as possible,” said Snell.
The other reason teams often cite for removing pitchers early: Statistics show that the average pitcher is significantly worse when faced with a line-up for the third time. Fatigue can mean that his stuff is getting less. Familiarity can be a benefit for the thugs who have time to adjust to what they saw. It’s real information teams provide appropriately.
“I appreciate that,” said Cash. “I fully understand the questions involved. Blake gave us every opportunity to win. These are not easy decisions. . . . I didn’t want Mookie or Seager to see Blake a third time. “
For Snell, however, the third time wasn’t a big factor. In 2020, Hitter produced a percentage of 0.462 based plus slugging against him the first time, an OPS of 0.977 the second time – and an OPS of 0.913 the third time. Sure, the season shortened by the pandemic only left him 11 starts, so maybe that’s a small sample. But it’s not noticeably worse for his career: .592 on the first run, .711 the next time and only a slight bump at .742 the third time. Throw in the 16 times in his career the fourth time he faced a line-up – which resulted in an OPS of 0.125, his best games – and it’s clear Snell has the ability to throw deeper than it does Allow Rays.
“The hardest part for me is that I rolled,” said Snell. “I was in a groove. I just felt really dominant. I let her guess. It’s just hard for me. It gets difficult for a while. “
To be fair to Tampa Bay, it’s not the only organization that thinks that way. Indeed, the Dodgers employ such a strategy and in Game 5 the great Kershaw was removed after 5⅔ innings and only 85 pitches. Workhorses don’t go eight innings now. You go six.
Think about the seventh game of the 2019 World Series. Right-handed Houston Zack Greinke flashed through the Washington Nationals line-up, throwing a shutout in the seventh inning. In his 75th place, he allowed Anthony Rendon a solo homer and then went to Juan Soto. But the Astros still had a 2-1 lead.
The feeling in the shelter of the Nationals at this point in time: everyone except Greinke. The feeling for AJ Hinch, then the Houston manager and a top figure in a franchise that relies heavily on analytics: Give me the ball.
You know the rest: Greinke left after 80 parking spaces. Reliever Will Harris came in. Howie Kendrick hit from the right field foul post. The move gave life to Washington – and a championship. It baffled the Astros, who allowed three more runs for the Nats to close more casually.
Back to Tuesday evening. Cash’s pick with an on and an off: right-handed Nick Anderson.
“[Snell] dominated us and we just didn’t see him, ”said Dave Roberts, manager of Dodgers. “When they went to the pen, Mookie looked at me a little. We were just glad Snell wasn’t involved. “
Anderson was a key component of Cash’s bullpen during the regular season. But when he took over for the unbeatable Snell, he had given up the runs in each of his last six games. During that time, a distance of 9⅔ innings, hitters tore Anderson for a batting average of 0.342 and an OPS of 1.010.
“News Flash !!!” A great Leaguer wrote by text shortly after the move. “Baseball is not played in a computer. I love it!!!!! That makes me so happy. Why would you get this guy out ???? ”
This is what shelters and clubhouses feel like in modern times. The information is great. But baseball has a heart and a soul and is being ripped out.
“I’m not the manager,” said Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. “I don’t make any decisions. Asking my opinion, it was Blake’s game. He dominated. I don’t care what the numbers say – third time by ordering or whatever. There weren’t many people who made contact, and no hard contact at all. “
With Barnes in first place, Betts – helplessly against Snell – tore a ball down the third baseline, a double, to get the runners into second and third places. When Anderson uncorked a wild field, Barnes scurried home. Tie game.
Snell steamed. Seager pulled a grounder to the first base. Betts – one of the game’s best base runners – broke home. Ji-Man Choi’s litter was too late.
The Dodgers led, and the defining story for years to come, will be how they replaced the 1988 reruns of Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson with their own memories. But they had a support from the dugout over the diamond.
The computer that generated the algorithms that led to Kevin Cash’s move in the sixth game of the World Series needs to be turned off for winter to rest. With its off-season here, Cash, a human, has to actually try to get some sleep.