Not 30 minutes ago, I wrote about how Jim Tracy screwed himself by going blindly by “the book” and choosing to pitch to Manny Ramirez rather than James Loney. But you know what makes baseball such an endlessly interesting game? The fact that no two games or situations are ever the same; the fact that each pitch and plate appearance has its own strategy to go along with it. And while sometimes you do have to realize that the accepted play in a given situation may not be the right one, SOMETIMES THE BOOK IS THE GOD DAMN BOOK FOR A REASON. Sometimes the choice is so glaringly obvious that to do anything but go with that choice is so insane that it defies explanation.
May I present to you the Rockies coming to the plate in the 10th inning:
Now, what do those four fine gentleman have in common? They’re all left-handed hitters. Keep that in mind. So you’re Joe Torre. You look into your bullpen. You see George Sherrill. You look past his goofy flat-brimmed hat and you see these three undeniable facts:
He’s well rested. Sherrill hasn’t pitched since Saturday, meaning he’s had nearly 72 hours off.
He’s been dominating since coming to LA. “Dominating” isn’t a word you usually throw around too lightly, but he’s given up exactly zero runs in the 11 games he’s been a Dodger. So, yeah: he’s sorta good.
I said three things… what was that last one? Oh, yes. That’s right.
When George Sherrill faces lefties, he reaches into their hearts and shows it to them, still beating, in the brief moments until they die. Sherrill’s line against LHB this year (combined for the O’s and Dodgers) is an absolutely absurd .117/.160/.150.
Is there really a better situation for your unhittable lefty-destroying reliever with closing experience than four lefty batters in a row in the 10th inning? Isn’t that why the Dodgers had to give up Josh Bell to get him in the first place – for situations exactly like this? And even if for some reason you don’t go with Sherrill there – I don’t know, maybe he hit on Torre’s daughter today, put shaving cream in his shoes, who knows – how about at least going with Jonathan Broxton, who’s also had two days of rest and is death on lefties (.134/.232/.196)?
The choice here could not be simpler. So what does Torre do? He trots out… James McDonald. Figures, doesn’t it? We’re always dying for Torre to not pick a veteran just because he’s a veteran and to go with the kids, and he does it in completely the wrong situation. Don’t take this as me dumping on McDonald, but he is A) not nearly as effective against lefties (.261/.366/.304, which isn’t bad but hardly as great as the other two) B) not as rested, having thrown 30 pitches on Sunday, while again neither of the other two had thrown since Saturday, and C) NOT A LEFTY KILLING ALL STAR CLOSER. OF WHICH YOU HAVE TWO.
I won’t kill McDonald for this, because he made the best of a bad situation. Walking the leadoff man is always a killer, but after that the sequence went: dribbler back to the mound that Loney threw away, uncontested stolen base, strikeout, intentional walk, single. He wasn’t great, nor was he awful. He just shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Joe Torre this year, but unless I find out that Broxton and Sherrill each blew off the game to go snowboarding and are stuck in an avalanche in the Rocky Mountains somewhere, this decision was completely indefensible. Considering how hot the Rockies have been and how down the Dodgers have been, this race is all about momentum, and if you can go into their house, tie it up in the 9th and win it in extra innings, that deflates that big purple balloon.
But this? Joe. JOE. Please. It’s one thing to lose a game. It’s quite another to lose it while your best options sit unused on the sidelines.