August 14, 2010

Meek Left In To Blow Game After Injury

I have rarely criticized John Russell's managing decisions on this site. Nor have I really even written that much about individual games. The only non-depressing story this year is one of player development and the arrival of a new core of young players.

Yet, Russell made a decision last night that is not defensible.

For those of you who missed the game: The Pirates got a great start out of Ross Ohlendorf, 6.2 scoreless innings, and led Houston 1-0 entering the bottom of the eighth. Set-up man Evan Meek came on to pitch the inning.

Michael Bourn led off and grounded to Garrett Jones, who threw to Meek covering first for the out. Meek apparently hurt himself somehow covering first and as he got ready to pitch to the next batter, Angel Sanchez, was clearly favoring his right leg.

Now, presumably John Russell as well as trainer Brad Henderson are watching the action on the field. Once a player appears hurt in any way it is the manager's job to send the trainer out to take a look at him. This stuff is elementary. Instead J.R. did nothing and Sanchez worked a 3-2 count, then singled to right.

OK, so J.R. thought this was something Meek could shake off - but how do you know that without sending the trainer out? What is the point of paying to fly a trainer to Houston if you don't use him?

The next batter, Hunter Pence, went to a 3-0 count with none of the pitches being really close. Meek's foot was clearly affecting his follow-through and therefore his command on the mound. Catcher Chris Snyder visited the mound at that point, but Pence walked on a 3-1 pitch.

Clearly it was time now to take Meek out of the game. I said it at the time but anyone would have known it. Either Meek is hurt, or he just doesn't have it today. Regardless, you can send the trainer out, remove him from the game and have Joel Hanrahan come on for the final five outs after getting an unlimited time to warm up. You can't screw around in a 1-0 game.

Instead, pitching coach Ray Searage went out to the mound sans trainer. Meek pitched to the next batter, Carlos Lee, who hit a three-run homer to left for the 3-1 lead which effectively iced the game.

It's true that Meek never summoned the trainer, but at the point he looks hurt at all you send him out. If pitchers were allowed to decide themselves whether they stayed in the game, each team would go to their bullpen approximately zero times a year. I suspect this is the reason why throughout basbeall history, to my knowledge a pitcher was never a player-manager.

The next batter, Geoff Blum, lined a single to right. Now the Pirates started warming up another reliever, Wil Ledezma. While Ledezma was getting ready, Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace singled, the latter hit scoring Blum to make it 4-1. Ledezma came in at that point and got out of the inning with no further damage, but the game was already lost.

All this happened while the Pirates had five men available in the bullpen. I really don't see the point of leaving an injured player in a baseball game in most situations. No matter how minor the injury, it has to affect performance somewhat. Almost any healthy player has to be better. Furthermore it is a 162 game season and there are very few injuries that can adequately be diagnosed, using no equipment, immediately after they occur.

Maybe the injury was nothing. I suspect it subsided in fifteen minutes. But even on Meek's follow through on the home run ball it was apparent that his leg was affected to some extent.

Evan Meek looks like he blew the game in the box score, but I blame this one at least half on the manager. Meek should have been removed - at the latest - when it was 1-0 with two men on and one out. Against a weak lineup with his stuff, Hanrahan would have had at least a 50/50 shot at closing it out from there.

No comments:

Post a Comment