Heading into the sixth inning of game 2 of the World Series, Jake Peavy’s pitch count was just 57 and he had set down 10 straight batters. Giants’ manager, Bruce Bochy, saw no reason to take him out. Yet, when he didn’t, and the Kansas City Royals turned a 2-2 ballgame into a 7-2 victory, Bochy was second guessed.
After the Royals won not only game 2 but also game 3 to take a 2-1 lead over the San Francisco, all the momentum was with KC. The question posed to Bochy was about whether he’d start ace Madison Bumgarner in game 4. Even though the general consensus of the ESPN studio guys (Curt Schilling, John Kruk and Aaron Boone), and most everybody else, was to go with Bumgarner, Bochy said, “Nah, we have confidence in Vogie” (Ryan Vogelsong). Hey, buddy, now is not the time to be worried about your players feelings and pumping up their confidence. This is for all the marbles.
One of the comments made was that if Bochy didn’t start Bumgarner in game 4, then he could forget about being able to start him in three games, something that looked mandatory for them if they wanted to win their third World Series in five years. You’d think simply saying “their third in five years” would give Bochy enough credibility for those who write about him to just write about him and cut out the game-by-game criticism. But we all know that’s not happening. See, if a sportswriter predicts something, and it turns out to be prophetic, you can bet that it will be mentioned – more than once. But, if he’s wrong, the next story (and those that follow – unless a situation calls for a show of humility) will have nothing in it about the botched prognosis. Call it kind of a perk of the job. Like eating in the press room and still turning in that meal on the expense account.
When asked what his game 7 pitch count would be, directly after the Giants’ game 6 defeat, MadBum was quoted as saying, “200.” Everybody thought he was kidding. Some scribes and talking heads (never mind, fans) said Bochy might as well start him and see what he could get out of him. Their reasoning was if he was going to be used (as everybody knew he would be), why not let him warm up, see how he felt, and let him rip. One problem with that theory is “rip” might have wound up the operative term, but as an acronym, not a verb.
Other self-described experts claimed Bochy could use him for no more than two innings, three at the outset, because of the danger of risking permanent injury to the guy who could be the cornerstone of a terrific pitching staff for several years. After all, he’s only 25 years old.
So what was Bochy going to do? As any manager in the major leagues, he was going to do what he thought would give his team the best chance of winning what everyone plays for – without risking the franchise’s (using that term to describe the individual under consideration, as well as the team’s) future. Some guys like as many stats, or analytics, as they can get their hands on, while other skippers go with their gut. Undoubtedly, there are a few who do a combination of both. All of them realize, they only get one shot at each decision, so they make it and watch what unfolds.
Well, in the case of game 7, MadBum didn’t need to throw anywhere near 200. We’ll never know how many he would have been allowed if, for example, the Royals tied the game. In the post game presser, Bochy did say that, at he end of every home half of an inning, he tried to avoid looking at Bumgarner, so MadBum couldn’t tell him he was done for the night. We all knew that wasn’t going to happen. There was no way the new “Mr. October” was going to throw anywhere near 200 pitches. His answer to the pitch count question should have been, “Enough.”
As far as questioning Bruce Bochy, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wrote the most telling line in his column second guessing him, or any other manager, after game 2:
“The managers know their players better than we do.”