Thursday, October 21, 2010
Enjoying Game 4 rather than analyzing
You want to second-guess Charlie Manuel?
You want to pick a single moment or decision that determined the outcome of Game 4?
Good luck. There were 11 pitchers, and 321 pitches. There were 23 hitters, and 79 plate appearances (including three hit batters, one sacrifice hit, and one game-winning sacrifice fly).
I was, somewhere in the middle of the game, prepared to focus on the fifth inning. In the top of the fifth, Bruce Bochy removed his starter to gain the platoon edge; the move backfired. In the bottom of the fifth, Charlie Manuel failed to remove his starter and gain the platoon edge; the non-move backfired.
I preferred the move over the non-move, and since Manuel's team wound up losing, we can second-guess that one if we like.
But why stop there? Maybe Manuel should have let Jose Contreras throw more than six pitches, instead of going to Chad Durbin in the sixth. Maybe Manuel should have turned to his closer instead of his No. 2 starter in the ninth inning of a tie game.
But the combinations and the possibilities are dizzying, and this seemed to me one of those games where analyzing every little decision means missing the forest for the trees. This game -- as most of them do -- came down to execution. Afterward on the radio, Dave Campbell focused on "questionable pitch selection by Phillies pitchers." On TV, Mitch Williams said much the same.
I think there's something to be said for that, though I'm not nearly smart enough to know if the issue was selection or control. It's commonly believed that major league pitchers can generally put the ball wherever they like, but most of them really can't. Pitchers routinely miss their spots by six, eight, 10 inches ... sometimes even a foot!
Well, not often by a foot. Not the good pitchers. But I'll bet if you could really study the thing, you would find that far, far, far more games are decided by errant pitches (and the resulting line drives and home runs) than by foolish managerial decisions.
I'm not saying that Charlie Manuel managed a great Game 4. I'm saying that Game 4 was so entertaining and could have gone so many different ways that it seems, while we're still basking in the afterglow of so much excitement, churlish (if not pointless) to examine every move under a microscope with a wicked wit.
The Giants and the Phillies played a wonderful baseball game, and either team could easily have won. Tonight, maybe that's enough.