What the heck is going on here? The analytical heavy Astros just won a game using a good old fashioned, gut feeling, manager’s reaction to an in-game situation. The Dodgers haven’t come off script and find themselves down two games to one in the series. The decisions being made by Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch, during this whole post season, are becoming very clear. He is using his analytical formulas to set his lineups and overall game strategy, yet has been become very flexible in his in game thinking. Unlike the other dugout, he is going off script.
Last night he used only one pitcher out of his bullpen (Brad Peacock) and left him in for 3.2 innings to close out the game. Peacock did not allow a hit in what was an unusual move that went against everything analytical. When asked why he left him in, Hinch responded, “He was in complete control of every at-bat and was cruising. Why take him out?” Wow a gut feeling to make a decision. It didn’t hurt that Hinch went out to catch some warm up pitches from Peacock while Brian McCann was putting on his gear between innings and liked what he saw.
Hinch has made some interesting non analytical moves or in some cases, “non moves.” Leaving Justin Verlander in for a complete game win where he threw 124 pitches in game 2 of the ALCS was a “gut” feeling “non move”. Verlander ended up striking out 13 Yankees on the way to a 2-1 win and put them up two games to none. Gutsy move to say the least and totally against the grain of all things analytical. The “Ouija Board” would tell the manager to never let a starter go through the lineup a third time.
Ok, let’s be honest here. Major League managers are not all robots and have great baseball knowledge. What it comes down to is a complicated mass of information that is gathered by both analytic geniuses, experienced scouts, coaches and managers, who then come up with a game plan. The successful skippers are the ones who use creativity and gut feelings in situations to make in game decisions that win ball games for their teams. Also remember that the players will always be the ones who have to execute in these situations and that all of the work and decisions made in the dugout will go down the drain if they don’t.
So far in this series, Dave Roberts has not gone away from the math book as much as Hinch and it has helped to put the Dodgers in a hole now. Sure, Yu Darvish getting racked in 1.2 innings, where he had no command of his usually nasty slider, was a big surprise. No one expected him to get shelled like that in the second inning with the “Astro-Nauts” launching missiles all over Minute Maid Park. Roberts had no choice but to begin the flood of relievers out of the bullpen. Having to use five more arms last night.
Hinch, who is relying on his eyes and baseball knowledge in some of these situations, could be on the brink of helping the Astros to their first ever World Series Championship.