Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Letting Lincecum Hit

Last Saturday Bruce Bochy made a managerial decision that had play-by-play announcer Dave Flemming scratching his head on the Giants' radio broadcast. The Giants and Diamondbacks were locked in a scoreless game in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Giants had two on and two out, with Lincecum due up. Lincecum had thrown 82 pitches through seven innings, with 11 strikeouts. Flemming said, essentially, that it was a no-brainer, that Bochy had to take Lincecum out for a pinch-hitter, that he had to go for the win when he had the chance.

I was sitting in my car at the time, having just parked at an Alameda soccer field, looking forward to coaching my U19G team on a gorgeous afternoon at Hornet Field. But I had to wait to see what Bochy would do. And I remember, at the time, thinking that I did not agree with Dave, that I would let Lincecum hit, and here's why: Lincecum was pitching a fabulous game, and probably could have thrown two more innings. And who knows--the kid has such a flair for the dramatic, and he is such an incredible competitor, that he might even get a hit. He's certainly improving as a hitter. He hit .093 as a rookie, and .157 last season. Not only that, I still have vivid memories as a child of seeing a Giants starting pitcher removed from the game while in the midst of a masterpiece, and how it would upset my mother. In those days it was Marichal, more than likely. This day it was Lincecum.

Sure enough, Bochy let him hit, and Lincecum groundout out to short to end the threat. Lincecum then pitched a scoreless eighth inning with two more strikeouts, and Bochy removed him from the game after eight innings, 98 pitches and 13 strikeouts. But that's where I now find myself questioning Bochy. In other words, if I had known that Bochy was going to limit Lincecum to eight innings, then I'd have taken him out for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh. In other words, I think it was right to let Lincecum hit, but only if you, as the manager, were fairly well committed to letting him pitch two more innings, as long as he stayed sharp. But to let him hit and then take him out an inning later? I have a little trouble with that.

Segue to the Sunday game. Randy Johnson was taken out of the game after seven innings of one-hit ball and just 73 pitches, with a 1-0 lead. Fortunately, the Giants won 2-0, but I wondered why the Unit could not have thrown another inning, and possibly even two, given how dominant he was. After the game Bochy said 73 pitches was enough for a 45-year old pitcher, and maybe he's right. The only hit Johnson gave up was a leadoff double in the seventh, which prompted a reporter to ask Bochy if he would have considered removing Johnson after seven innings if he still had a no-hitter going. Bochy said he'd have asked Johnson first. Can you imagine Johnson's reaction? I'm guessing he would have respectfully insisted on staying in the game. A younger Unit may not have been so respectful.