Oh, Bruce Bochy. How you push my buttons.
Look, I think I’ve entered a point in my life where I’ll relax and accept most managerial moves during a game. Unless a manager is pinch-hitting for his best hitter in the early stages of the game, or he’s making Tim Lincecum play CF, generally these moves are easy to digest. The keyword being ‘generally’. But, for some reason, Bruce Bochy made a string of weird moves last night.
Let me chronicle a few that left me scratching my noggin:
1. Leaving Matt Cain in too long
Matt Cain has just pitched six innings of baseball in an offensively charged ballpark against a pretty good offense. In his previous inning, Cain gave up a three run homer to Miguel Montero to pull the Snakes within a run at 5-4. Cain is at 97 pitches and even though he hasn’t looked terrible, he also hasn’t looked exceptionally sharp. Bochy decides to let Cain go out for the 7th inning and he almost gives the game away. Sean Burroughs doubles over Torres’ head to start the inning, Ryan Roberts flies out deep to CF for the first out, Kelly Johnson smokes a ball into the RF-CF gap, Torres runs for what feels like 400 yards and makings a jumping catch at the last moment to get out two. Really, a brilliant play by Torres who got burnt on the Burroughs double. The next batter is Juston Upton who promptly smokes a groundball double down the 3B line to plate Burroughs. The score is now 6-5 (the Giants picked up a run in their half of the 7th) and Bochy finally pulls Cain after eight pitches. Affeldt comes in, battles with Stephen Drew, and eventually gets the groundout to close the inning.
I understand that Bochy has the utmost faith in his hurlers. Working for a guy like that must be pretty fun, we all like our bosses to have faith in us. However, faith can only take you so far and it was clear that Cain was at the end up his rope before the 7th inning. Every hit by the D-Backs was smoked and the Giants are fortunate that Torres ran down Kelly Johnson’s ball. The Giants have one of the best bullpens in the NL (currently ranked 3rd by FIP) and why not turn the game over to the pen? You’ve got a serious strength in your bullpen, why not use it?
2. Letting Javier Lopez pitch to a right-handed batter at a key moment
Sergio Romo started the 8th inning and walked Chris Young. Bochy pulls Romo to get Lopez in the game against LHB, Miguel Montero. I don’t mind that move as Montero is having a good year and Lopez’s job is to neutralize guys like Montero. That’s good and fine. Montero ends up grounding out and Bochy leaves Lopez in to face a RHB, Xavier Nady. Nady is obviously not the hitter he once was, but he’s a career .807 OPS batter against lefties and Lopez hasn’t been effective in his career against RHB. Bochy lets Lopez pitch to Nady and Lopez gets Nady out on a pretty well struck flyball to RF. The simple rule of the pen is this: don’t let Lopez pitch to RHB, he rarely gets them out.
3. Trying to have Chris Stewart do anything that’s hitting related
Bochy called upon Chris ‘career .437 OPS’ Stewart to pinch-hit with a runner on first base in the 8th. Weird move all around. Bochy wanted Stewart to bunt. It’s possible that Stewart was the best bunter on the bench, but why not let Burrell take a rip? Burrell’s whole reason for existing on the team is so that he can come off the bench and try to park one in the bleachers. Stewart ended up popping out to 1B on the bunt. I think I’d prefer a more aggressive approach on the road.
But, you say, “the Giants won the game, quit complaining!” and to that I say: the results were fine, the process not so good.