Before going any further, let me state for the record that I’m a “common sense guy” in all aspects of my life. That goes for baseball strategy, along with everything else. Common sense is always going to be common sense, and quite frankly I see no acceptable reason to deviate from that. Numbers, odds, and history will usually prove common sense to be just that, right?
The seeds of last night’s 7-6 loss to Milwaukee were planted in the last of the eighth inning. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke sent Logan Schafer up to pinch hit in the pitcher’s spot (for Will Smith). Buck Showalter countered by bringing in southpaw Brian Matusz to face Schafer – a lefty. However Roenicke wanted a righty to face Matusz, so he pinch hit again – with Irving Falu. At the time, I felt that was an incredibly stupid move on Roenicke’s part. Once a pinch hitter (or any substitute for that matter) is announced on the PA, he’s in the game regardless of whether or not he’s actually used in the game. So by bringing in Falu, Roenicke in effect wasted a pinch hitter. (He would use his last bench player, Elian Herrera, as a pinch runner in the ninth.)
In my mind this gave the Baltimore Orioles a huge advantage, especially as the game went to extra innings. By having no bench players available to pinch hit, Milwaukee was at a distinct disadvantage. Buck Showalter, being the strategist that he is, was well aware of this. With the score tied at six in the last of the tenth, the Orioles recorded two quick outs. Mark Reynolds, ever the home run threat, came to the plate to face T.J. McFarland. Buck Showalter opted to walk Reynolds to avoid the game ending on one swing – and that decision had to have been helped by the fact that the pitcher’s spot was on deck.
So on Milwaukee’s side, it was either send Francisco Rodriguez up to bat, or pinch hit with another pitcher. Again keep in mind that this would have been an easy decision had Milwaukee still had a bench player left in their arsenal. However Roenicke opted to pinch hit for Rodriguez, and Yovani Gallardo up to bat.
Common sense dictates that a pitcher generally isn’t going to be able to do what Gallardo did in hitting a walk off RBI-double. Buck
Showalter played the odds, and in doing so he probably did the right thing. Putting the winning run on base did give me a moment of pause, however given the fact that Roenicke had used up his bench it’s tough to argue that wasn’t the right move.
So as a person who stays loyal to common sense, this is something that’s tough for me to stomach. I would suspect that Buck Showalter feels the same way. However the flip side of this is that perhaps part of the beauty of baseball is the impromptu nature of things at times. But part of baseball is also playing the odds, and I suspect that given the same circumstances again Showalter would do the same thing. Needless to say, the common sense strategy for one night was outdone by a “mistake” that ended up working out for the Orioles’ opponent.