Usually a managerial decision to pull a pitcher, while I might disagree with it, is not worthy of an extended narrative in a FanPost. But, what took place on Sunday in the Cardinals game is different. Here's why. The decision to leave Wang in the game when his turn came to bat after the Nats had rallied from a 7 run deficit to a 3 run deficit, and again after a lead off walk by Wang in the following inning in front of Beltran, was so irrational that it brings me to question if I want Davey Johnson to manage the Nationals next year. First, here are the reasons it was very stupid:
- After the Nats rallied for 4 runs, the game situation was changing from a mop up role for the Nats pitcher to a game in which the Nats had a real chance.
- The momentum was swinging from the Cards to the Nats, since the deficit was manageable and the Cards starter was on the ropes and still pitching. Wang was allowed to bat, and of course made the 3rd out, instead of letting a power pinch hitter to take a turn.
- Wang is essentially still rehabbing from his various injuries and was ineffective up to that point in the game, and without a recent history of being consistently effective.
- The Nationals are in a pennant race with just 4 games to play, after sweating through 157 games to this point.
- The extended roster gave Davey room to change pitchers early without overly taxing his bullpen.And there will be several days off for players before the playoffs start.
This not simply a second guessing invective. Everything I mention here was my real time thinking. The whole setup screamed "Davey, have you lost your mind?"
No one knows if removing Wang for a pinch hitter, or in the next inning after the lead off walk in front of Beltran, would have changed the outcome. And sacrificing this game to the loss column will probably not make much difference in and of itself, assuming as I still do that the Nats will still win the division. Let's hope this does not come back to haunt us. What seriously concerns me is the thought process that went into the decision to leave Wang in the game, and whether that thinking is going to be similar in future decisions. I cannot read Davey's mind, but I will speculate that his bias is to give veteran players a very long leach. Early in the season that philosophy can be justified a lot more than in a late pennant race.
Will his thought process give Espinosa the 2B job with virtually no chance that Lombo or Rendon can replace him as the starter regardless of relative performance during spring training and early next season? Will we see more Nady's making the roster out of nowhere with little to commend it? Will bullpen pitchers who have had good runs, but have failed several times recently, be run out there in meaningful late season games or in the playoffs?
Clearly, the Nats success this season should give the benefit of the doubt to going with Davey for another season, but since it is impossible to know how much of this season's success to attribute to Davey I am still going to have serious doubts if he is a net plus as manager especially in light of the very peculiar decision regarding Wang on Sunday.