Friday, October 06 2023 @ 12:35 PM EDT
Contributed by: John Northey
Given how much time in each thread is going to this one decision I figured I'd start an entry on it.
Pulling Berrios quickly - in the 3rd after a walk - is very controversial for obvious reasons. He had gone 3 innings, 3 hits, and that one walk while striking out 5 on 47 pitches, 32 strikes. How had he done in the regular season at that stage? Checking games where he went at least 2 shutout innings to start.
So that last start is probably what was fresh in the Jays braintrusts mind - going 3 perfect then a walk followed by a 2 run HR (Judge) and that was the game as it would've been had the same script been followed this time - we got the same end result (2 runs in the inning).
- April 8th - got first 6 outs easily, 3rd gives up an infield single, e6 gets him to 3rd, scores on a ground out, 2 K's so in many respects doing better. 4th inning he gives up a walk, double, groundout scores a run, double scores another, gets final 2 outs. 5th home run, throws away an out, gives up a single, pulled at last.
- April 14th - first 8 in a row out, single, out. 4th - single, k, SB, groundout, single run scores, K. Just goes 5 but that was the only run given up on 77 pitches.
- April 25th - no runs allowed over 7 innings - single in 3rd, 2 singles in 6th, single in 7th
- May 6th - 4 perfect innings, groundout-walk-single-flyout-groundout, 6th got 2 quick outs, then double, single (run scores) gets last 2 outs. HR in 7th (leadoff), single, groundout, pulled.
- May 23rd - based loaded no runs in 1st, single picked off in 2nd, perfect 3/4 innings, 5th home run to leadoff, went 7 innings in total 1 run vs Rays (this was the 20-1 game)
- May 28th - vs Minny - 5 2/3 shutout innings on 94 pitches (single-walk-single in 1st but no runs, was in trouble a lot but bad baserunning saved the Jays)
- June 14th - vs O's - 7 2/3 IP no runs 3 H 1 BB 5 SO - 4 1/3 perfect, never really in danger.
- June 19th - vs Miami - 2 no run innings, then 3 runs in 3rd, 2 more in 4th and done.
- June 30th - vs Boston - just a single in the first 4, home run leading off 5th, 3 more runs in the 6th and done.
- July 6th - vs ChiSox - 7 shutout innings, 1 hit, 1 walk, 6 K's. Sweet.
- July 14th - vs Arizona - 3 shutout, double, groundout, wild pitch to allow a run in the 4th, all he allows in 5 1/3 IP
- July 19th - vs SD - 4 shutout, 5th flyout, walk, HBP, K, double steal, int walk, single (2 runs), K, one more shutout inning then pulled.
- July 30th - vs LAA - in trouble each of first 3 innings, gives up run in 3rd, all he gives up over 6.
- Aug 5th - vs RedSox - 3 shutout innings (Just 1 hit), then single, single, home run. Pulled in 6th after HBP/Double no more runs.
- Aug 18th - vs Cin - 5 2/3 IP 1 H 4 BB 8 K 0 runs on 100 pitches
- Aug 24th - vs Balt - 9 up 9 down, single, flyout, 2 run home run in 4th, 5th worse - single, home run, K, single, single, single (run scores extra runner out at plate), single, flyout. Goes one more shutout inning
- Sept 4th - vs A's - 4 shutout, home run in 5th, home run in 6th, pulled.
- Sept 10th - vs KC - 5 shutout, triple, walk (a CS), double scores run, SB, ground out scores 2nd run, shutout inning in 7th.
- Sept 15th - vs RedSox - 7 shutout, 5 H 0 BB 8 SO
- Sept 27 - vs NYY - 3 perfect innings, then walk, home run, 2 outs, 2 singles, out. 5th K, single, K, Int Walk (Judge), walk, single 2 more score, one more shutout inning
Issue #2: Why Kikuchi over Mayza or Cabrera? Over Kikuchi's last 4 games in relief last year he went 6 1/3 IP 1 H 0 R 2 BB 10 K. He inherited 7 runners in total as a reliever and didn't allow any to score. Given he sucked last year and was good this year I can see why they thought he'd do well this time. His first 8 relief games stunk in 2022 but he was stinking then anyways (308/400/673 batting against him, 7.50 ERA in 12 IP). I was very annoyed at the time but looking at 2022 I can see why they expected Kikuchi to do well.
Issue #3: Communication - this one bugged me the most in retrospect. No excuse for not letting the team know the plan going in. It clearly was 3 IP for Berrios, then the pen takes over. That someone would be ready in each inning if any signs of weakness happened. Given the speed with which they pulled him in the 3rd I'm hoping Kikuchi was told pre the 4th inning that he'd be going in to face the LH hitters regardless of what Berrios did with the leadoff hitter. Looking at GameDay you can see that ball 4 to the 2nd hitter was damn close to being a strike (in the gray zone above the strike zone where it often is 50-50 depending on the ump). Why the hitters didn't seem to have a clue that this was likely is beyond me. Pre-game Schneider had to know this was the plan and reports are the pitchers involved knew but Merrifield & Vlad have been clear that they didn't know. This is something that has happened in the majors for decades (I remember the Royals doing this to Bobby Cox in the 1985 ALCS as he was a strict platooner here thus easy to manipulate). Most players if they know ahead of time can accept the logic - this is do-or-die, we want 3 innings from Berrios at full throttle, then our A1 pen will take over. Make it so scoring 1 run will win it then manage that way. The players would have accepted it and played it that way. Today's managers need to be communicators, that is their #1 job - get the demands from the front office into the players ears and execute them. Having a stack of players not knowing what is going on is unacceptable imo and that would be my #1 complaint to John Schneider in any post-season meetings depending on how the front office had communicated to him - if they told him to only tell the pitchers for some bizarre reason then he should be pushing back hard on that especially now that the players have come out in the media about it.
Bottom line to me? The plan wasn't a bad one, it just didn't work. It has been done in the past and will be done again in the future. The big issue is the players didn't all know it was happening or why. Berrios showed me he is a real team guy though as he was on the bench pushing everyone and never said a bad word to the media about it even though it would've been easy to.