The Baltimore Orioles hired GM Mike Elias from the Houston Astros, who of course just lost the World Series to the Washington Nationals. However Orioles fans should be encouraged given that Elias brought a lot of people over from Houston, and appears to be setting up the Orioles’ culture in the same manner.
However there’s also a cautionary tale in this. Part of what Elias is all about is bringing analytics to the Orioles. But Houston showed last night that it can’t all be about analytics. You still have to have a feel for the game itself, which is played by human beings.
With Houston leading 2-1 in the seventh inning, manager A.J. Hinch lifted started Zach Greinke, who’s pitch count was in the 80’s. That seemed odd to me given that Greinke had only just given up his second hit of the game. He seemed to be in a zone.
Hinch probably should have gone to Gerrit Cole, however instead opted to use reliever Will Harris – who allowed the base runner to steal second, and then surrendered a homer to Howie Kendrick. That gave Washington a 3-2 lead, which they never relinquished, winning their first World Series.
Why leave a Cy Young candidate in the bullpen? Furthermore, with first base open, why pitch to Kendrick? The hitter behind Kendrick was Astrubal Cabrera, who’s a switch hitter. Whether or not that was the most favorable matchup or not, with one out if you can set up a ground ball double-play you can get out of the inning. Why do these things? Then it hit me: computer analytics.
I’m not suggesting that analytics have no place in baseball. Because I don’t feel that way. And for the record, I don’t think that A.J. Hinch should lose his job for this. But allowing a computer program to decide the best course of action based on probability of success might well work in a lot of situations. But again, we’re talking about human beings here. Things don’t always work out the way the computer says they will.
As egregious as pulling Greinke and not going to Cole was, the act of leaving first base open to pitch to Kendrick is the worst decision in my view. You have an avenue by which you can get out of the inning. Use it.
So the hope is that Orioles’ manager Brandon Hyde watches that and that it helps to reiterate the fact that you have to keep your feel for the game. Because if you don’t, you might find yourself allowing the computer to think you out of a game. Unfortunately for A.J. Cole, it happened to him at the worst possible time.