When reading Kevin Cash’s explanation on why he pulled Blake Snell in the sixth inning of Game 6 of the World Series, it reminded me of former Kodiak baseball coach Rick Langfitt.
Cash explained that, even though Snell was dealing to the tune of nine strikeouts and only two hits on 73 pitches, he didn’t want the 2018 Cy Young Award winner to face the vaunted Los Angeles Dodgers order for the third time. Numbers show that a pitcher’s ERA increases when facing hitters for the third time.
Langfitt coached by the same book. And it worked for him. I know, high school baseball in Alaska is not even in the same universe as professional baseball. But baseball is baseball, and strategies are universal across the board.
Langfitt wasn’t using analytics; it was just what he believed. I often witnessed Langfitt taking the ball from a pitcher once he turned over the lineup two times. Who is to question a legendary Kodiak coach who authored an undefeated state championship season (2004) and ended with 99 career victories.
I reached out to Langfitt after Game 6 to see what he thought of the move.
“I have really come to dislike analytics dominating in baseball. In general, I think it’s smart not to go through a lineup the third time, but sometimes (in particular this time), you gotta use the eye test,” he wrote in a text message.
Langfitt went on to add that he would have left Snell in the game, like most people watching the game would have. But the one person who mattered viewed it a different way.
Cash, the Tampa Bay Rays manager since 2015, leaned on this strategy during the short 60-game season. It’s one reason why the Rays ended the regular season as the top team in the American League with 40 wins. Snell never eclipsed 5 2/3 innings in his six outings during the regular season.
Cash coached by his book when, instead, he needed to tear up the pages and toss that book in the garbage. Sometimes a manager needs to use his eyes and coach by what he sees. It’s hard to knock a manager who pushed the Dodgers to six games, but he deserves all the criticism he received. In no book do you remove a pitcher who is cruising. Ride with your ace. It was Snell’s last game of the season. Let him reach 100 pitches.
Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Justin Turner were 0-for-6 with six strikeouts against Snell. Who knows what would have happened had Snell faced those three hitters again, but it was better to stay with a pitcher who was in a rhythm than rolling with a cold reliever. Snell left with a 1-0 lead and when the inning ended, the Rays trailed 2-1. The Dodgers added a run in the eighth and cashed in their first World Series championship since 1988 with a 3-1 victory.
As a baseball coach for Kodiak Post 17, I feel for Cash. I get it, decisions are tough. Believe me, I’ve made plenty of decisions in my seven years that backfired. I still look back at the decision I made in a win-or-go-home game at the 2018 Alaska American Legion Baseball state championship.
We had just taken a one-run lead over Kenai in the final inning. Starting pitcher Luke James was dealing, but was also at 100 pitches — five pitches away from reaching his pitch count limit. I decided to end James’ day and have a reliever start the frame with a clean slate. Had a batter reached off of James, I didn’t want the reliever to come in with traffic on the base paths. We ended up losing by one run.
Maybe the real reason I was not fond of Cash’s decision to pull Snell is that it cost me half a cookie with my bet with pastor Pisa Faumi. I had the Rays winning the series. He had the Dodgers. I’m always grumpy when I lose a cookie bet. I should send the bill to Cash.
I went 9-5 in Week 7, which upped my record heading into Week 8 to 67-37-1.
LOS ANGELES RAMS (5-2) at MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-3)
It’s Tua time. The Miami Dolphins have elevated Tua Tagovailoa — the No. 5 pick in the 2020 NFL draft — to QB1, ending Ryan Fitzpatrick’s run under center. It’s an interesting decision considering Fitzmagic has the Dolphins in playoff contention in the AFC. Facing the Rams is not a soft landing spot for Tagovailoa’s starting debut. L.A. is riding its defense to a 5-2 start and is fresh off handling Nick Foles and the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football … Rams 28, Dolphins 18.
LAS VEGAS (3-3) at
Derek Carr is putting together a solid season for Las Vegas. The quarterback has passed for 1,726, 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions. His quarterback rating of 112.8 ranks third in the league. For Cleveland, Baker Mayfield is coming off one of his best games, a 5-touchdown performance against the Bengals. He did that without Odell Beckham Jr, who tore his ACL making a tackle after a Mayfield interception … Browns 27, Raiders 20.
PITTSBURGH (6-0) at
Oh, boy. This should be a fun one. Since 1999, this has been one of the best rivalries in the NFL, with the Steelers winning 23 times and averaging 19.5 points per game and the Ravens winning 23 times and averaging 20.3 points per game. I’ve learned my lesson going against Pittsburgh the past two weeks … Steelers 24, Ravens 21.
NEW ORLEANS (4-2) at
The offensively-challenged Bears do not look like a 5-2 team. Is it time to try Mitch Trubisky again? It’s doubtful Chicago turns back to Trubisky but is Nick Foles that much better? It’s a shame the Bears do not have a quarterback because they have one of the best wide receivers in the game in Allen Robinson. Speaking of wide receivers, the Saints are 4-2 despite only Michael Thomas playing one game this season … Saints 24, Bears 14.
SAN FRANCISCO (4-3) at SEATTLE (5-1)
Seattle had been living on the edge this entire season, so it was bound to fall off the cliff at some point. As bad as Seattle’s defense is, Russell Wilson has to be perfect. He was not against the Cardinals, getting picked three times, with the incredible play of D.K. Metcalf saving a pick-six. The 49ers have dealt with a rash of injuries this season but still have the players to stay competitive in the tough NFC West … Seahawks 38, 49ers 31.
Bills 34, Patriots 14
Titans 38, Bengals 31
Lions 20, Colts 19
Packers 28, Vikings 21
Chargers 42, Broncos 17
Eagles 36, Cowboys 13
Buccaneers 27, Giants 10