Second-guessing a manager is part of the fun in baseball. It’s what we, as fans, like to do.
Usually, it involves pitching changes.
“Should he have left him in? Was he gassed and did he leave him in too long? Could he have gone one more inning?”
We could probably ask those questions three or four times a week, and usually do ask that frequently.
The last two games have created huge questions for Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez. The game on Saturday was a win, while the one Sunday was a bad loss.
Saturday the Braves were leading 5-2 going to the top of the ninth inning. Starting pitcher Tommy Hanson had pitched very well. He had allowed two runs on five hits in eight innings, with only one walk and four strikeouts.
Hanson had thrown 111 pitches. Sure, that’s over the magic number (for some odd reason) of 100 pitches. But he was cruising, with two easy innings in the seventh and eighth. There was no real reason to believe Hanson was running out of gas.
But Gonzalez pulled him. Sure, the Braves have arguably the best closer in the game. But it was a three-run lead. Why not just let Hanson go out there and try to complete the game. There is not a starting pitcher alive that would not want the ball in that situation, and considering Hanson’s competitiveness, you know he wanted to finish what he started.
OK, so Craig Kimbrel got the Blue Jays in order in the ninth to save the game for Hanson. That’s great, and we expected that to be the outcome. But what would have been the harm in letting Hanson at least start the ninth inning. Hey, if he allowed a base runner, then pull him and bring in your closer.
I know this might seem hokey, but I think these starting pitchers thrive off complete games. They want to do it if they have the chance. It gives them tremendous confidence knowing they did their job and gave the bullpen a day off.
Then on Sunday it was a completely different scenario. Julio Teheran was up from Gwinnett for a spot start. He was great through four innings, allowing just one base hit and getting Toronto in order in the other three innings.
In the fifth, Teheran ran into trouble. He gave up a leadoff single to Kelly Johnson and then walked Yunel Escobar. After a coaching visit to the mound, Teheran struck out David Cooper for the first out. Then he gave up two straight singles to put the Blue Jays on the board.
That made the score 4-1. The Braves still had a three-run lead. Teheran might have gotten the next hitter to ground into an inning-ending double play for all we know. Sure, Brett Lawrie might have also hit a grand slam to give the Jays the lead. But instead of finding out what Teheran can do in a crucial spot, he was pulled.
Gonzalez brought in Livan Hernandez, who promptly gave up four straight hits. The Braves went from up 4-0 to down 6-4, and then the game fell apart and the Blue Jays got the easy win.
OK, Hernandez might have come in and gotten Lawrie to hit into a double play to end the inning. He might have gotten two straight strikeouts. But he didn’t. The Blue Jays laid back on his 68-mph pitch (hesitated to call it a fastball) and it looked like batting practice.
Teheran is a young pitcher. It would’ve been a good test for him. I would have at least left him in for one more batter. Why not? Give it a shot. If Lawrie had cleared the bases with a double, then Gonzalez would have been asked about why he didn’t pull Teheran. But it would have been good to see what the kid could have done in that tough spot.
Teheran was pitching so well; that’s why you have to give him a longer leash. Maybe they were figuring him out in the second go-around the order, but Teheran is a top pitching prospect who needs to be tested. We need to know what this kid can do.
This is what Gonzalez told the media after the game on Sunday: “We thought about leaving him in there a little bit and letting him try to get out of there but at the point I took him out he had a 31-pitch inning. You start getting into some situations where he may get hurt.”
You were worried about him getting hurt? Come on, Fredi. This is the big leagues. There’s no crying in baseball. Teheran’s got to overcome these challenges to become the pitcher that everyone expects him to be for this team. But you’ve got to let him prove some things and not be afraid he’s going to be hurt.
Again, it’s second-guessing. Gonzalez might come to my job today and second-guess me all day long. Heck, he’d probably be right on occasion. But it just seems his hook is coming out of his jersey far too quickly once again.