Let me start by saying that second-guessing decisions AFTER the fact is useless. The fact that sports are unpredictable and sometimes things work out in weird ways is understandable. After we learn the outcome, anybody can jump on the bandwagon and question Bochy's decisions. And I guess we all have- not only this time but time and time again.
Whew. There, I said it. But this isn't just about second-guessing. It's about me not understanding WHY he made the decisions he did. And how, time and time again; I think he just tears the team apart.
Let's see. The SF Giants have a 4-1 lead going into the 9th inning. Your two-time reigning Cy Young award-winning pitcher has pitched a brilliant 8 innings of baseball. You'll need to face a pinch hitter in the 9th spot and the top of the Phillies lineup to close the game. This means Dobbs, Victorino, and Polanco; respectively. After that, you're really playing with fire.
So, Tim Licecum starts the top of the ninth against the left-handed batter Polanco and induces the first out on an infield hit towards Ishikawa with a 1-2 count. He then walks the switch-hitting Victorino on four pitches and gets yanked by the skipper, Bochy.
Here are my issues with all this.
Don't even talk about pitch count to me. Lincecum started the 9th inning with a 98 pitch count. If Bochy wanted to start Affeldt, Romo, Runzler, or Wilson for the 9th, I'd have had no issue at all with that. He could've gone to Tim and said, "You gave us more than we could've asked of you, let's have our bullpen shut it down." I'd have not seen this as a problem- no issue at all with me.
Here's the thing. If Licecum was on a pitch count, he wouldn't have started the 9th at all. I can't be convinced otherwise. And we've all seen that he's gone into towards 120 pitches in games last season.
If you're gonna trust him, and let him go out there... Well, Bruce Bochy, you've gotta wear it. You're the skipper, you've gotta own it. He gets one out, then walks one. Let's take inventory... One on, with a three-run lead. The tying run isn't even at bat. My point? Tim Licecum deserves the right- and the respect- to face this next right-handed batter in Polanco (who was 1 for 3 against Lincecum). Again, it isn't even the tying run at the dish.
Does anybody remember the game last year (was it against the Rockies in about July/August, I can't remember), when Bochy pulled Zito after 4 2/3 innings with the game tied and he couldn't even have a chance for the decision? And later in that same game, he pulled Affeldt after he walked a batter... This was when Affeldt's no-runs-scored-against streak was at a some sort of insane number like 27 innings or thereabouts.
My point here? Wasn't Bochy a catcher in his less-than-illustrious playing career? He certainly doesn't seem to ingratiate himself with his spectacular-best-in-baseball pitching staff. I can't imagine what the clubhouse would feel like after one of these incidents. His pitching staff should have a right to be upset with him- their skipper.
Okay, back to this Giants-Phillies game yesterday. Wilson gets Polanco out on a long fly ball to center field for the second out. Cool. Groovy. Next, Chase Utley singles off Wilson and the speedy Victorino moves to third base.
Two major things happened here I didn't like.
First, you decide to pitch to Howard. If you do this, you could at least support this by not allowing Utley to move to 2nd base with defensive indifference. I mean, you lost the potential of a force out at second. Sure, Howard isn't the fastest runner out of the box, but I mean... You give up the ninety feet here, really? Why not one throw over at least? We didn't need to pitch to Manny in Los Angeles, but we did and look what that brought us. Does Bochy even understand this concept? Yes, I understand he represented the tying run, but you could have a force-out at every base and a potentially more favorable match-up for your righty.
Second, you let right-handed closer Wilson face left-handed batter Howard. Hey, maybe I got used to watching real baseball managers over the years, but why not bring in a lefty from the bullpen? Even if it's only to face one batter. It seemed like a tailor-made situation for Affeldt who induces so many ground balls. Or hard throwing Runzler who's been nails so far all season. Remember, you're only needing one out here. And you're looking at two great hitters, batting and on-deck.
Third, Wilson just got hit for a single (by left-handed batter Utley) and then "semi-intentionally, intentionally walked" Howard, I guess. But the point is, now the tying run is on-base. If you have a short leash for Tim Lincecum walking one batter, why the double standard when Wilson comes in and gets only one (of the two needed outs) and loads the bases. Okay, I can say this is a 'push'... Wilson could easily have gotten a third strike called on any of two or three of his pitches against Werth. I think he alluded to this fact in his post-game interview when he said "I can only control where I pitch to..." Being vague enough that he shouldn't be able to get fined by the League, but enough to explain his frustration at maybe not getting a call. Fair enough.
Now, getting back to the game... Ibanez is up and you intentionally walk him to allow the force out? But you wouldn't do this to Howard earlier? Sure, it was clear Wilson wasn't going to come inside to Howard, but you just don't absolutely know with Wilson... My point is he gets to a full count an awful lot for a closer, and Howard could've put some hurt on IF Wilson had made any type of mistake. He didn't there, but still... When and where Bochy will gamble is very suspect to me.
Bottom of the 9th inning, Sandoval leads off with a single. I respect Ishikawa's defense and he's not a terrible batter, but you've gotta know if he's not a good bunter to not call for a bunt here. I mean, you're in the National League for goodness sake, you could use any of your pitchers to do this on the first or second pitch as a pinch hitter.
Okay, but what about first base position, you've already used Huff and now Ishikawa? No problem, Sandoval has played pretty solidly at first base in the past. But since you've now used the pitcher (pinch bunting) you'd have all kinds of options (for later inning batter positions) based on how this inning plays out. Instead, Ishikawa strikes out looking. Bah.
At least DeRosa moves Sandoval over to second. But now you've got two outs. And it just takes the bat out of Bengie Molina's hands (basically all because it is two outs now). I don't mind the idea of Matt Downs having a chance here, he's a pretty solid player. Oh well.
Affeldt hits Schneider right in the middle of the back to start the top of the 10th. After a sacrifice bunt by Valdez, Victorino singles to move the runner to third and only one out. Jeez, again, is there a double standard? Now, game is tied at 4-4 inn extra innings. You're willing to pull your Ace of Aces after a single walk before the tying run is even at bat. Now, your lefty holder has hit a batter, been singled on, and is facing a righty. Why not pull him right here? If you were using the same standards as when you yanked Timmy out... I'm just sayin'.
Ooops, wild pitch plates one. Clearly Affeldt isn't at his best today, why is he in still to face the righty Polanco for the rest of his AB? Then he plunks Polanco's back foot. Affeldt has hit a batter in the center of the back, been singled on, thrown a wild pitch, and hit a second batter in this extra inning. Still, it's only one out and he's STILL in there pitching? Again, double standard compared to Lincecum? Duh. Bochy is an idiot.
Okay, lefty Affeldt walks lefty Utley on four pitches to load the bases, top o' the Tenth. Surely Bochy will pull Affledt now... He doesn't have his best stuff. Oh, what? He's gonna face the slugger Howard? ha ha. He gets him on three straight curveballs. lol. But really, a recipe for disaster. And again, how was Jeremy even still in there?
Finally a move that makes sense, bring in righty Romo to face righty Werth. And he stops Werth and holds the 5-4 game into the bottom of the 10th.
Bottom of the 10th, Renteria helps tie it up again at 5-5 and now two outs. You've got the fastest Giant (with 4.1 speed to first base) on third in Andres Torres. The Phillies are giving a free pass to Sandoval. A more agressive manager should try to steal home here- I would've loved to see this. There is absolutely no downside here. Madson is throwing the intentional balls 8-10 feet off the plate. Schneider is soft-tossing them back. Force them to make a play. Steal it off the return throw from the catcher. Madson might panic making his throw home, Schneider might not even get into position to cover the plate. The ball could hit Torres and bounce away.
Worst case scenario? He's tagged out and Pablo has a chance to lead off the 11th. Seriously, that's not a bad thing. Bochy is an idiot.
Okay, you can say it's not a bad idea to have confidence in your team. Sure, Ishikawa could've produced a walk-off hit. Maybe one out of six chances like this he would.
On the Phillies side, why does Manuel use his last remaining player off the bench to bunt? Do these managers understand they are in the National freakin' League? He could've used a pitcher. Duh. I will never understand this. Ever. Never ever.
I think Velez might've been seeing stars after that run-in with the wall in left field. Oh yeah, and gettting bonked on the head. Is there something weird about left field at AT&T Park? I could've sworn I saw Fred Lewis out there yesterday. sigh. Sadly, Velez might've just lost the roster spot that will need to be vacated for Freddy Sanchez when he returns in a couple weeks. I figure it is him or Matt Downs, and I've always been a fan of both these guys. Maybe it will be Ishikawa, since Uribe maybe plays third and Sandoval maybe plays first defensively if Huff is replaced in late innings.
The only decision of Bochy's I did like was batting Uribe in favor of Bowker in the 11th, with one out. But seriously, where did Bochy learn how to manage a baseball game? From Bazzoka gum wrappers?
Why pinch run Whiteside for Molina at first base? Bochy is an idiot. Seriously, I understand you want a faster runner. You have only Bowker and Whiteside left as batters off the bench- and clearly Whiteside is the better batter of the two right now. You could've used any pitcher as a pinch runner, Bochy has done it before. Cain or Zito or Sanchez quickly come to mind. Please remember, we're down two runs, this isn't even the tying runner on first.
Bottom of the 11th, why not send Uribe home? Bochy is an idiot. With Schierholtz's speed on second, from his double... Why not take a chance, force a great throw to home and great play from the Phillies defense. Worst case, you have speedy Nate on second and two outs- but a hit still scores him to tie. Instead, you're still behind by one run and there's one out. Plus, the throw went to second, not even to the cut-off man. sigh.
Then you send Uribe on the next play with an infield swinging bunt by Velez? What are you thinking? Stupid, stupid. Poor judgement IMHO. You won't send him when he's rounding the bag when the ball is 100 feet further in the outfield, but you'll send him when the ball is fieldied inside the diamond? Seriously?
Bottom line, Bochy is an idiot. He's gonna hurt this team- this team that has a lot of great opportunities this season to be something really special.