Baseball entered a brave new world this postseason, but a good portion of poll voters didn’t think it was that big a deal.
This week’s Seattle Sidelines poll asked readers to weigh in on the way starting pitchers have been handled in the playoffs. Specifically, I asked readers what they thought about Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell’s actions in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, when he used left-handed starter Wade Miley for one batter, then brought in right-hander Brandon Woodruff to face a Los Angeles Dodgers lineup that had been set up to face a left-hander.
Here’s how you voted:
POLL: What is your opinion of Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell’s decision to remove left-handed starting pitcher Wade Miley after one batter in favor of right-hander Brandon Woodruff in Game 5 of the NLCS? Full context here: https://t.co/PZj61J3T0X
— Nick Patterson (@NickHPatterson) October 22, 2018
Add the two together and a near majority — 48 percent — said the move was much ado about nothing. Thirty-six percent described the move as good strategy, while 16 percent described it as bush league.
These were interesting results to me. First off, I have to say I disagree with the 48 percent who thought it was much ado about nothing. To me this is definitely something. It defied the traditions of naming a starting pitcher and allowing the opposition to make out a lineup based on that starter as Woodruff, who threw 5.1 innings, was effectively the starter although he was never announced. It was a strategic move we had never seen before in the playoffs, and it had consequences in the game. And it drew the ire from many traditionalists, who didn’t like the move one bit. While I’m not sure how big a something it was, as far as I’m concerned this all adds up to at least something.
I’m a little surprised that the percentage of voters calling it bush league was as low as it was. Baseball is a sport steeped in its traditions, and given the rhetoric I saw in the national sports punditry world I figured there’d be more outrage about this. It’s possible this is a product of these polls being posted online and on social media, which tend to be mediums used by younger generations that maybe aren’t as beholden to tradition.
But in terms of baseball strategy, I thought the move made all the sense in the world. The Dodgers have the deepest roster of position players I’ve ever seen on a postseason roster, and as a result Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts effectively has two different lineups: a lineup of all right-handed hitters to face a left-handed pitcher and a lineup of mostly left-handed hitters to face a right-handed pitcher. How does one combat that? Counsell found a way, and it gave him the initiative in the game as Roberts either had to cede the platoon advantage or burn his bench early. It was unconventional, but it’s what Counsell had to do to try and give his team an edge.
The question now is whether this was a one-off anomaly based on the unique conditions of the teams involved — the Dodgers’ hitting depth, the Brewers’ bullpen depth — or whether these type of moves are going to become more common. My belief is this is the beginning of the new way baseball pitching staffs are going to be managed, with starters going fewer innings and relievers becoming even more important. For more on that, check out the column I wrote for Wednesday’s paper.