World Series 2020: The Numbers Lied

Numbers and spin rates and shifts and four outfielders. Sometimes the eye test beats them all. That test was not administered by the Rays during Game 6 of the World Series.

Seventy three pitches. Two Hits. 1-0 lead. That was the situation Tuesday in the sixth inning of the World Series. And that’s when Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash walked on the field to remove Blake Snell. Cy Young-winner Blake Snell. No conversation. No nothing. Just the hook. Snell started swearing. Los Angeles Dodgers fans started smiling. Dodgers players looked at each other with wonder … and gratitude.

Hope, for the first time in the game, was in the air, as were several choice words from Snell.

Reliever Nick Anderson promptly missed the strike zone by six inches. Snell muttered into his mask. Anderson’s next offering to Mookie Betts ended up down the left field line for a double. Anderson then missed badly with a slider in the dirt. For the first time all series, catcher Mike Zunino couldn’t knock it down and Austin Barnes scampered home. Snell continued to mutter into his mask. Cory Seager hit a ground ball to Ji-Man Choi, but the first baseman’s throw home wasn’t in time to get Betts.

And that’s all the Dodgers needed.

After the game Cody Bellinger was asked on FOX about the decision to pull Snell. “He was gross,” Bellinger said. “Gross” is the new “sick” or “fly” or “tough.” “We were not expecting it to happen like that,” he continued, expressing surprise that Snell was out despite giving up just two hits and striking out nine.

Cash said there were two “really good” options in the bullpen, “It just felt like Blake had given everything we could have asked out of him.

Cash said he understood the criticism, but he was worried about the Dodgers seeing any of their pitchers three times in a game. The stats bear this out with many pitchers being hit harder the third time through the lineup. Tonight was a different night though. Snell was virtually unhittable. You have to stay with a guy on a run like that until he starts going to full counts or starts getting hit hard.

I hate it when a manager leaves a starter in too long, or lets the starter talk him out of being removed. But, one base hit should not chase a starter. It did and Tampa Bay paid the ultimate price. “I think I’m gonna make the adjustments the third time through the lineup,” Snell said after. “I was dominating.”

He’s right. Maybe next year, Tampa Bay pays a little more attention to what their players are doing and not what might be on the other side of the bullpen fence or what a bean counter in a back room says is the best move. Billy Beane gets a lot of credit for Moneyball but the Oakland Athletics have never won a World Series during his time. Think about that.

That said, hats off to a great team for a great run that was based largely on stats. But stats aren’t everything. Sometimes, you need to rely on guts and will. Blake Snell was up to the task. His team’s management wasn’t and that’s too bad.

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