The Amazing Numbers Crunching Manager

Game 4 of the 2022 National League Division Series saw another manager overthink a situation with numbers on the brain and the San Diego Padres are in the NLCS as a result.

There is something to be said for a manager having a “feel” for a game. Call it gut instinct. Call it the ability to process high-stress situations in real time. Call it the anti-number-crunching gene.

Los Angeles Dodger starter Ty Anderson is at 86 pitches after five innings in Game 4 of the National League Division Series and is almost unhittable: two hits, in fact, and six strikeouts. Throwing away common sense and the facts before them, numbers goobers everywhere rejoice when Anderson does not take the hill for the sixth inning. “Great job, Roberts” they cackle, “Way to pull him before something bad happens.”

And that’s when the bad things…start happening. Even though Anderson has been in a zone that many starters can only dream of, the zone is not something he can share. Chris Martin comes in and immediately gives up as many hits in one inning as Anderson had in five. The Padres for the first time are threatening. For the first time, they have life. The momentum…a very un-Sabermetric force…is turning.

Roberts, now with the knowledge that this first number-crunching move of yanking the starter even while he is effective has failed, now has to adapt. In comes Tommy Kahnle. He walks a batter and gives up a hit. He then hangs what might be called a 90 mph changeup to Austin Nola who smokes it to the right side off of a diving Freddie Freeman. The Padres were on the board. They would be on the board a whole lot more.

Roberts turns to his ace in the hole. Yancy Almonte enters with five strikeouts in as many men-faced in the postseason and coming off a career year (1.01 earned run average and 33 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings. Or to put it another way, he’s due to get lit up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

Let the fireworks begin.

Almonte is not himself. That is obvious from the get-go. Ha-Seong Kim doubles to make it 3-2. Roberts can only watch with the new three-hitter minimum rule as Almonte puts two pitches nowhere near the strike zone before grooving the third to Austin Nola. 3-3 game.

Roberts lets Almonte throw a pitch to Jake Cronenworth before taking advantage of the ability to bring in a reliever. Enter Alex Vesia.

The strategy looks doomed to failure from the start. Vesia throws four-straight pitches away to Jake Cronenworth. There wouldn’t be a fifth. Funny thing about professional hitters. When they see four pitches in the same location, they have a habit of hitting the last one hard. Cronenworth did. 5-3 Padres.

Now, back up to the end of the fifth. Roberts leaves Anderson in and goes an inning. Maybe he goes two. Regardless, the matchups are different. The whole game is different. Is the ending different? Maybe Brusdar Graterol comes in and saves it. Maybe not. Regardless, listening to numbers instead of seeing what is on the field causes Dave Roberts to pull Anderson early.

Ball game.

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