5, 6, or 7?

Last night there was quite a bit of discussion about Tito’s decision to leave Josh Beckett in the game past the fifth inning with a massive lead.  By Beckett’s walk out to the mound for the seventh, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck were positively flummoxed, questioning "why on Earth" would Francona leave Beckett out in such a blowout?  To us, there was really not much confusing about it.  Beckett was working on a low pitch count (78 through six innings), he was motoring through the Rockies lineup (who had already seen him this year, back in interleague play, so the "they get more looks at him" argument isn’t all that convincing).  Though the field was wet, the word from Chris Myers was that only the warning track was really an issue, the rest of the field was playable and safe.   And Beckett wasn’t going to be pitching game four on three days rest (or, consequently, a game seven on another three days’ rest): this had already been determined, a decision further solidified by the double-digit lead the Sox held last night.  Beckett would be pitching the fifth game on full rest, and that was that.

In a game like football, taking a star quarterback out in the third quarter of a massive blowout has logical justification as intelligent risk management — football is intensely physical, injury risks are prevalent on every play for every player on the field, while the quarterback is probably the one indispensable player on the entire team.  In baseball, the risk of injury is much more diminished.  Had Beckett been injured it would have been a freak occurrence, not from the normal run of play.  And I don’t see why one should always manage against the freak occurrence.  10 or 15 pitches for Beckett (the seventh inning) posed marginal (though not zero) risk to the pitcher’s health.  In leaving Beckett out for this "extra" inning, Francona saved the bullpen for a game this evening, should it goes extras.  As we saw in game two with Cleveland, there isn’t anything wrong with having more bullets in the holster.  There was intention behind leaving Beckett in the game through the seventh.  Though it could be reasonably argued that Beckett should have been removed earlier, we didn’t understand the hubbub.

52 comments… add one
  • Sorry, I think this is just too pat an analysis, even accepting that Francona would never pitch Beckett in Game 4.
    13-1? You don’t need Josh Beckett on the mound. Keeping him there with that big a lead is silly.
    The Sox pen would have to give up four grand slams just to *tie* the game at that point (with no answering runs).
    So it was just courting disaster.
    As it turned out there wasn’t a disaster. But if anything had happened, Boston fans and management would be guillotining Tito today.

    Hudson October 25, 2007, 10:28 am
  • The Sox pen would have to give up four grand slams just to *tie* the game at that point (with no answering runs).
    Actually, three.
    I understand your point, Hudson, I termed it “reasonable” in my post. But personally I was completely comfortable with Beckett back out there for the seventh, as long as that was it. There was just such nominal risk that I didn’t see it as an issue, though I understand the more conservative play would have been to take him out. I see both sides on this one.

    SF October 25, 2007, 10:32 am
  • P.S. As far as “saving” the bullpen, that argument is nullified by Tito’s use of Timlin (who was splendid).
    MT is one of the few relievers in the Sox pen that Francona can turn to in a tight game.
    Oki/Paps were not going to be used even if Beckett came out in the 6th.
    Snyder and Gagne are not going to be used in any game which features less than a 4-run lead or one which doesn’t go to 11+ innings.
    *Plus* the Sox have a day off Friday.
    So who was being saved?

    Hudson October 25, 2007, 10:34 am
  • Timlin hadn’t pitched in 9 days, he can still pitch tonight, and it was wise to get him some work.

    SF October 25, 2007, 10:38 am
  • Right, three. What are the odds?
    You seem to be veering from evenhanded to dismissive in this diary… On the one hand you find the debate “reasonable,” on the other you “didn’t understand the hubbub”…

    Hudson October 25, 2007, 10:38 am
  • Snyder wasn’t going to pitch: he’s the option if Schill gets hammered early, since Wakefield isn’t available. Snyder wasn’t going to pitch last night, ever, he’s tonight’s Rox blowout arm-saver.

    SF October 25, 2007, 10:39 am
  • If you really wanted to get Timlin in (which is debatable) that could still be done with Beckett pulled at the lower pitch count.
    Another argument (which I don’t think was raised last night) is that as phenomenal as Beckett has been, we *are* at the end of a long season, in which Beckett missed, what, only one start? Why not keep him at his freshest once this became a true laugher?
    A 6-1 lead? Keep him in. 7-1? The question starts to gain currency. 10-1? Scales tipping toward taking him out. 13-1? Ridiculous.
    The bigger question for SF and others who think you keep the ace in at 13-1: How high would the score have to be before you switch to a mop-up guy?
    20-1? 30-1? 100-1?
    Or is there no score too lopsided to pull him?

    Hudson October 25, 2007, 10:42 am
  • On the one hand you find the debate “reasonable,” on the other you “didn’t understand the hubbub”…
    No, you are missing my point: McCarver and Buck were acting as if Tito had just elected to pinch hit Alex Cora for Ortiz in the ninth inning down a run – I found the reaction from them (and head over to SoSH for additional strident responses to Beckett being left in) not commensurate with the events. Raising the issue was reasonable, but the way many fans (and the commentators) responded was not.

    SF October 25, 2007, 10:43 am
  • I don’t have a problem with it. If anything, I would have preferred Beckett getting games 4 and 7. Yes, it would have been on short rest both times, but if they were following that plan they could have absolutely pulled him early. And Becks has been very good at Coors Field – 4 GS and 3.60 ERA. They avoided the problem of Wake in Game 4 of the ALCS. I’m not sure why they’re being so stubborn. Becks performance thus far screams “Let me carry you to a ring”.

    Pete October 25, 2007, 10:45 am
  • Again, at a pitch count of 70+, I don’t really see the issue with leaving him in in any circumstance, whatever the score.
    I am not interested in a drop-down, drag-out argument over this. It is reasonable to think he should have been pulled, but it was posed as borderline INSANE that he was left in. I just don’t see it that way.

    SF October 25, 2007, 10:45 am
  • I wasn’t surprised because that is how Francona has managed Beckett. The greatest risk may have been to Francona pulling Beckett early, given how ornery Beackett has been throughout the playoffs. Beckett was on cruise control, and he is definitely not the fragile sort. In his 4 starts, he’s thrown only 390 pitches on normal rest.

    Tom sf October 25, 2007, 10:48 am
  • If it was a “reasonable” topic for debate and sicussion, then surely you must understand by now that in a “nation” of passionate fans that there might be some “hubbub.”
    Of all the predictable Blow Buck/Dim McCarver annoyances last night (I thought they were marginally less egregious than usual, which isn’t saying much) this is the one that sends you over the edge?

    Hudson October 25, 2007, 10:49 am
  • And Pete, I don’t think they are being stubborn about Beckett, I think they are going with what proved to work: get two (possible) wins from Beckett on full rest (where he’s proven to be AWESOME), see if you can get two wins from the other five games. It’s a defensible position.

    SF October 25, 2007, 10:50 am
  • Excellent stat, Tom. Even more reason why I don’t see why the Sox won’t start him in Game 4. Perhaps if the Rox win a game between now and then they’ll change their minds. A 3-0 lead is very different from a 2-1 lead with essentially a rookie on the mound in a weird, unknown park.

    Pete October 25, 2007, 10:52 am
  • Of all the predictable Blow Buck/Dim McCarver annoyances last night (I thought they were marginally less egregious than usual, which isn’t saying much) this is the one that sends you over the edge?
    Jeez, I am “over the edge” on this one? I think you have completely misread this post, Hudson. Can you point to the place where I exhibit that? It’s a gross mischaracterization on your part.

    SF October 25, 2007, 10:52 am
  • A 3-0 lead is very different from a 2-1 lead with essentially a rookie on the mound in a weird, unknown park.
    Let’s get to 2-0 first, OK!?

    SF October 25, 2007, 10:52 am
  • Where was the decision described as “borderline INSANE?”
    (I don’t follow SOSH religiously, but I re-read the discussion here, and it was really quite mild.)

    Hudson October 25, 2007, 10:55 am
  • The Sox management obviously have a firm strategy for winning this series, and I don’t see any reason to second guess it at this point, given the results so far. At a certain point, you have to assume that Francona, Farrell, and the trainers know exactly how strong Beckett is at this point. I would be more worried if they started making changes to the overall series strategy.

    Tom sf October 25, 2007, 10:56 am
  • Yes, it’s defensible SF. But it’s still conservative, especially with how dominant Becks has been. And he clinched against the Yanks in 2003 with a shutout on three days rest.
    Last series they traded a possible Beck start for a Wake start. Now it’s Lester for Becks. I knocked them for the former, and with Coors as the venue, I think it’s an even worse decision.
    I’m still hopeful they come around if it’s a close series. If they’re up 3-0 then, absolutely, there’s no reason to change anything.

    Pete October 25, 2007, 10:57 am
  • I can certainly see the argument for starting Beckett in 3 games, but it ain’t gonna happen.
    Of course, if you advocate for 3 starts, then you can’t use the argument of trying to protect Beckeet from injury, freak or otherwise.

    Tom sf October 25, 2007, 11:00 am
  • To me McCarver’s response was, like I said before, as if had seen Tito pinch-hitting Cora for Ortiz in the ninth down a run. And head over to SoSH, I read it this morning, Tito got RIPPED for leaving Beckett in. Those two things combined to get me to write this thread.

    SF October 25, 2007, 11:00 am
  • Another point made last night (by me, but others agreed) — why give any Colorado hitters extra “looks” at Beckett when you don’t have to?
    As far as the Game 4 argument, you could look at it the other way, too — if the Sox are up 3-0, why give Colorado a chance to get back in it when you could have Beckett on three days but just 78 pitches to ice it in four?
    Look, I defended Francona on putting Wakefield out there instead of Beckett in ALCS G4 — figuring Josh was pretty much a lock in five, so why screw with it.
    (Tito’s real mistake was lifting Wakefield rather than letting him work out of that inning.)
    One likes to assume that Josh is going to get two wins either way… on the other hand, the Rockies did knoc him around badly once in June.
    The difference in this situation was the extraordinary lead size. 13-1? No brainer. Don’t waste pitches from your top arm on a laugher, especially this late in the season.

    Hudson October 25, 2007, 11:04 am
  • And he clinched against the Yanks in 2003 with a shutout on three days rest.
    This is irrelevant to me. Not to be too dismissive of this, but I don’t see why 2003 should inform 2007. Different teams, different starting rotation, different bullpens, different opponents, etc. etc, not to mention the hideously small sample that is one game four years ago.
    More importantly, I don’t see how throwing 78 pitches or throwing 90 pitches means anything different to the three days’ rest effectiveness. If someone can show me how those 10 or 12 pitches make the difference between being effective on TDR or not being effective on TDR (should the Sox choose to bring him back in Game Four) I’d be happy to buy in.
    If the team doesn’t see any difference (and my guess is they don’t), then Beckett is still available for Game Four, at no compromise to his abilities.

    SF October 25, 2007, 11:07 am
  • Just because Beckett dominated four years ago on short rest doesn’t mean he would this time. Of course, he’s a better pitcher now, so a reasonable supposition is that he would be good on short rest, but there’s plenty of great pitchers who have collapsed on three days’ rest in the postseason. I, too, am comfortable with Beckett in Games 1/5.
    As for the decision last night, there was some debate between Steve Phillips and Dusty Baker on this one. Phillips thought Beckett should have been pulled, Baker argued for leaving him (as if he’d argue for anything else). Baker said you might want Beckett throwing 80-90 pitches even in a blowout, so if he needs to throw 120 pitches in Game 5, it’s not a huge strain on his arm. Not being a pitcher, coach or trainer, I don’t know if this logic is sound, but it makes sense given what I know about baseball. On the other hand, I doubt Josh Beckett would really have much trouble one way or the other. It’s just another perspective I thought I’d throw out there.
    This topic to me is basically a non-issue. Fifteen pitches is not very much int erms of wear on an arm. The Red Sox have clearly shown they will not throw Beckett on short rest, so saving the bullets for a Game 4 is not part of the calculation. Is there risk of injury sending him out there? Sure, but it’s minimal to the point that if you factor risk like that into all your decisions, you would incapacitate your team. So while I can see the arguments for pulling him out, none of them strikes me as so urgent that I could join that side. In fact, I would say the arguments for leaving him in — keep the bullpen out of it, keep him within ihis 90-110-pitch comfort zone, etc. — are slightly more convincing. But frankly? I couldn’t care less.
    The Red Sox will not lose the World Series because Terry Francona pulled Josh Beckett in the seventh instead of the sixth.

    Paul SF October 25, 2007, 11:11 am
  • Isn’t it kind of cool that we are discussing the merits of leaving a Red Sox pitcher in in the midst of a 13-1 World Series blowout victory?
    I hope we can discuss this exact same thing tomorrow!

    SF October 25, 2007, 11:16 am
  • For those arguing on a Game 4 start for Beckett, since he did so well in 2003 on short rest… It is worth noting that in 2003, Beckett only pitched 142.2 innings on 23 starts that season, compared to just over 200 innings this season on 30 starts.

    Vic SF October 25, 2007, 11:34 am
  • “I hope we can discuss this exact same thing tomorrow!”
    Oh God I hope so… :)

    John - YF (Trisk) October 25, 2007, 11:34 am
  • Uh, all else could be “different” SF, but the most important thing – the pitcher!
    If anything is least relevant, Paul, it’s the “other pitchers have failed on short rest” angle. One, those pitchers aren’t Beckett. And two, the majority of those pitchers weren’t dominant pitching on four or five days rest either.
    For me the bottom line is they’re trading a Lester start for a Beckett start. No problem, so far, but if the Rox win one of the next two games, it’s just not a great decision, especially with how well Becks has pitched at Coors. The won’t lose the Series cause Terry didn’t pull Beckett. But the chances are greater that those chances could get seriously dinged with Lester starting Game 4.

    Pete October 25, 2007, 11:51 am
  • Vic –
    It’s a concern but he’s long past the danger zone for young pitchers. He’s at a high workload this year, but it’s the World Series. And if they had that plan in place last night, they could have pulled Becks very early.

    Pete October 25, 2007, 11:53 am
  • “I hope we can discuss this exact same thing tomorrow!”
    Oh God I hope so… :)

    That was meant to read “Red Sox blowout victory”, and I transposed words…leaving it open to, uh, a bad scenario. This comment serves to correct it, to deal with the Jinx Gods.

    SF October 25, 2007, 12:00 pm
  • SF: I don’t think the Jinx gods will accept corrections after the fact. :o)

    doug YF October 25, 2007, 12:13 pm
  • Boats are safe in the harbor, but that’s not what boats are for.
    Sounded to me like in the face of an incontrovertible blowout, the announcers had to generate some false drama.

    attackgerbil October 25, 2007, 12:50 pm
  • Exactly AG. It was a blowout, it’s not like it was a nailbiter where the game generates it’s own conversation. This was purely something to talk about when there really was nothing to talk about.

    John - YF (Trisk) October 25, 2007, 1:06 pm
  • Also, in football, if the game gets closer, you can reinsert your QB.
    On the flip side though, Joba came in in game 3 when they had a relatively big lead. But it’s not the same scenario.
    I still think they should’ve took Beckett out only because, freak or not, there’s no reason for it. But it doesn’t really matter either way..

    Lar October 25, 2007, 1:15 pm
  • To get back to the question posed by the title of this post: 6. I expect tonight to be a much closer game and the Rockies to play better (and the Red Sox bats to cool) at Coors.
    And the thought of benching Youkilis (or for that matter, Papi) makes me sick.
    Still, Sox look so tough right now. And if Varitek and Drew get into the act…

    MJL in L.A. (SF) October 25, 2007, 1:15 pm
  • Maybe I’m the only one, but I’m looking forward to seeing Jon Lester pitch in Game 4. He looked sharp in Cleveland and he may be a good matchup against a lineup that doesnt draw many walks and would thus leave an opportunity to avoid a high pitch count. For all we know the kid could have his own brand of postseason nastiness just waiting to reveal itself.

    Airk October 25, 2007, 1:17 pm
  • > Maybe I’m the only one, but I’m looking forward to seeing Jon Lester pitch in Game 4
    I’m guessing that after a full dose of Beckett last night, the Rockies would say you aren’t the only one, but it doesn’t matter. The Sox are playing the way they did in April and May. Firing on every cylinder. If there ever was a team that could beat these Sox as they are performing _right now_, I haven’t seen it.

    attackgerbil October 25, 2007, 2:00 pm
  • I’m looking forward to seeing Lester pitch as well. His main problem is walks, as you say, airk, and the Rockies aren’t as much of a walking team. They also don’t fair as well against lefties, so he seems to play well to the Rockies’ weaknesses.

    Paul SF October 25, 2007, 2:02 pm
  • AG, I always say the Harlem Globetrotters can beat anyone, anytime. That said, the Sox have looked ridiculous for the last week.

    Nick-YF October 25, 2007, 2:02 pm
  • What is really blowing my mind is how pretty much every Red Sox hitter, top to bottom, will not swing at anything out of the zone. You need to beat them on the corners and that’s tough for young pitchers.
    Jimenez, the Rockies starter tonight, started 15 games this season, pitched 82 innings and walked 37!! (and hit 6 batsmen)
    He doesn’t stand a chance tonight, the middle of the order is going to eat him alive.

    LocklandSF October 25, 2007, 2:10 pm
  • but Ubaldo has great stuff. You never know.

    Nick-YF October 25, 2007, 2:16 pm
  • Nick, I swore I heard Clint Hurdle whistling “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Anyone? Anyone?
    Okay, that’s out of bounds, but the Sox are so good right now. Jealousy.
    Say “Clint Hurdle” out loud. Great baseball name.

    attackgerbil October 25, 2007, 2:24 pm
  • The Rockies aren’t a walking team?
    2nd in the NL this season with 622. Just 15 less than the MFYs, who I would consider a good walking team. In particular, I’m sure Helton, Atkins, Holliday, Tulowitzki and Hawpe will take whatever Lester is willing to give them.

    QuoSF October 25, 2007, 2:31 pm
  • when I was younger I went to see the Globetrotters against the Generals at MSG. I was surprised that there were empty seats! Anyway, up close in real time, I kind of figured out that the Globetrotters weren’t going to beat the Johnny Newman Knicks. It was a humbling experience. I think I bought into the myth when I was just a wee boy that they were this uber team, even better than the Lakers and Celtics. For some reason, I thought they weren’t allowed to play in the NBA because it would be unfair to the others. But I never quite noticed that it was unfair to the Generals that they had to play them. And I never thought: Who the f*ck plays for the Generals?
    I’ve been thinking about basketball a lot recently. I wonder why.

    Nick-YF October 25, 2007, 2:32 pm
  • Didn’t Herschel Walker play for the Generals?

    SF October 25, 2007, 2:36 pm
  • Nick: That’s so cool. My parents took me to see the Trotters at the Rochester War Memorial a couple times when I was a lad. I was totally befuddled why they weren’t playing the Lakers and Celtsl. Beautiful stuff.
    Trivia tangent: Bob Gibson played for the Trotters before becoming a ML pitcher and was famous for his reverse dunk but quit because he couldn’t handle the clowning. Beckett is in the rarified air that Gibson established regarding being a big game post season guy.

    attackgerbil October 25, 2007, 2:45 pm
  • Bob Gibson played for the Trotters! Did not know that.

    Nick-YF October 25, 2007, 2:47 pm
  • My biggest problem with the Beckett usage last night was that he had a long break between the 5th and 6th. But after they brought him out for the 6th and he looked fine, I was okay with seeing him pitch the 7th.
    It seemed pretty clear that they weren’t going to have him pitch Game 4 unless we were down 3-0 in the series… and it was also pretty clear at that point that we weren’t going to be down 3-0 in the series.
    Which leaves the “injury risk” argument as the only real reason to pull him. IMO, the risk of a freak injury due to wet field or bringing the pitch count to 90+ was negligible, while the benefit of not wasting the bullpen seemed worth that small risk (you never know when the game will go extras and you’ll need your scrubs to be fresh, etc.)

    Jackie (SF) October 25, 2007, 2:48 pm
  • Well, maybe Beckett should have only pitched six last night:

    Paul SF October 25, 2007, 2:53 pm
  • Sorry, one last bit to defend not using Beckett on short rest. Basically, my argument is: why mess with the formula that’s working? With his current usage pattern (100ish pitches every 5 days) Beckett has looked completely unbeatable. MAYBE if you go to 70ish pitches every 4 days he’ll look the same, but why take that risk if you don’t absolutely need to (i.e., unless you’re facing elimination)? It makes more sense to me to go with the relatively sure thing.

    Jackie (SF) October 25, 2007, 2:53 pm
  • Jackie, there was no reason to pull Beckett. None. Nil. People are talking about it like Tito should have hoarded his Halloween candy. He used Beckett exactly as he should have. There is no story here. An old expression comes to mind.. “Looking for a hair in a ball of dough.”

    attackgerbil October 25, 2007, 2:53 pm
  • What worries me about Lester in Game 4 (and Dice in Game 3) is that they’ve never pitched in Coors before. They’re going to be throwing a different ball (because of the humidor) in different air. Both factors affect control. Part of the reason the Rox have probably so many walks is the effect Coors has on opposing pitchers. The home/road splits don’t seem to affect their walks that much (319 vs. 302) better they are a much better hitting team at home (.852 OPS vs .731 OPS) with OBP at .372 vs. .336 and SLG a whopping .480 vs. .395. Part of the reason they’re so good though is that their pitching is the same on the road and at home (4.34 vs 4.29).
    By contrast, the Sox are better at home too (.844 OPS vs. .768 OPS) but the difference is much smaller and less potent.

    Pete October 25, 2007, 3:05 pm

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