Was Keith Hernandez right calling Friday a well-managed game?

The Mets lost a tough one in extra innings Friday night against the Pirates. As the game was wrapping up, Keith Hernandez, much like he did earlier in the game, talked about how it was well-managed on both sides. Let’s ignore the Pirates and focus only on the Mets. What exactly was it that made this a well-managed game?

Pittsburgh started Charlie Morton, a RHP who traditionally struggles against lefties. Entering the game, Morton had a lifetime .914 OPS allowed against lefties. So, Terry Collins featured a lineup with five of the eight position players batting from the left side. Score one for Collins.

But he immediately gives that point back by batting Ike Davis in the cleanup spot. Yes, Davis hit 32 HR last year. But he came into the game with a .523 OPS and without an extra-base hit in his last 32 ABs. Batting him fourth at this point is an exercise in wishful thinking.

Eric Young Jr. singled in the first inning and was thrown out when trying to steal a base. Young is a base stealer but it’s unlikely that he has a green light to go when he chooses. The managerial decision to send him did not work out. It’s hard to say this was a bad move but it was a choice by Collins that failed.

There really were no other managerial decisions until the eighth inning. After allowing two runs in the first, Jeremy Hefner retired 19 of the next 20 batters and his pitch count stood at just 77 pitches. Hefner led off the eighth inning and Collins pinch-hit for him. Jordany Valdespin came up as the pinch-hitter. As a PH this year, Valdespin was 3-27. He struck out, the Mets did not score and a pitcher who was cruising was removed from the game.

While running Young in the first inning was not a controversial move, this one certainly was. Again, this was not necessarily a bad move, but it was another move that failed. Plus, this was one that would have consequences later on.

Collins brought in David Aardsma who cruised through the eighth inning. Score one for Collins. The manager sent Aardsma back out for the ninth. Not a bad move but one that backfired as he allowed a leadoff double. Two batters later, Collins pulled Aarsdma with runners on the corners and one out.

With a lefty at the plate, Collins went to Scott Rice, who came up with a big strikeout of Pedro Alvarez. The next batter was a righty, so Collins removed Rice to insert Greg Burke. The following batter was a lefty, so it was likely a one-batter performance for Burke. So, why bring in Burke, who hadn’t pitched in three days, for a one-batter appearance? Wouldn’t that have been a better role for LaTroy Hawkins, who had only one day of rest?

Burke was removed after allowing a walk to load the bases. Collins again went for the lefty-lefty matchup, bringing in Josh Edgin to face Garret Jones. But the Pirates pinch-hit for Jones with a righty. If Collins was going to bring in a lefty if Burke didn’t get the job done – shouldn’t he have used Rice to intentionally walk Martin? Even if the Pirates went ahead and pinch-hit a righty, then Collins would have been able to bring in Burke (or Hawkins) and gotten through the inning using one fewer pitcher.

Edgin got out of the inning and Collins using four pitchers in the frame was what got Gary Cohen and Hernandez so excited about his managerial moves. But Collins showed no creativity and did nothing but his usual “play the matchups” managing here. The only difference was this time it worked for him. At the very least, he should have played the matchups and used one fewer pitcher. Because burning the extra pitcher in the ninth would come back to hurt.

Collins sent Edgin back out for the 10th and he found himself with a runner on second and two outs. Collins called for an intentional walk and Edgin escaped the inning thanks to a nice play by Omar Quintanilla. Here was a move that worked.

Needing a baserunner, Collins let Ike Davis and his sub .270 OBP lead off the inning. He struck out swinging, ending his night hitless once again. An earlier double-switch had Edgin’s spot in the order come to the plate with two outs. Collins sent up Andrew Brown instead of Josh Satin as a pinch-hitter. Brown struck out to end the inning. One non-move and one move in the frame and neither worked out.

Gonzalez Germen was called on to start the 11th inning, making one wonder if Hawkins was unavailable for this game. A quick check of MetsBlog shows a story posted after the game in which Collins confirmed this was the case. Collins had a couple of chances to use Germen in the San Francisco series but did not, meaning he was making his Major League debut in extra innings of a tied game. Not the ideal way to break in a rookie.

At this point in the game, Collins’ hands were tied. But he could have gone with Hefner longer, he could have saved a pitcher in the ninth inning and he could have gotten Germen work earlier.

Germen allowed a leadoff walk to Andrew McCutchen, who stole second while Alvarez struck out. Collins elected to issue an intentional walk to Russell Martin, who came in with a .240 AVG against RHP. The move was to set up the double play but the next batter was Gaby Sanchez, who came in with a below-average 33.8 GB%. The NL average ground ball rate this year is 46%. Sanchez struck out and Germen lost the game when he allowed a seeing-eye single to the following batter.

Issuing the intentional walk was a defensible decision but again – it did not work out. If you make a bunch of defensible decisions that don’t work out, can it really be considered a well-managed game? Has that what it has come to with our manager? How much longer until we start patting him on the head, giving him a participation medal and taking him to Burger King?

To be clear, Collins did not do anything egregiously wrong in this game. But there was nothing amazing that Collins did, either – certainly nothing that needed to be praised by Cohen and Hernandez. When broadcasters as good as these two start tripping over themselves congratulating a manager in a game in which the team lost, it makes one wonder if they are getting pressure from above to say good things about Collins.

18 comments for “Was Keith Hernandez right calling Friday a well-managed game?

  1. July 13, 2013 at 12:35 am

    While I am not a fan of TC most of his decision making last night wasn’t awful. Players didn’t execute and the Mets lost. My only question is knowing that the All-Star break is 4 days away Hefner is not going to pitch again until the 19th at home against Philadelphia at the earliest. Last night should of been the game where you allowed Hefner to throw over 100 pitches knowing he’ll have extra days to rest and recover.

    • July 13, 2013 at 12:39 am

      Good point about the potential extra rest coming up for Hefner. It just seems crazy to me that Collins allows Matt Harvey to hit when he has a blister and has already thrown 107 pitches but takes out Hefner when he’s thrown 30 fewer.

  2. Name
    July 13, 2013 at 12:40 am

    I thought that removing Hefner wasn’t that controversial, but after listening to some comments on the radio, I realized that it was a terrible move because of the fact that Torres is starting for the Mets tomorrow and probably won’t pitch more than 5 innings so it would have been much more wise for Hefner to eat up more innings.

    • July 13, 2013 at 12:46 am

      Another good point.

      To me, this is why NL baseball is so much more interesting than DH ball. Collins needed to weigh a bunch of different factors in making the decision about whether or not to PH for Hefner. This is where the strategy comes in, not with the double-switch.

    • NormE
      July 13, 2013 at 7:08 am

      Peter, you are correct about the removal of Hefner and Torres pitching on Sat. It’s another case of the tunnel vision of TC. The chances are pretty good that the Mets will have to lean on the bullpen to pick up for Torres, who can’t be expected to go much more than 5 innings. So why limit a cruising Hefner to 78 mostly no stressful pitches? The fact that TC knew Hawkins was unavailable makes the decision even worse.

  3. July 13, 2013 at 12:49 am

    I wonder if TC knew Harvey had a blister?I don’t think he would of jeopardized his star pitcher. Then again I am assuming that Harvey and the pitching coach have a good enough rapport where he should be able to tell him before a blister becomes an issue.

  4. DaMetsman in Washingtin State
    July 13, 2013 at 12:54 am

    A fascinating post with a new twist in that color commentators are now subject to the same intense scrutiny managers have always been. But this takes scrutiny to a whole new level and why not since it is respectful and insightful. One of the things managers and pitching coaches have to do as they get to the 7th frame or so is be cognizant of extra innings, especially with strikeouts so alarmingly high. It is imperative in today’s game far more so than prior to 25 years ago when starters actually went deep — very deep. Brian is absolutely spot on that Hefner was cruising, showing no signs of tiring and should have stayed in the game for at least 30+ more pitches. The fact that Germen was not used in a blowout of the Giants is almost unexplainable. I said almost, so there is a little wiggle room. To see if Keith was truly insightful, wouldn’t it be interesting to read Brian’s take on Clint Hurdle’s decisions within the same contest? To refresh everyone’s memory, two of the last five contestants for the Mets managerial job were Hurdle and AL Manager of the Year Bob Melvin. (The others were Melvin’s current bench coach Chip Hale and Wally Backman.) This is excellent, creative and astute second guessing without an ulterior motive, so kudos Brian.

    • July 13, 2013 at 1:02 am

      The Mets are blessed with outstanding announcers.

      With some teams, analyzing the things the announcers say would be like shooting fish in a barrel but that’s clearly not the case here. Hernandez has forgotten more about baseball than I’ll ever know. I was caught off guard a bit when he first praised the decision making and then when he said it again at the end of a game, it really struck a chord.

  5. TexasGusCC
    July 13, 2013 at 1:07 am

    “When broadcasters as good as these two start tripping over themselves congratulating a manager in a game in which the team lost, it makes one wonder if they are getting pressure from above to say good things about Collins.”

    It does seem pretty obvious. Collins has lost quite a few games with his over-managing style because he wants to have a say in the result. I’s rather give him a glove than the lineup card.

  6. Chris Schubert
    July 13, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Another thing that I found quite interesting was the outpouring of support that Gary and Keith showed towards TC in regards to his contract status. It was like they were trying to show him off and show how good he was. It totally threw me off guard,coming from two guys (really just Gary) who are very critical when they need to be. I thought the 9th inning was just Terry being bored in the dugout and wanting to make moves. There was no need to use four pitchers in the inning. But,they pay TC the money to be able to make those decisions. Just got to go get em tomorrow.

  7. Jim OMalley
    July 13, 2013 at 5:43 am

    Im seeing a report that LaTroy wasn’t available due to a sore triceps muscle.

  8. Metsense
    July 13, 2013 at 7:40 am

    The Mets are winning. The manager’s moves are more crucial and obvious because the games are close and “on the line”. TC overmanages, is inconsistent in his handling of his young players, has difficulty handling the bullpen, and his decision making is suspect at best. The Mets are winning. The more the record improves, the better chance that TC is a rehire. If a respected baseball analyzer is lauding TC’s managerial ability then others in the inner Met world are likely doing the same.
    I have a bad feeling, as the Mets move forward and start playing meaningful games, that TC’s shortcomings will be more than a hindrance but a fatal, crucial mistake. (Harvey pitching 107 pitches and then pitching more with a blister while he is on an innings limit is the kind of mistake I fear).TC should not be the manager as the team improves to the next level.

  9. steevy
    July 13, 2013 at 9:14 am

    It could be pressure from above but it’s more likely they personally like the guy.I don’t like him.Fire Terry Collins!

  10. SL
    July 13, 2013 at 9:23 am

    As always with Collins it came down to mismanagement of the bullpen. Of course pulling Hefner was wrong, and led directly, combined with the absurdity of 4 pitchers for one inning, or rather 3 pitchers for 2 outs.

    His supposed “matchups” are simply righty lefty but he never takes into account the TYPE of pitcher he is bringing in.

    Perhaps he has forgotten that it was the team essentially packing it in right before the All Star game last year that began the free fall.

  11. John Q
    July 13, 2013 at 10:50 am

    One thing that continues to baffle me is how visiting teams don’t use their Best relief pitcher in an extra inning game?? Why because it’s not a “save” situation?? Ridiculous. So its better to use 12th best pitcher instead of your best reliever in a tie game? How does that make any sense?

    Also, Batting Ike Davis 4th right now is ridiculous. If you go by the new research on batting orders, the cleanup hitter should be the best hitter on the team with power. David Wright should bat 4th. Ike should bat 7th if he should play at all. I see nothing different about Ike other than he’s drawing more walks. Satin should be starting and batting 2nd. But this is the Mets so the second baseman or the short stop has to bat second.

    This should be the lineup:

    Young
    Satin
    Murphy
    Wright
    Byrd
    Newenheiss/Lagares
    Buck
    Quintanilla
    Pitcher

    • Metsense
      July 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      John Q: I am glad you have gone public and I agree. If they are playing a Ike platoon, bat him 6 or 8 and move Q to the 2 hole. That leaves Kirk 6 or 8 vs RHP. Ike’s cleanup spot came up on chat last night and I like your solution.
      I also agree about closer and have one more question. How come a manager keeps warming up the closer 3-4 times and burn him out? Why not wait until you get the lead before he gets up to throw. A little batter stalling afterwards and a commercial break and the worst that could happen is he isn’t ready for the first batter, maybe.

  12. Anthony Perris
    July 13, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Maybe the Pie Rats are just freakin good this year.
    :)

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