Joe Knows: Leyland, Bochy at top of their games so far in World Series
After each World Series game, Joe Sheehan will offer his quick-take analysis on a key moment or decision that shaped the outcome of the game and, potentially, the Series. For more from Joe, check out his newsletter and follow him on Twitter
The idea behind these nightly post-game pieces is to break down managerial decisions that change the course of each World Series game, particularly to isolate a mistake that may have been made that affected a team's chance to win. Small decisions can have large ramifications when you have just seven games left to play. We've been treated, in this and recent Octobers, to the tactical adventures of Ron Washington, Mike Matheny, Joe Girardi and other managers who seem to act at random, and at times have substantially reduced their teams' chances of winning.
Well, we may have picked the wrong time to launch this bad boy, because the 2012 World Series has featured a pretty good pair of managing jobs to date. Oh, you can nitpick a decision here or there from Thursday night's Game 2 -- Detroit's Jim Leyland traded the go-ahead run for two outs in the seventh, and intentionally walked Pablo Sandoval in the eighth -- but there's been nothing clearly wrong out of him or San Francisco's Bruce Bochy in either game.
Frankly, the worst decision we've seen in two games was by a third-base coach on Thursday night. The Tigers' Gene Lamont sent Prince Fielder -- who was slowing down as he pulled into third base -- home on Delmon Young's second-inning, no-out double. The move was far too risky given the lack of outs and Fielder's lack of speed, and Lamont giving the signal late only made the situation worse. Fielder was out on a close play, Detroit did not score in the inning, and didn't get a runner to scoring position the rest of the night.
Lamont's poor choice aside, what we've really seen the last two nights is that managers can make the right choices and have them still not work out, because the players still play the game. Take Leyland's late-game machinations. Twice, he made pitching changes designed not only to get the platoon advantage but to exploit Bochy's failure to balance his lineup. In the seventh, Leyland brought in southpaw Drew Smyly to face Brandon Belt, the first of three straight lefthanded batters. In the eighth, he called upon long-time righty killer Octavio Dotel to face Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. These were strong tactical moves that reduced the Giants' chance to score . . . but they scored anyway. Both Smyly and Dotel walked the first batter they faced, making their situations worse and leading to single runs in each inning in a 2-0 loss.
So often this postseason we've seen a bad decision lead to a good outcome. Last night, we saw good decisions produce bad outcomes. It may be small consolation for Tigers fans, but their manager has been doing a good job of giving his team the best chance to win. Sometimes, all the blame goes to the players.-- By Joe Sheehan