Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rob Neyer on Bob Brenly

From The Big Book of Baseball Lineups:

“Because Bob Brenly probably did as many stupid things as you can do as a manager and still win the World Series. One of the odd things about the Series was this: Brenly made two terrible moves with his pitching staff, and yet he got blasted by the baseball writers just once…and that was for a move that actually made sense.

Going into the Series against the dynastic Yankees, the big question was, would Brenly get four starts from his aces, or five? Actually, there was another big question too.: if Brenly would ask Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling to start three games, which one. They totaled virtually the same number of innings during the regular season, and Johnson’s ERA was significantly better during the regular season. But where Johnson was number one in the National League, Schilling was number two. Both were well rested; the Diamondbacks had knocked out the Braves on October 21, six days before the first game of the World Series. Brenly chose Schilling for the opener. It was a questionable decision, but Brenly probably deserved the benefit of the doubt on that one; presumably, he knew which of his aces was better equipped to start twice on three days rest.

Schilling was great in Game 1, the Yankees weren’t. After four innings, the Diamondbacks led 9-1. After fice innings, the Diamondbacks led 9-1. Schilling had his W in the bag. Time to turn this one over to the pen, and get an early start on resting up for game 4. But Schilling pitched on.

After 6 innings, the Diamondbacks still led 9-1.

And Schilling pitched on.

Finally, in the bottom of the seventh, Brenly did what he should have done in the bottom of the fifth; he replaced his starter with a pinch hitter. Curt Schilling left the game after throwin 102 pitches.

Johnson started Game 2 and fired a three-hit shutout. Brian Anderson and a pair of relievers pitched well in Game 3, but Roger Clemens and Mariano Rivera pitched better.

So three days after game 1 it’s Schilling’s turn again in Game 4. He was great…but after seven innings he was also gassed. Brenly took him out, the game tied at one run apiece. Arizona took a 3-1 lead in the top of the eight, but then with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Tino Martinez tied the game with a two-run homer off Byung-Hyun Kim. The Diamondbacks didn’t score in the tenth. And then, with two outs (of course) in the bottom of the tenth, Derek Jeter hit another homer off Kim to end the game.

The Media jumped on Brenly for taking Schilling out of the game. That wasn’t fair; Brenly had ample evidence that Schilling was indeed tiring. A smaller portion of the media jumped on Brenly for sending Kim out for thenth, his third inning. That might have been fair; he’d pitched three full innings in a game just once all season, and that was way back on May 18th.

But what everybody somehow missed was Brenly’s big mistake, which was letting Schilling pitch seven innings in Game 1. If Schilling had pitched just five or six innings in the opener, isn’t I tlikely that he could have gone more than seven innings in game 4? If Schilling had lasted eight innings in game 4, isn’t it likely that Kim would have finished off the Yankees in the ninth? Kim retired five of the first six Yankees he faced, four of them on strikeouts. (Of course, all of this assumes that Schilling couldn’t have pitched the ninth inning himself. And if he’d thrown twenty-five or thirty fewer pitches in Game 1, maybe he could have. )
Okay, so Brenly screwed up. He didn’t rest his pitcher when he had the chance, and it probably cost him a World Series game. But Brenly’s a smart fellow; so he learned from his mistake, right?

Nope. Brenly made almost the exact same mistake in Game 6.

The last paragraph is probably the most damning:

“Bob Brenly madetwo great decisions in the 2001 World Series. He chose Curt Schilling to start three games, and he sent Randy Johnson to the bullpen in Game 7. But those great decisions were nearly undone by his ridiculous obeisance to the notion that it’s somehow unmanly for a starting pitcher to come out of a game simply because his team has a huge lead.”

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