By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
Game 7 of the 2019 World Series was not just a win for the Nationals and a loss for the Astros, it was a resounding victory for common sense and a damning indictment of analytics, data, and the nerdification of baseball.
The nerds were exposed on baseball’s biggest stage and it was glorious to watch.
A.J. Hinch’s decision to pull Zach Greinke was one of the worst managerial moves in World Series history. He cost his team a title because he couldn’t see the game unfolding in front of him.
What a robot.
Hinch took Greinke out because the data warns managers not to let their pitchers face a lineup the third time through the order. The analytics will tell you that starters struggle the deeper into the game they get, but the numbers can’t possibly quantify how a pitcher actually looks in that moment.
And wow, did Greinke look good.
He was turning in the best World Series Game 7 start since Curt Schilling in 2001 and at one point looked like he could be the first starter to throw a complete game shutout in Game 7 since Jack Morris in 1991. He was that dominant and that in control.
In the seventh inning, Greinke threw one bad pitch and gave up a solo home run to Anthony Rendon. He then walked Juan Soto after getting squeezed on a pitch at the bottom of the zone. He was still strong, had thrown only 80 pitches, and had allowed just two hits.
But Hinch couldn’t recognize any of that. He panicked. He went to the mound and pulled a future Hall of Famer who was dealing in Game 7 of the World Series.
A future Hall of Famer. Throwing a two-hitter in Game 7 of the World Series. Done at 80 pitches.
That can’t be repeated enough. It’s complete insanity.
10 years ago, there wouldn’t have even been action behind Greinke in that situation, but the baseball world has gone crazy and Hinch became the face of that madness Wednesday night.
“I’m not sure it was early,” Hinch said of the decision to pull Greinke. “It was in the seventh inning and he was getting up into the eighties.”
Every decision is based on numbers nowadays. There’s no feel left in the game.
Hinch went to Will Harris, who gave up the go-ahead home run to Howie Kendrick. He threw just five pitches before he was pulled.
Roberto Osuna was then tagged for a run and Joe Smith was knocked around for two. Game over.
Hinch used six pitchers in total. None of them were named Gerrit Cole, the soon-to-be Cy Young award winner in the American League.
Cole sat in the bullpen and watched as lesser pitchers helped give away the World Series piece by piece.
The managerial malpractice was off the charts. Is there data to suggest that the best pitcher in baseball shouldn’t be one of your top six options in Game 7 of the World Series?
Credit to the Washington Nationals. They were a tremendously fun team to watch and are a deserving World Series winner. They faced elimination five times in October, they trailed in all five of those games, and they won all five.
But more importantly, they helped prove all October long that great starting pitching still matters in baseball. You don’t need to overthink it and use as many bullpen arms as possible, no matter what the new-age trends of baseball suggest. Sometimes the old approach is still the right approach.
If you trust your elite starting pitchers, like Dave Martinez did, that gives you the best chance to win. It’s not that hard a concept.
But it was too difficult for A.J. Hinch to figure out and the Astros lost the World Series as a result. They got what they deserved.
Wednesday night was win for baseball and a loss for the nerds, and I loved every single minute of it.