ATLANTA – Watch a magnificent action movie on your phone. Rides in a tightly tuned sports car with a donut spare tire. Listens to the Vienna Philharmonic on cheap headphones. See what has become of baseball, and its beginning pitching.
The excitement is gone.
We are kings of convenience. The Braves beat the Astros in World Series Game 3 on Friday night, 2-0, in what could have been an all-time classic, how about a no-hitter in place through seven innings on a humid, thick night. Instead, two races were scored. 11 jugs were used. No story was written. Unless you’re in disgrace.
This was the 47th World Series match in which only one or two races were scored. It took the longest time (3:24) among all those without a bottom of the ninth.
681 World Series matches have been played. This was the first with so many pitchers and so few runs.
Braves manager Brian Snitker pulled his starting pitcher, Ian Anderson, after just five innings and 76 spots with a World Series no-hitter in place. Anderson is not a behind-the-scenes starter starting or opening. He is an ace-level gifted pitcher who owns a 1.26 postseason ERA in eight starts. At another time he would be Eddie Plank (1.32) or Madison Bumgarner (2.11), an October legend.
Baseball no longer allows such legends. Even a baseball lifeguard like Snitker, who is 66 years old and spent 28 years paying dues in the minors, knows how the game is played today. Snitker was not wrong to remove Anderson and give the ball to AJ Minter, then to Luke Jackson and then to Tyler Matzek and then to Will Smith.
It’s just that the right way to play today is wrong for baseball tomorrow. Soon, the players and owners will renew their usual quarrel over financial issues while trying to reach a new collective agreement. Meanwhile, the real threat to baseball is the aesthetics of the game – the pace of play, including the huge impact of pitch changes on declining attacks and the length of matches. That is the issue of climate change in baseball.
Once upon a time, starting pitchers were stars who drove interest and attendance. Spectators at Shea Stadium rose when the morning paper said Dwight Gooden broke up that night. But you do not have to tell stories that go all the way back to Old Hoss Radbourn or Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and Jack Morris when you lament the loss of baseball’s leading men.
You only have to go back to Stephen Strasburg in 2019. Exactly two years ago from Friday night, Strasburg took the ball into the ninth round of the World Series Game 6 for the Nationals. None of the last 20 World Series starters since then have thrown straight seven laps.
It has happened so fast. Baseball bull money jumped over the shark last year when Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash removed an effective Blake Snell just because the lineup turned around for the third time. The rays lost. Snitker removed Anderson at the same time – after two laps through the lineup. This time it worked, otherwise Snitker would have been cashed in.
“He still had it,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said of Anderson. “He only reviewed the order twice, and I do not think so [leadoff batter Jose] Altuve had a pleasant stroke, neither did it [Michael] Brantley, neither did he [Alex] Bregman, neither did he [Yordan] Alvarez… I do not know what his pitch was. ”
“At least,” says d’Arnaud. “I trust our bullpen, so both ways are good.”
If this is not the offseason that killed starting pitching, it’s the one that made it less interesting. The NFL thrives because of quarterbacks. The league is constantly changing its rules to accommodate their health and completion rate for passes, facilitating comebacks – the sport’s true appeal – and turning quarterbacks into stars.
Baseball has taken the stars that starting pitchers used to be and turned them into game managers. Their task: just do not lose the game. Here are the lame vital signs from this post-season:
• Starters are 13-20 in 34 games, while they average 3.97 innings per game. start.
Starters have only thrown 100 pitches three times out of 68 starts.
• Relief pitchers account for 62% of wins and 55% of innings.
• The pitching duel is dead. Not once in 34 games has each starter hit seven innings.
Let’s be clear again: Snitker did well in Game 3. It’s not his job to worry about aesthetics. It’s his job to win. The problem is not the leaders. These are the emergency aid scanners. There are too many who are too good. Pitching laboratories have found that spin and speed can be learned and fabricated.
Take Phil Maton, for example. He went out of high school exhausted and exhausted after three years at Louisiana Tech. Padres finally drafted him in the 20th round in 2015 as a college senior. Maton had always been taught to keep his fastball down. After being drafted, the Padres sent him to their short season team, the Tri-City Dust Devils in Pasco, Wash. It was here he heard about the spin rate for the first time. Dust Devils measured his fastball with TrackMan technology. They found this choice in the 20th round, which was asked to keep its fastball down, had a spin rate in the major league.
“Throw your fastball high in the zone,” pitching coach Nelson Cruz said.
Maton quickly moved up the system and reached the major leagues two years after being drafted in the 20th round. The Padres traded him to Cleveland, which traded him to the Astros this year. His fastball generates the third highest scent rate in baseball, even at 91.5 mph.
These Maton stories happen with every team at every level every year. The stock is what has changed baseball. Leaders were once reluctant to go for more than two or three arms deep in their bullpen with a lead. Now, thankfully, they go five or six deep.
Bullpens kill starting legends and they kill comebacks. The team that scores first is 3-0 in this World Series and 27-7 in the off-season. Score first and you will win almost 80% of the time in this new post-season world. Where’s the drama in that?
The attack disappears when the best arms form their late relay races. Batters in this World Series hit .182 after sixth inning.
Two years ago, Anderson remains in the game, and phones everywhere are buzzing with news that he has a chance to join Don Larsen as the only pitcher to pitch a World Series no-hitter. Televisions that have been switched off are switched on. This time, Snitker did not want any of it.
The Astro had seen confused beyond Anderson’s change. In the fourth, Anderson tripled on his switch to Michael Brantley. Although Brantley saw three in a row at almost the same spot, he swung and missed the third for a strikeout. Anderson scored nine of his 15 outs on the shift.
In his career, which began last year (he is technically still a rookie), Anderson has allowed a .157 batting average on his switch. If you take all the throws and all the lanes they have thrown over the last two years (minimum 1,000 seats, post-season included), Anderson’s change is the fourth hardest lane to hit in the MLB, just following the curves of Framber Valdez (.128 )) and Charlie Morton (.148) and the splitter of Kevin Gausman (.130).
Most impressive is that upcoming October legend Anderson has kept batsmen on his switch in his postseason career to a batting average of .074.
“Yeah, I knew I had good stuff,” Anderson says. “[Martin] Maldonado hit the ball up the middle [for a groundout], but in addition there was not very hard contact. ”
I ask Anderson: “You had a no-hitter in the World Series – with 76 places. Honestly, how did you feel about being taken out?”
“I was fighting it,” he says.
To what level did you struggle with that?
“I just held his hand pretty tight in that handshake,” Anderson says, “you have to trust them. [bullpen] guys. Those guys are so good. “
Specialization is the name of the game. Minter this postseason has allowed a batting average of .100 on his cutter (0-to-3 in game 3). Jackson has the most moves on any shooter in the game (0-to-3 in game 3). Matzek has allowed a shot on his slider since June 24 (0-to-1 in Game 3). Smith has allowed a batting average of .188 on his two breaking lanes (0-for-2 in game 3).
Sorry, when Anderson was lifted, the idea of a no-hitter lost its appeal. A combined no-hitter is to baseball fame what “Four Dogs Playing Poker” is to the art world: whimsical, but there is no prestige in ownership.
On Thursday, the animal rights group PETA issued a statement on behalf of the cow kingdom, in which they advocate for the expulsion of the term “bullpen”. PETA proposed in seemingly serious terms “arm let” as a replacement. We could go to “Kings of Convenience” to refer to reliefs if it wasn’t already owned by a Norwegian indie folk-pop duo. Kings of Convenience released an album in 2009 called “Declaration of Dependence.” When it comes to how managers treat relief pitching, it can also stand as the title of this postseason
More MLB coverage:
• How does Atlanta handle its pitching going forward?
• Jose Altuve snaps his downturn using a playoff legend
• The Braves shut down baseball’s best offensive to achieve World Series Edge
• Why does MLB still allow synchronized, team-sanctioned racism in Atlanta?