The Los Angeles Dodgers won their first Fall Classic since 1988 on Tuesday, beating the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1, in Game 6 of the World Series.
Much of the postgame chatter, however, centered on the losing team; specifically, the Rays’ decision to remove Blake Snell from the game with one out in the sixth inning and the Rays up 1-0.
Did this decision cost Tampa Bay the win – and possibly the series?
Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney debated this very topic on CBS Sports Radio on Wednesday.
“You don’t want Blake Snell, [the] former Cy Young winner who’s pitching a gem, to face Mookie Betts the third time through the lineup,” Barber said on Tiki & Tierney, explaining the Rays’ rationale. “I know this is analytics. This is what we’ve all come to rely on from the Tampa Rays. . . . Unfortunately, because of how well Blake Snell was pitching when he got taken out, as Corey Seager said, it uplifted [the Dodgers]. It made them feel good. We know how the rest of the story played itself out.”
Betts doubled off Nick Anderson to tie the game at 1-1. The Dodgers then took the lead for good on a fielder’s choice by Seager.
The Rays never recovered.
“While it’s easy to criticize Kevin Cash, this is what they’ve been doing all season long, so I can’t really fault him,” Barber said. “I know your instincts got to take over, but organizationally, this is what they’ve been doing for three, four years now. So how can you abandon it just because you’re on a heightened stage?”
Brandon Tierney’s response?
“You can’t,” he said. “That’s why a lot of the ire, if not all the ire, that’s being directed [at] Kevin Cash this morning and today is wrong. First of all, it’s wasted energy because this was a predetermined situation. This was a collective decision. This is an organizational decision. This was not Kevin Cash’s decision. This was the Tampa Rays’ decision.”
One that baseball fans and analysts will debate for years to come.
“Listen, I am all for analytics,” Tierney said. “I truly am. I believe there’s a real place for numbers provided that there’s a human element that you don’t completely ignore, which they did. But pertaining to analytics in general, I’m a firm believer in being adaptable to the modification of the player, which will be Blake Snell, who is your best, and also being pliable enough to modify it to the situation.”
For example, how is the player playing in that moment? In Snell’s case, pretty well. He had allowed just two hits and struck out nine through 5 and 1/3 innings.
It was also a must-win game. In the World Series.
“If it’s anybody but Snell, there’s nothing to discuss,” Tierney said. “If they were winning 4-3 or 5-4, there’s nothing to discuss. But it’s one of the best pitchers in the game – and he’s got hardware to back that up – and he was so good. But Seager said it; Mookie Betts said it. You can quantify a million things; you can’t quantify the surge in confidence in the opposing dugout when a guy you cannot hit is pulled. There’s no analytics-driven data for that. . . . When Blake Snell walked off that mound, the Dodgers said, ‘It’s go time.’”