Say what you will about Tiger’s manager Jim Leyland, and most people feel free to, but he made a very important decision this weekend, and it paid off. Leyland could have pitched Justin Verlander on a full 4 days rest against the Indians on Sunday. Instead, he let Rick Porcello deal with the Indians, and left Verlander for the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday. The result: two big wins.
The Leyland detractors will be quick to say that Porcello didn’t get the win against the Indians, and he was chased after four innings. That’s very true. But let’s assume he has that same outing against the Rays. Do you think the Tigers would have scored 7 runs against the Rays’ Jeff Niemann with the way he pitched Monday as they had beat up on the Indians’ Ubaldo Jimenez on Sunday? Not likely.
You can say all you want about how we don’t know what Porcello would have done against the Rays’, or even how Verlander would have fared against the Indians, but considering the way it played out, can’t we be reasonably sure? Verlander now hasn’t lost since mid-July. The Rays’ offense is far more potent than the Indians. There is no reason to believe Verlander couldn’t have handled the Indians, considering his gem against the Rays.
Of course, the converse is also true in Porcello’s case. If he couldn’t get out of the fourth against the Indians, it might have been even uglier against the Rays. Thinking of it that way, maybe the biggest (and luckiest) assumption by the manager might have been that the offense was going to be able to batter around Jimenez better then Neimann. Again, he was right on.
I don’t believe a manager is lucky though. I believe if you’ve done this as long as Leyland has, decisions like this are based on more than simple assumptions. Jimenez had baffled the Tigers in Cleveland not all that long ago. But, as the radio broadcast pointed out, Jimenez has not faired well on the road his last month plus. In addition, the Tigers’ new house of horrors, now that the Metrodome is gone, appears to be Jacobs Field. At Comerica, the Tigers have dominated the Tribe.
Also, credit the manager for the way he handled his bullpen before getting kicked out of the game. He didn’t mess around with his bullpen. When it seemed like a pitcher didn’t have it, and most of them didn’t, he yanked ’em. Below, Perry, Schlereth all got the hook as soon as it looked like they couldn’t get people out. I know the need for a win played heavy in those decisions to yank pitchers quickly, but again, with Verlander going Monday, you could use everyone. Why? Because you figured they’d all get the next day off. He was right.
I’m not going to say that every move that Jim Leyland makes is 100% correct. But it does seem like the guy gets beat up a lot (mostly over his wacky line-ups and day off giving). You are going to undertake a fair amount of scrutiny as a manager. Remember, hindsight it always 20/20. This time it was the foresight was too.