I'm writing this after one in the morning on the east coast and things are just starting to die down. We've all had a chance to digest the final play and as you can imagine everyone on the internet is responding in a mature and reasonable manner. But that's not what I want to talk about because you've already had made up your mind about that play and there isn't really anything original to say about it. The focus here is a set of managerial decisions made by John Farrell in the 9th inning that led to that amazing final play.
This game had so many moments worthy of dissection but the crucial decision came when John Farrell let Brandon Workman hit in the ninth inning. You didn't read that incorrectly. In a time game in the ninth inning of a World Series game, a major league manager let a reliever hit against one of the best relievers in baseball. With the game on the line, Farrell let Workman face Trevor Rosenthal and it didn't go well. He gave up an out to make sure he didn't lose Workman, whom he wanted to use in the bottom half of the inning.
If the mere fact of letting a reliever hit wasn't enough, recall also that Mike Napoli was still on the bench. Farrell had his regular first baseman ready to hit and didn't use him to replace a relief pitcher. In the ninth inning of a World Series game. And if that wasn't enough for you, Farrell also had his lights out closer waiting in the bullpen as well. If he lost Workman, he'd still have his best guy ready to go for the next inning.
Farrell decided that getting length from Workman was so important that he gave away one of the most precious outs of the season to keep him in the game rather than go to Uehara. He had Dempster in the bullpen if the game went on all night, too. And then, of course, Farrell went to Uehara anyway at the first sign of trouble. Adams struck out and then Molina singled and Farrell went to his relief ace.
The hook was so fast that he pulled Workman after letting him bat the inning before. You know that the situation didn't work out for Farrell because his catcher make a bad throw to third base and the umpires made a somewhat controversial call, but the process of Farrell's decisions should override any other doubts about the game.
This wasn't the kind of thing about which reasonable people can disagree. I argue with people all the time about how closers should be used and would consider myself a militant believer in using closers during important moments no matter the score or inning, but we can all agree that letting Brandon Workman hit so that he could get pulled after allowing one baserunner is among the craziest things a manager has ever done.
Most people will look back at this game and remember the obstruction call, but in my years and years of watching baseball I don't think I've ever seen a managerial decision more confusing than the one Farrell made in the ninth inning. He let a reliever hit in a tie game in the ninth inning of a World Series game and then pulled him after allowing a single in the very next inning. He did so with a great hitter and a great reliever ready and able to go.
The Sox lost this game for a lot of reasons but I can't get beyond Farrell's decision-making and he's going to get a bit of a pass because the story of the day is the tango that Middlebrooks and Craig danced down at the hot corner. Farrell knows he screwed up but that's not the kind of thing you should ever screw up. This wasn't leaving a pitcher in a batter too long or going to the wrong reliever, he let a reliever hit and then pulled him after facing two more batters!
The obstruction call was a once in a lifetime kind of thing, but Farrell letting Workman hit wouldn't happen if you let a computer simulate the same game over and over until it died of old age. I can't imagine how Game 4 could live up to what we just saw, but I'm really hoping that it tries.
. . .
All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.
Neil Weinberg is a Staff Writer at Beyond The Box Score, contributor to Gammons Daily, and can also be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter at @NeilWeinberg44.
More from Beyond the Box Score:
- Should Carlos Martinez start in 2014?
- Game three in St. Louis
- Keeping score: can batting average and pitcher wins predict World Series winners?
- The St. Louis Cardinals and defensive metrics
- Dominating Differently: On Boston and St. Louis’ bullpens