It’s all about the 6th Inning

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Baseball isn’t doing so well on the national stage with not many people watching and FOX putting WS post-game coverage on another channel about two hours after the game is over (which has enabled me to watch an exciting finish between USC and Utah handled by the most exciting announcer in America, Gus Johnson). It’s popularity has dropped so much, they are going to need Men in Blazers to start hyping it to replace soccer as the third most popular sport in America.

Hopefully, people watched tonight. With KC’s bullpen so good from the 7th inning on, the Giants had to get a lead early. Trailing 4-1 after a disastrous 3rd inning didn’t help. But that meant there was an incredible amount of strategizing, excitement, tension, and huge moments between innings 3 to 6 from both teams, and especially the Giants. So many different players mattered, so many different pitches, hits, and catches were absolutely critical. And the best part of it as that the Giants made more of the biggest plays.

Jonah Keri has an article repeating the new mantra about the importance of the 6th inning and the need to both pull starting pitchers and put top relievers in that spot. He criticizes Bochy’s choices in game 2 when he left in Peavy too long, and followed him with Machi and Strickland who imploded. Same thing happened in game 3 when Bochy left Hudson in too long and Javier Lopez couldn’t clean up the mess. In game 4, it was Ned Yost’s turn to be scrutinized because he didn’t go to Herrera in the 6th, the inning which the Giants scored 3 runs to take a 7-4 lead.

Long term, the statistics on starting pitchers failures for the third time through the order could really change the game. With the exception of a few elite pitchers, the rest of baseball’s starters will be going 5 innings, and guys who can pitch the 6th and 7th will go up in value. It doesn’t work so well during the season because guys are going to get tired. It also didn’t work at all for the Colorado Rockies last year who tried a version of this.

Even in this WS, it’s not so easy to employ. Herrera looked exhausted in game 3. I’m not sure he was ready for game 4. Petit starting the 6th inning of game 2, in hindsight, would probably have been genius. Here’s where Lincecum in 2012 and his potential for 2014 could have mattered, too. (I’d have liked to have seen Lincecum in the 8th inning last night instead of Romo–they are up 11-4, so save Romo and see if Lincecum has the kind of stuff to make him relevant in the way he was in 2012. I do like going to Strickland in the 9th. His stuff is electric, and he’s still a tantalizing option against a hitter here and there with the right matchup.) Also, if you manage the 6th like its the 8th or 9th, you still have to manage in the 8th and 9th. Everyone is criticizing managers for decisions in the 6th; wait until the 6th goes smoothly, and Bochy is having to turn to Machi and Strickland in the 8th.

As Keri rightly points out, Petit is an unmatched and underutilized weapon of the Giants. Going forward, hopefully Bumgarner can do his thing in game 5 and the Giants can lead the series. For game 6, Bochy should go with Peavy for 3-4 innings, and then Petit from 4-6, with Affeldt, Romo, Santiago for the final 3. Peavy is awesome first time through the order, Petit is awesome in the middle, then we go to our big 3. If there’s a game 7, I’d do the same thing, with Bumgarner taking the role of Petit. And you’ve still got multiple other guys for big outs here and there.

Don’t worry, Mark. only a few more days, and its time for basketball.

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