It may have worked out fine for the Blue Jays, but I still think that pulling Matt Shoemaker after just three innings was the wrong decision.
The pitching was not the reason for the Blue Jays’ 3-1 loss to the Rays yesterday, but I still think it’s worth talking about the decisions made by the coaching staff.
After three strong innings from Matt Shoemaker where he threw just 35 pitches, the Blue Jays pulled the veteran when he was absolutely dealing. From there they turned to Robbie Ray who immediately gave up a triple and the first Rays’ run, but from there was very effective for three innings. In all, the duo combined for six innings of one-run ball, and the plan worked out for Charlie Montoyo on the pitching side of things. In fact, had the offence been able to score more than one run the Blue Jays were in a position to win.
However, I still don’t like the decision, and allow me to explain why I’m questioning the game plan, even if it worked.
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First of all, Ray has been a bit of a wild card for the Blue Jays, and in general in 2020. When he’s been on he’s been very effective, but there are nights that he struggles with his control. Thankfully he was in good form on Tuesday, but what if things had gone the other way? Instead of getting six innings from Shoemaker/Ray, the bullpen would have had a much bigger task at hand, and that would have been significant when Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday, and Game 3 (if necessary) goes on Thursday. Again, it worked out just fine, but it could have gone very differently.
In my mind, you at least have to let Shoemaker start the fourth inning. I realize that starting pitchers may prefer to get a clean inning, but as it was the Rays ended up with a right-handed batter at the plate in Randy Arozarena who hit .400 against lefties this year, and just .227 against righties.
After the game Montoyo told the media that the original plan was to only have Shoemaker throw two innings, but they let him pitch the third because he was throwing well. By that logic, why not let him continue for the fourth inning? Again, Shoemaker had only thrown 35 pitches, so there’s a good chance that he could have thrown another inning or two at least, provided he was still effective. If that was the case, maybe the Blue Jays could even have saved Ray for another day in the event that either Hyun Jin Ryu or (hopefully) Taijuan Walker falter in their starts.
I realize that the modern day analytics of baseball say that that the batting averages and on-base percentages go up every time through the order for a starting pitcher. However, at some point I feel like you have to watch the game in front of you and still use the human element.
I’ll admit again, things worked out for Montoyo and the Blue Jays with the pitching plan, but I still don’t like the decision. Obviously the lack of offence makes the point moot, but I fear that this approach will come back to bite the Blue Jays later in the playoffs, if they’re able to last long enough to see Shoemaker’s next start.