The Invisible Babe
On August 4, the Blue Jays were wobbling. On the heels of losing three out of four at home to the Orioles, they traveled to Fenway Park to play the Red Sox, who sat only two games behind the Jays in the playoff race and had already beaten them seven consecutive times to start the season.
That morning, a former 28th-round pick named Davis Schneider was called up to the Jays from Triple-A Buffalo. Of course, we all know what happened next. Schneider went off against the Sox, famously hitting a home run in his first career at bat, and leading the Jays to a three-game sweep, earning him the nickname, “Babe.”
A few days later, Schneider unexpectedly disappeared from the lineup, making only one start from August 13-25. Incidentally, in this start, Schneider hit the game winning home run.
When he finally returned on August 26, with the Jays in the midst of a 5-8 stretch and having fallen out of a playoff spot, Schneider went 3/3 with a home run in an 8-3 Jays win. The next day, well, you probably already see where this is going, he hit another homer, and then another two days after that, as the Jays launched into a 10-4 stretch.
Like any young player, Schneider eventually ran into some struggles, enduring an 0-31 slump down the stretch before hitting two ringing doubles in the final game of the season. Still though, as the offense floundered its way to one measly run across 18 innings of two playoff games, it was impossible not to wonder why John Schneider did not give the Babe a chance to save the season once again.
Could he not have pinch hit instead of Merrifield or Espinal? Could he not have replaced a hopelessly overmatched Daulton Varsho in the final at bat of the season representing the tying run? Instead, Davis Schneider remained glued to the bench to the very last out, unable to earn so much as one opportunity to recapture the magic one more time.
That’s the thing about managing by analytics though.
Just about everyone reading this knows certain people – at work, on their beer league teams, in life – who have the innate ability to show up when the chips are down, to perform at their best in the most important moments. It’s not a complicated or controversial statement. And yet, the doctrine of analytics denies that these people even exist.
Is Davis Schneider such a person? Surely it is too early in his career to know for sure. But thanks to John Schneider and his unwavering servility to analytics-based lineup construction, we did not even get the opportunity to find out.