Not in the Box Score: What A Manager Needs

Welcome to my new segment called: Not in the Box Score.  This segment is meant to examine parts of the game that don’t show up on the stat sheet, but can still contribute to a team’s chances at winning.

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Tonight’s highlighted player is David Hale, a relief pitcher for the New York Yankees.  Hale has struggled to find traction in his baseball career since being drafted by the Atlanta Braves back in 2013.  Following stints in the minors and majors with the Braves, Orioles, Dodgers, two stints with the Yankees this year around a briefer waiver claim by the Twins, Hale has been looking for his opportunity to stick.

And maybe on Friday night, he took a step in the right direction.

The box score says the Yankees lost to the Blue Jays 6-2.  But let’s take a closer look.

Sonny Gray was hit hard in the second inning, capped by a three-run home run by Justin Smoak.  Gray hasn’t been pitching well, and Yankees manager Aaron Boone has to believe his team is capable of coming back from five runs down after only two innings.  He could’ve stuck with Gray, but instead enlisted the relief of David Hale in the bottom of the third.

From Boone’s perspective, he had to be hoping for a few innings, maybe a run or two, anything to bridge the gap to the late innings for his big guns out of the ‘pen.  After all, Hale had only pitched eight innings in the Majors all year.  Plus, he came into the game with a 6.75 ERA.  With all the arms the Yankees have, this seems like a questionable choice by Boone.  But Hale made it look like the right call.

Before we talk about his contribution, it should be noted that the Yankees played their first of eleven straight days of road games on Friday, the last four of which are against the red hot Cleveland Indians.  Boone knows this, and he has to make sure he takes care of his bullpen so they are still effective at the end of this long stretch.  There’s no day off until the All-Star break, so the last thing the Yankees needed was their starter not being able to pitch into the third inning.

Hale delivered.  He pitched 5.2 innings, and was finally tagged with a run in the eighth before handing the ball off to Chasen Shreve.  He scattered five hits and struck out four while walking a pair.

And while you’ll see those figures in the box score, what you won’t see is the effect of this game tomorrow and beyond for the Yankees bullpen.  The rest of the Yankees ‘pen has now had consecutive days off and are staring at ten more days in a row of road baseball. What if Hale had been roughed up in the third or fourth inning?  New York would’ve had to dip further into their staff, depleting ever so slightly a gas tank that needs enough fuel for a lengthy road trip.  And sure, the Blue Jays prevailed in this game.  And I think that’s the point — Hale is one example of many relievers who give a manager what they need — to not have their other pitchers appear in the box score.

Baseball is a long season.  When we look at a box score, it’s a self-contained group of numbers where there’s a single result.  Between games, managers pour over their rosters, they talk to players, see how they’re feeling, get gut feelings.  They have to think of the long haul and outside the single box score.

Am I saying Aaron Boone KNEW Hale was going to give him almost six strong innings when there really wasn’t any reason to believe such an effort would happen? Of course not.  Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe tomorrow, Toronto hammers every pitcher New York puts on the mound and it’s irrelevant.  Baseball is a wonderful game that doesn’t care about a manager’s plans or a reliever’s good effort.

And while we do quantify Hale’s efforts, the Yankees benefit from this effort tomorrow, which means 5.2 innings can actually have an effect on tomorrow’s ballgame which won’t show up in anyone’s line.  Not only did Hale make Boone’s job a little easier tonight, he also added a bit of momentum to his own career that needs a jump start.  And that’s why David Hale is today’s “Not in the Box Score.”

photo credit: Kim Klement USA Today
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2 thoughts on “Not in the Box Score: What A Manager Needs

  1. Gray… Tear… Always an A in my heart.
    Excellent post, and I think a great angle for a new perspective.
    However, it leads to the inevitable question: How do we quantify this and make it a stat? Relief pitchers conserved? Innings pitched above average compared to other relief pitchers (maybe even with a standard deviation to boot)?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great question, but I think the beauty of it is that it doesn’t need to be. His manager and his teammates see his contribution. It’s just like a pre-game talk from a veteran or a gospel-like moment of inspiration from a guy like Hunter Pence. These things will never have a stat but they do win ballgames. I think my piece tonight is debatable because there IS a stat of how many innings he pitched. But tomorrow’s game is directly impacted as Boone now has more choices. Not in the box score, but certainly helps the win. Thanks for reading!

      Like

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