On Ian Anderson, a wise World Series move and why we shouldn’t care so much about non-hitters
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ATLANTA – There was an exciting World Series Game 3 on Friday night, but you might not know it because baseball is apparently in crisis.
This crisis, on the verge of wiping out the national pastime, if you believe the hyperbole of social media, was brought to light during the game when Braves manager Brian Snitker opted to remove the starting pitcher Ian Anderson, despite having pitched five innings without a hitting while the Braves held a slim 1-0 lead.
Anderson had been “effectively savage,” as Astros manager Dusty Baker put it. He didn’t really work, but Anderson was far from the sharpest and he threw almost as many balls as he threw. The move made sense, as Snitker was trying to win a match in a literal World Series. It worked, and now the Braves are two championship wins away.
“I’m just going with my guts here,” Snitker told Anderson.
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Despite the logic of the sound, many pearls were grabbed – and Joc Pederson didn’t even play. For many fans and observers, it was an unfortunate decision as it deprived the masses of the opportunity to see part of World Series history.
This game has changed!
Why not let him go!
Treat the fans to something exciting!
It could have been only the second without a hit in the history of the Fall Classic. It would have been a non-hitter combined and would have featured a minimum of five base runners, apparently it doesn’t mean anything. But it should.
Here’s the thing: We care too much about non-hitters. This is especially silly because we’ve seen a number of times throughout baseball history that someone can pitch a hit and look bad while doing it (hello, AJ Burnett).
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Over the past few seasons, I’ve jokingly established a set of rules I call Jason’s rules for non-hitters. For a non-batter to be a good non-batter, a pitcher or team must limit opposition to no more than three base runners in nine innings. No more than that and things quickly lose their shine – especially in an age when the base percentage is much more appreciated than the batting average. Also, there were 13 – THIRTEEN! – no hitters in 2021, including six non-no combined. The frequency and the method made the novelty fade away.
If the Braves had finished a combined Friday without a hitting it would have been a fun World Series, a historic statistical oddity. But it wouldn’t have been special the way non-hitter is meant to be. And it certainly wasn’t worth risking with a World Series game on the line.
“I wanted to win today and we’ll deal with tomorrow tomorrow,” Snitker told reporters.
It’s the right approach, although Snitker admitted he probably would have made a different decision even two years ago. But, again, the point is to win the game in front of you, not to maintain a sense of tradition. Thank Snitker, an old school manager he is, for stepping away from sentiment.
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The aftermath of the complaints was mostly brought on by old-school baseball purists, who launched critical thoughts and exasperated tweets about how this approach is ruining the game and how such things don’t have the effect. kind of show that will make the audience grow. But I would say the casual fans watching Friday’s game didn’t even notice that the Astros weren’t having a hit. There was a lot of traffic on the bases. The fact that the traffic came “only” via goals and hitters does not equate to a special pitcher’s performance.
Traffic is traffic, and if one of Anderson’s four runners had been hit, there would be almost no doubt whether he should be pulled out after five innings and 76 shots.
This is when the eye test really matters. Those who watched could tell that Anderson was not at his best. You might even say he was lucky to keep the Astros off the board for five innings. It would seem unwise to push the luck into the World Series in case it leads to a statistical oddity that doesn’t have any real bearing on the outcome of the series.
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