If a team had a new starting pitcher show up, throw high heat and exhibit good control over multiple innings, most people would think it was awesome. It’s only when the guy closed games the season before and got a bunch of saves that this somehow becomes a problem. Case in point: Neftali Feliz, who had a nice start yesterday:
Even as he paced himself, Feliz’s fastball regularly clocked between 94 mph and 96. His slider locked knees. His changeup, which at one point he threw two pitches in a row, elicited weak swings.
“His mound presence, his use of his other pitches,” Ryan said, continuing the litany of Feliz praises.
Yet Gil Lebreton of the Star-Telegram — echoed by Buster Olney — calls this a “dilemma” because it might mean — gasp! — that instead of pitching 69 innings out of the pen, it may cause the Rangers to use him for 200 innings as a starter. And everyone knows that 60 ninth innings are way, way more important than 200 innings that occur between the first and eighth. I mean, that’s just science!
Dear Lord. Once — just once — I would like to get every baseball writer on the planet under oath for half a second and make them go on the record with an answer to one simple question: “what is more valuable: an excellent starting pitcher or an excellent relief pitcher.” Pending the answer to that question, I will decide whether to pay any attention to that person ever again.
UPDATE: As noted in the comments, I am being a bit unfair here. Lebreton does, at the end of the piece, opine that Feliz should be a starter and that filling out a bullpen should be secondary. So yes, he would pass my little test. I still take issue with this being presented as a “dilemma,” however, which is how his story is couched. If the writer is allowed to opine in his article as Lebreton opines here, and if he agrees that a starter is more valuable than a closer, he should probably be more critical of the Rangers for even suggesting that this is a “dilemma.” Because to the extent there is still uncertainty on what to do with Feliz in the Rangers’ mind, it is unreasonable uncertainty. To the extent there is not uncertainty, articles about Feliz’s role are kind of pointless.
After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.
The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).
Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.
With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.
Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.
With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.