We all saw this coming with the replay challenge system

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This is taken from this morning’s And That Happened recaps. I made it its own post because the recaps tend to get buried by mid-morning.

Day 2 of instant replay and everything that many of us said could go wrong with a challenge-based system went wrong:

(a) A critical call was blown;
(b) the call could not be reviewed because the manager was out of challenges;
(c) the wholly arbitrary rule that umpires can’t initiate reviews before the seventh inning was in effect;
(d) the blown-but-unreviewable call constituted the game’s margin of victory; and
(e) all of that led to extended delays.

As for the facts: the entire description of what went wrong and why can be read here, but the short version is that Giants manager Bruce Bochy was penalized for mounting an unsuccessful challenge on one close-as-could-be play by not being able to challenge and overturn an obviously missed call by the umpires on a run-scoring play in last night’s game against the Diamondbacks. The rule has it that a manager gets one challenge and he can only use a second one if the first one was successful. That arbitrary seventh inning rule prevented the umps from reviewing it themselves.

Of course, why a totally defensible, but ultimately unsuccessful challenge on one play deprives a manager of a challenge on a wholly unrelated play is utterly beyond me. Why umpires — or anyone — can’t initiate review of plays that are clearly botched before the seventh inning is likewise beyond me. Why Bruce Bochy and the Giants have to bear the burden of fixing the umpire’s mistakes — and do so in a manner that requires game show-like calculation and management of scarce, gimmicky resources — is so far beyond me that I’d get jet lag if I had to go visit it. Baseball sold the challenge system on its “uniqueness and charm.” This was certainly unique, but not at all charming.

I’m sure, to the extent there are any official responses to the events of this game, they will reference the fact that, as recently as last season, the same outcome would have occurred here but, unlike last year at least there was a chance for the run-scoring call here to be reviewed (that chance being had Bruce Bochy not burned his challenge). Don’t accept that answer. Baseball had carte blanche and the support of everyone to institute a system that got calls right. They chose, however, to go with a system that, by definition, does not have getting calls right as its sole objective. A system which managers do not care for and which its former head of umpiring said “would lead to unbelievable confusion and would miss the point of instituting replay.”

Well, mission accomplished.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.