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Our First Taste of 2018 Adversity

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Let’s all just take a deep breath, please?

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports


TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Things seem like they’ve have been getting a bit heated in the gameday threads recently, with a lot of perhaps overblown expressions of apocalyptic concern from the more doom-and-gloom-inclined frequenters of the ‘Pit, and a lot of strong and perhaps unduly savage backlash in response by the anti-doom-and-gloom contingent. My suggestion, my hope, my plea, as someone who at different times has been on both sides of the optimism divide and generally wobbles along from day to day right on the tipping point between one or the other, is that we collectively take a deep breath, take stock, have a look at what’s happened recently, and respect each other’s concerns and fears and optimism and hope, and try to allow that all to exist relatively peaceably in our complicated fandom universe as we all continue to root for our team.

GIVEN THAT

For myself, I feel like Lovullo made the wrong choice, or maybe a couple of wrong choices, this afternoon. As I think he has observed, and I’m fairly sure that baseball pundits have observed from time to time over the last couple of years, sometimes a save situation (not in terms of what that means in common parlance, but what it means in an actual game) sometimes occurs somewhere other than in the ninth inning. The Thursday game is, for me, a kind of exemplary example of that concept. Turned out the pivot point in the game was the eighth inning, especially after Salas was pulled after not retiring a batter. Why didn’t we bring in Hirano? I wish we had. I wish he’d started the eighth, actually, though if we’d done that, it would open up the question of who would come in for the ninth. Lovullo chose not to do that. In the GDT thread, Jim suggested that Hirano probably would have come in for the ninth, assuming Salas and De La Rosa had been able to hold the lead, but sadly, they couldn’t.

I can also understand bringing in JDLR to try to fix the mess that Salas created, given his record last year in stranding inherited runners. But coming in with no outs and the bases loaded is a particularly high-leverage situation, and clearly that was too much for Jorge today. Not sure Hirano could have handled it better or gotten out of it cleanly (probably not, though he probably wouldn’t have given up a balk and two run-scoring wild pitches either), but I wish we’d tried that. I felt at the time like we were essentially conceding the game, which didn’t sit well, especially given that at least one of our back-end regulars in the bullpen was rested.

THAT SAID

The back end of the bullpen has been overtaxed of late--one of those funny consequences of winning too many games in succession. Bradley, especially, I wouldn’t have wanted to see come in today, given how much he’s been used recently. Not so sure about Box...don’t know how fragile his arm is yet, but if it were me I would have had Hirano pitch the eighth and Box pitch the ninth, especially given that Box didn’t have to work yesterday. But I also trust Lovullo, and trust that he knows how rested and okay and at-risk the bullpen arms are, so if he didn’t do that, I suspect he had a good reason. Maybe we just needed to roll the dice with Salas and JDLR today, because everyone else wass gassed and at risk. Given the last stretch of games, I’d believe it, though I don’t particularly want to. Lovullo’s bullpen usage today was a strategic choice, though, and while it was one that didn’t work out, it’s hard not to see the reasons that one might make that choice, even if the results were sad and unfortunate and sucky.

BUT

This is not the end of the world, in our very young season. Yes, dropping the last two in the fashion that we did is a bummer in terms of momentum as well as in terms of, well, just being a bummer. But it wound up being a series split. We haven’t lost one yet. I don’t know if this Dodgers series was must-win--I’m pretty sure we’ve already won the season series against them at this point, and they’ve still got a hill to climb just to get back above .500. As many have noted in various comments in various places, it’s a 162-game season and there’s still a very long walk between here and the finish line. We’re a good team, and Koch has proved so far to be at least an adequate replacement for Taijuan Walker, and Ray doesn’t have arm trouble so he’ll be back relatively soon, and Souza is already back (though he didn’t do anything noteworthy for us today) and Lamb is on the mend and so forth. And our bats have been very cold recently, and our bats are better than that, and they will heat up eventually, probably not all at the same time but hopefully in a cascading sequence that leads to better results.

Yeah, there are reasons for concern, as there are on any team in MLB at any given moment. Yeah, we may be about to fall off a pitching-regression cliff. Yeah, two gut-punch losses to our main division foes could very well kill our momentum and send us into a tailspin. There are legitimate reasons to be afraid of stuff like that, if not from UZR+ metrics (is that a thing? I just made that up while typing—not a metrics guy—but I feel like it might actually be a thing) and the like than just from fan experience with the team over the last few years. It’s reasonable to be nervous. I feel nervous. At the same time, though, we’re 21-10 at this moment in time, and a record like that, especially against the strength-of-schedule we’ve already faced, doesn’t happen by accident. We’re doing something, or some things, right. Today might have been the beginning of it all falling apart and the wheels coming off and the bus going through the guardrail and any other disaster metaphor that comes to mind (apparently, much of what comes to mind for me involves vehicles, huh...good to know), but, honestly, probably not. 21-10. Keep that in mind, and let’s try to be nice to each other, as nice as we can be, anyway. Please?

As a final note, happy birthday, Sonoma! The last 365 have been rough ones, I think for a lot of us. Congratulations on getting through another year, which is no small thing. I hope you had a good day. Cheers.


[Some of the GDT dialogue made me sad today, hence the post. Feel free to yell at me in the comments, or under separate cover at daniel(dot)j(dot)pinney(at)gmail, if you feel like you need to. Passions are running high right now, say what you feel inclined to say. It’s all good.]