The Alex Cora Difference

pk1627

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What we learned about playoff Cora:
1. He'll use the entire roster
2. He'll platoon every infield position except short
3. He'll play JBJ every game for the defense (until the WS, I presume)
4. He knows when to change pitchers - real great job of that this series
5. He'll use starters when the pen is short
6. He considers Barnes the guy to face the heart of the order pre-ninth
7. He won't ph the catcher with the lead
8. Aggressive on bases with a 3-2 count
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Arguing that Sale should have been left in for the 9th is 1000000% hindsight. You have a three run lead AND it wasn't do or die. If you lose, you still have to play on Thursday and Sale is the guy you want starting that game. Frankly, it was already a bit of a risk using him in the 8th knowing that there's still a chance you might need him for Game 5. At least at 12-13 pitches, it's the equivalent of a side-session he'd likely have thrown between starts anyway. There's a reason Cora used him there against 8-9-1 and not in the 6th against 2-3-4...less stress and less chance of getting into trouble that could balloon his pitch count.
 

dhappy42

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Arguing that Sale should have been left in for the 9th is 1000000% hindsight. You have a three run lead AND it wasn't do or die. If you lose, you still have to play on Thursday and Sale is the guy you want starting that game. Frankly, it was already a bit of a risk using him in the 8th knowing that there's still a chance you might need him for Game 5. At least at 12-13 pitches, it's the equivalent of a side-session he'd likely have thrown between starts anyway. There's a reason Cora used him there against 8-9-1 and not in the 6th against 2-3-4...less stress and less chance of getting into trouble that could balloon his pitch count.
Not hindsight in my case. Argued for it at the time. Not vehemently, though. I had no problem with Kimbrel coming in. Didn’t for a second think he’d crack up... until he did. Just thought Sale was cruising and another 10-20 pitches would do no harm.
 

uk_sox_fan

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I disagree with those who say he should have used Sale to close out the game for the reason that many have said - the risk would have been too great that his pitch count would climb to the point that it would impact his availability to start Game 1 (or, Lord help us, Game 5). That said, I was nervous about Kimbrel facing Judge leading off the 9th and was arguing at the time that Sale should have stayed on for one batter no matter what the result (note: I suspect that it was quite unlikely that Cora could hear my arguments in time since I was actually watching the game off a recording when I got up this morning - things you gotta due to follow this team from the BST time zone)

I wasn't 100% certain that this was the right thing to do because a) there was a real chance that Judge could work him for a 10-pitch at-bat, b) I am not privvy to Sox brain-trust thinking about how many pitches are too many for Sale in between starts esp. considering his still work-in-progress recovery from shoulder inflamation and c) I'm willing to concede that said brain-trust has a better appreciation than I do of the importance of Kimbrel taking over with a clean slate vs the possibility that Judge would reach base. But all that said, I would have preferred to see Sale face Judge and then turn it over to Kimbrel for the 2-out non-save.

I'm in the camp that the decision not to PH Holt for Vazquez was pretty damned suspect - I remember imagining the vitriol on the game thread when I saw that Vazquez would be allowed to hit but couldn't witness any of it since the chance of stumbling across 'spoilers' to my 4-hour tape delay were far too great. That all said I think Cora deserves huge credit for managing at a high level throughout the Series and has proven to be a significant asset to the team's chances this post-season.
 

FanSinceTed

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Agreed, Holt should have hit. For all the reasons described. A no-brainer. Surprised that I have not seen yet the bigger "miss " by Cora and Staff during the ninth inning. Why was Judge being held on by Pearce with no out and Gregorius at bat ? In the hope that they would turn a 3-6-3 DP ? No way. You play back - way back vs. a lefty - at first in that situation. He can steal if he wants to. You need to protect against the groundball in the hole ( that could easily be fielded by the first baseman ). Voila'. There it was........ Big difference between one out and a runner on 2nd. than 1st. and 2nd. no out. A big faux pas, I will submit. ( am an old first baseman and a collegiate coach for many years ).
 

dhappy42

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Agreed, Holt should have hit. For all the reasons described. A no-brainer. Surprised that I have not seen yet the bigger "miss " by Cora and Staff during the ninth inning. Why was Judge being held on by Pearce with no out and Gregorius at bat ? In the hope that they would turn a 3-6-3 DP ? No way. You play back - way back vs. a lefty - at first in that situation. He can steal if he wants to. You need to protect against the groundball in the hole ( that could easily be fielded by the first baseman ). Voila'. There it was........ Big difference between one out and a runner on 2nd. than 1st. and 2nd. no out. A big faux pas, I will submit. ( am an old first baseman and a collegiate coach for many years ).
Good catch.
 

uk_sox_fan

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Excellent point on holding Judge on. It should have been all about maximizing the chances for outs at that point. Isn't that essentially what we all learned just under 32 years ago?
 

TheoShmeo

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Not hindsight in my case. Argued for it at the time. Not vehemently, though. I had no problem with Kimbrel coming in. Didn’t for a second think he’d crack up... until he did. Just thought Sale was cruising and another 10-20 pitches would do no harm.
Ironically, perhaps, I had a Yankees fan at the Can next to me who was arguing just your point when they brought Kimbrel in.

If the Sox are going to win the WS, they will need a closer, almost definitely. Closer by Committee in the playoffs is a tough way to live. Unless Kimbrel melts down next time out, he's that guy. And before last night, there wasn't a lot of reason to worry that he would shit the bed. .Also, if Sale blew it in the 9th, Cora probably would have lost him for the Game 5 starting role and the next option would have been Price. That's just too "all in" on the bet.
 

JimD

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From the various accounts, it seems that the medical staff advised to pitch Sale for one inning only. Given that we hope we'll need Chris to make multiple starts over the better part of three weeks, I don't think it would have been wise to push it and get greedy there. I thought that the major risk with Kimbrel was him giving up a solo dinger to one of the big bats but otherwise I wasn't overly concerned beyond the normal anxiety brought on by such a big game.
 

Byrdbrain

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Pitching Sale for a 2nd inning was never going to happen and should never have happened.
I'm ambivalent about PHing for Vazquez, they were up 3 runs, he had hit a HR earlier(yes it was cheap I don't care) and he had been good defensively.
Playing Pearce off the bag likely should have been done but I'm not going to get on Cora for that.
 

InsideTheParker

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Criticizing Alex Cora for not pitch-hitting for Vasquez is a nitpick, IMO. And it is not taking away anything from the players to acknowledge that Cora managed this series like a seasoned veteran and not a rookie like Boone clearly did. Loved the quick hook on Price and him bringing in Porcello and Sale in relief roles. I hope he learns from last night and doesn't feel the need to automatically award Kimbrel the ninth inning, especially if he gets creative with the starters and has someone pitching the eighth and is clearly effective.
Agree with every word in this post.
 

TheYaz67

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I think he just missed including the word "almost" in between Astros and blew.... their bats did in several games have to bail out several of the guys in the back end of their bullpen (Devenski as well)...
 

Byrdbrain

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It was sarcasm folks, he was pointing out that it can be done and in fact it was done just last year by the team that Cora was coaching.
 

joe dokes

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Nope. Byrdbrain is correct.
I was just adding more sarcasm to Theo's about the "closer" issue, since Cora's most recent team didn't have one.
 
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TheoShmeo

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Sarcasm noted. But the point remains. It is hard to win in the post-season without a closer, despite what Houston was able to pull off last year. The need for a reliable closer undoubtedly partially explains Houston's willingness to take on the otherwise toxic Osuna. Very few teams in recent times have won it all without one and I don't think it's a stretch to say that each of Foulke, Papelbon and Koji were absolutely critical to his team's title.

In addition, the main thing I was trying to get across is that Cora had two excellent reasons for not sticking with Sale. One, that Kimbrel is his closer and he's going to need one going forward. Two, and even more important, Sale was slated to start on Thursday if things went badly the rest of the way, and on Saturday night if they did not. Getting greedy on Tuesday night could have affected his availability. That Houston won despite Giles does not change the fact that Cora likely did not want to go down that same path and wanted to avoid the loss or minimization of Sale's next scheduled start.

Unrelated point: I wonder the extent to which Cora considered that Price has not been incredibly successful in cold weather when he decided to start him in Boston. AC cited the Park as an issue but left field is close in both places. My choice would have been to make DP a reliever in that I think he's likely to continue to put undue pressure on himself as a starter. But with that bias admitted, I think that Boston on a colder night gives Price one more hurdle to overcome.

Cora has been Midas so hopefully this is just one more example of when his gut/thinking was right.
 
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Reggie's Racquet

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If the Sox are going to win the WS, they will need a closer, almost definitely. Closer by Committee in the playoffs is a tough way to live. Unless Kimbrel melts down next time out, he's that guy. And before last night, there wasn't a lot of reason to worry that he would shit the bed.
Maybe this was mentioned upthread but Kimbrel is better with regular work. Perhaps Cora should have given him an inning in the 16-1 blowout win the night before. He hadn’t pitched for almost four days before the save that almost killed us all.
 

dhappy42

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...the main thing I was trying to get across is that Cora had two excellent reasons for not sticking with Sale. One, that Kimbrel is his closer and he's going to need one going forward.

Two, and even more important, Sale was slated to start on Thursday if things went badly the rest of the way, and on Saturday night if they did not. Getting greedy on Tuesday night could have affected his availability...
We’re deep in the post-game analysis hindsight weeds here, but (1) how would leaving Sale in for a batter or two/three in the ninth have meant that Kimbrel “the closer” would not have been available later? Are you saying that leaving Sale in would have hurt Kimbrel’s feelings and made him less effective later? I’d buy that argument if it was anyone other than Sale we were talking about.

Re (2) Sale threw 13 pitches in the 8th. How many pitches does he throw in a mid-start side-session? Cora could have had Kimbrel warming up and brought him in if Sale’s pitch count became a problem. It’d have made some sense to let Sale pitch to Judge (who hit a HR off Kimbrel in Game 1) and Gregorius (a lefty.) Kimbrel was obviously afraid of Judge and wouldn’t throw him a strike.

FWIW, although it occurred to me at the time that Sale could-maybe-should pitch the 9th, I didn’t think for a moment that it’d actually happen, nor am arguing that Cora made a mistake. The go-with-your-closer-that’s-what-he’s there-for logic makes sense. But bringing Sale in to face Judge and Gregorius, at least, would have made sense too.
 

JimD

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The silver lining to Kimbrel's near-meltdown is that Alex Cora is now vividly aware of the possibility of a repeat. I would not be surprised if he elects to let his eighth inning guy come out to start the ninth if he is pitching well, or let a starter-turned-reliever go longer that he's let Porcello and Sale thus far, and unlike Tuesday night I expect he will be ready to have someone start throwing in the bullpen at the first sign of trouble from Kimbrel in a future outing.
 

TheoShmeo

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We’re deep in the post-game analysis hindsight weeds here, but (1) how would leaving Sale in for a batter or two/three in the ninth have meant that Kimbrel “the closer” would not have been available later? Are you saying that leaving Sale in would have hurt Kimbrel’s feelings and made him less effective later? I’d buy that argument if it was anyone other than Sale we were talking about.

Re (2) Sale threw 13 pitches in the 8th. How many pitches does he throw in a mid-start side-session? Cora could have had Kimbrel warming up and brought him in if Sale’s pitch count became a problem. It’d have made some sense to let Sale pitch to Judge (who hit a HR off Kimbrel in Game 1) and Gregorius (a lefty.) Kimbrel was obviously afraid of Judge and wouldn’t throw him a strike.

FWIW, although it occurred to me at the time that Sale could-maybe-should pitch the 9th, I didn’t think for a moment that it’d actually happen, nor am arguing that Cora made a mistake. The go-with-your-closer-that’s-what-he’s there-for logic makes sense. But bringing Sale in to face Judge and Gregorius, at least, would have made sense too.
Not exactly hurt feelings. I just think it's a bad message for Kimbrel to be passed over in the 9th. Not death to Kimbrel's effectiveness, but still not optimal. And while two more batters would not have doomed Sale, given that he's already a little sketchy health wise, I was not anxious for him to get ANY more mileage ahead of a date with the Yankees on Thursday night or one with Houston on Saturday night. None of this is binary or fall off the cliff stuff. I just thought it was the right move to go with Kimbrel there, for those reasons...and because Kimbrel is usually pretty damned good at his job.
 

lexrageorge

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We’re deep in the post-game analysis hindsight weeds here, but (1) how would leaving Sale in for a batter or two/three in the ninth have meant that Kimbrel “the closer” would not have been available later? Are you saying that leaving Sale in would have hurt Kimbrel’s feelings and made him less effective later? I’d buy that argument if it was anyone other than Sale we were talking about.

Re (2) Sale threw 13 pitches in the 8th. How many pitches does he throw in a mid-start side-session? Cora could have had Kimbrel warming up and brought him in if Sale’s pitch count became a problem. It’d have made some sense to let Sale pitch to Judge (who hit a HR off Kimbrel in Game 1) and Gregorius (a lefty.) Kimbrel was obviously afraid of Judge and wouldn’t throw him a strike.

FWIW, although it occurred to me at the time that Sale could-maybe-should pitch the 9th, I didn’t think for a moment that it’d actually happen, nor am arguing that Cora made a mistake. The go-with-your-closer-that’s-what-he’s there-for logic makes sense. But bringing Sale in to face Judge and Gregorius, at least, would have made sense too.
I had heard somewhere yesterday that Cora got the go ahead from the Sox medical staff that Sale could pitch an inning of relief. With the caveat that this could be a game of telephone, I interpret that to mean that Sale was allowed to pitch one inning and no more, regardless of the circumstances. I can't really blame them for being cautious to some degree with Sale; throwing to a couple of extra batters in the 9th would not have been worth it had it meant that Sale woke up this morning experiencing "more than his usual soreness" and we're seeing Brian Johnson's name being added to the ALCS roster.

Keep in mind that they started the 9th inning with a 96% win expectancy. You sort of expect Kimbrel to be able to close out that game.

Also, there is a pretty big difference between side-session throwing, and pitching in a playoff game in Yankee Stadium.
 

dhappy42

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I would like to think that in a similar situation, clinching game, against Houston or hopefully, the WS, we see sale at least start the 9th.
Especially if the lead-off batter has recently taken Kimbrel yard and the second batter is a lefty.

If the reason Cora didn’t let Sale stay in the game (I read somewhere that Sale wanted to) was because the med staff said one-inning only, that’s a good enough reason.
 

BaseballJones

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Kimbrel's career playoff numbers: 12.1 ip, 7 h, 6 r, 5 er, 6 bb, 19 k, 3.65 era, 1.05 whip, 13.9 k/9

Kimbrel's last three playoff games:
1.0 ip, 3 h, 1 r, 1 er, 1 bb, 1 k (1 hbp)
1.1 ip, 1 h, 1 r, 1 er, 0 bb, 3 k
1.0 ip, 1 h, 2 r, 2 er, 2 bb, 1 k (1 hbp)
TOT: 3.1 ip, 5 h, 4 r, 4 er, 3 bb, 5 k, 10.80 era, 2.40 whip, 13.5 k/9
 

geoduck no quahog

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C'mon...it comes down to how many pitches are thrown (in a game situation versus the bullpen) and how many times you sit down and then get back up.

Sale was always going to be 1 inning max, unless he got to something like 25 pitches. Why would you endanger the game 5 starter when you have a good closer in the pen?
 

TheoShmeo

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Yeah, if that pattern continues after his next outing, all bets are off. And yeah, no brainer to stay with an effective sale in a clinching WS game.
 

lexrageorge

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Kimbrel's career playoff numbers: 12.1 ip, 7 h, 6 r, 5 er, 6 bb, 19 k, 3.65 era, 1.05 whip, 13.9 k/9

Kimbrel's last three playoff games:
1.0 ip, 3 h, 1 r, 1 er, 1 bb, 1 k (1 hbp)
1.1 ip, 1 h, 1 r, 1 er, 0 bb, 3 k
1.0 ip, 1 h, 2 r, 2 er, 2 bb, 1 k (1 hbp)
TOT: 3.1 ip, 5 h, 4 r, 4 er, 3 bb, 5 k, 10.80 era, 2.40 whip, 13.5 k/9
Especially if the lead-off batter has recently taken Kimbrel yard and the second batter is a lefty.
Having seen the Judge HR mentioned a couple of times, it should be noted that Kimbrel struck out 3 out of 5 Yankees in that key 4 out appearance in Game 1. And Judge's homer was really a great piece of hitting more than anything Kimbrel did wrong. Sometimes it happens, and projecting anything from that one at bat is a borderline Cafardo (or Eric Van) -like take.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Especially if the lead-off batter has recently taken Kimbrel yard and the second batter is a lefty.
Even with the HR in Game 1, I don't see why they would be afraid to let Kimbrel face Judge with the bases empty and a three run lead. The worst he could do is hit a HR and you have a two run lead with the bases empty. Big deal.

Kimbrel allowed a .153/.284/.347 line to lefties this year and .164/.258/.254 to them in his career. No reason to save him from Didi Gregorius.
 

dhappy42

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Even with the HR in Game 1, I don't see why they would be afraid to let Kimbrel face Judge with the bases empty and a three run lead. The worst he could do is hit a HR and you have a two run lead with the bases empty. Big deal.

Kimbrel allowed a .153/.284/.347 line to lefties this year and .164/.258/.254 to them in his career. No reason to save him from Didi Gregorius.
Didn’t say “afraid” to let Kimbrel face Judge. Or that Kimbrel needing saving from Gregorius. Said Sale was cruising, threw just 13 pitches and wanted to stay in for the 9th and that letting him face Judge and Gregorius, at least, assuming his pitch count stayed low, would not have been crazy.
 

DeadlySplitter

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I thought the 2nd pitch of his 28 pitch outing - a 1-0 good curveball that Angel blew - kinda led to things unraveling. Didi also dribbled a grounder through a hole. That said after 1 out he did walk Voit on 4 pitches as well, nothing that close, and then hit Walker right away.

He was not sharp but I don't think he was as bad as the final statline. In game 1 he was pretty much nails. He is what he is this season, a heart attack but still elite closer.
 

AutomatedTeller

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Well, he did close out the game. Sure, it was scary, but it worked. The chances of anyone being on the mound in the 9th in a close game are zero, as they should be. Kimbrel is an elite closer. You might see Sale late in a game #7, but unless Kimbrel goes to Cora and says he's afraid of the mound, he'll get the 9th.
 

JimD

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I thought the tv announcers said that was not Sales' side session as he had already thrown it.

Even if they didn't say it, you don't throw your side session at 10:30pm two days before your start
Cora seemed to indicate in the postgame interviews that Sale purposely held off on throwing his regular side session (on Monday?) so that he could be available.
 

Al Zarilla

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I thought the 2nd pitch of his 28 pitch outing - a 1-0 good curveball that Angel blew - kinda led to things unraveling. Didi also dribbled a grounder through a hole. That said after 1 out he did walk Voit on 4 pitches as well, nothing that close, and then hit Walker right away.

He was not sharp but I don't think he was as bad as the final statline. In game 1 he was pretty much nails. He is what he is this season, a heart attack but still elite closer.
I have to disagree. Has he ever been as bad as just 7 out of 28 pitches in the strike zone? He always does throw a lot of those wild ass curves of his that start off looking like a strike and guys swing at them because they don't have much time. Those are a good thing. But 7 pitches in the zone out of 28? He's had a small number of these disasters or near disasters with the Sox, but I think he always bounces back in the next game.

 

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Since this is also the de facto “second guessing the manager” thread, when Moreland hits in the 8th, was I the only one screaming for Holt to pinch run? Tacking on an extra run seemed more important to me than saving the bench. And it turns out he probably would have.
 

EdRalphRomero

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Since this is also the de facto “second guessing the manager” thread, when Moreland hits in the 8th, was I the only one screaming for Holt to pinch run? Tacking on an extra run seemed more important to me than saving the bench. And it turns out he probably would have.
You were not. It seems weird to blow through that many players to get a pinch hitter up -- Vaz, MM, and (in this hypo Holt). I said at the time I would have run Swihart (which would leave them without a catcher, so I get the risk). Or he could have just hit Holt to begin with.
 

Reggie's Racquet

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Since this is also the de facto “second guessing the manager” thread, when Moreland hits in the 8th, was I the only one screaming for Holt to pinch run? Tacking on an extra run seemed more important to me than saving the bench. And it turns out he probably would have.
Yes. Absolutely. It's the small things that win you championships. I think Cora has made some very questionable moves in this series. Not playing Devers in the first game potentially cost us that game. Continuing to play Kinsler..not keeping Kimbrel sharp with regular work.
 

JimD

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Devers need to play every game in Houston. His power could be a game-changer in that park, and he looked pretty good defensively. I fully expect Cora to sit him against Keuchel on Tuesday but I hope I'm wrong.
 

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You were not. It seems weird to blow through that many players to get a pinch hitter up -- Vaz, MM, and (in this hypo Holt). I said at the time I would have run Swihart (which would leave them without a catcher, so I get the risk). Or he could have just hit Holt to begin with.
I was fine having Moreland hit. But letting Leon run was pretty ridiculous. TBS showed Moreland mocking Sandy, on third after Mookie’s hit, saying even he would have scored. Put Holt in to run and then Leon in to catch. It burns an extra player off the bench, but the extra run would have been nice.

He could have just run Swihart, and left him in to catch, but that seems suboptimal too.