|(Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)|
Back in August of the 2016 season, Red Sox manager John Farrell made a move with his ace starting pitcher that begged the Wright questions.
The question was why he pinch ran his best active starting pitcher, Steven Wright, who was selected to the 2016 All-Star team.
The next thing you know, Wright is placed on the disabled list and never makes it back to help the team into the 2016 post season.
Now that we are preparing to start the 2017 season, Farrell was pinned down by Rob Bradford to see if history taught him anything. When asked if he would hesitate to repeat the use of Wright as a pinch-runner, Farrell seemed to take no lesson from history.
"No, not at all," said the Red Sox manager. "It was an unfortunate situation that cost him pretty much the remainder of the year. In a National League situation, we’ll look to do the same again."
Farrell was only talking about National League rules, but he was adamant that there are clear instructions for pitchers pinch-running for position players.
Referring to Wright's actions, "It was an unfortunate incident. But I felt confident in Steven's ability to do what we asked and that was because of the time we spend in spring training on base running."
What Farrell is talking about is that every spring training the pitchers spend numerous days working out as base runners, with rules and regulations being distributed at every turn.
"The most succinct way to describe it is to not draw attention to yourself," he explained. "In other words, don’t get off with a big lead. There’s a reason why you’re out there and that is to give the person off their feet because either they are hampered or restricted in some way. Unfortunately in this case, [Wright] had a big lead."
So the instructions were clear and it is a case of the pitcher getting caught up in the moment?
Farrell explains again that all pitchers are told, "Don’t draw attention to yourself. It’s a conservative lead and a conservative secondary lead, and even with that approach you’re better than who might have been on the base paths, otherwise you wouldn’t be out there."
Wright gives us more insights when questioned back in August as to what his thinking was.
"I wasn't going to try to score like other hitters would on a single, I wanted to make sure I had a good enough secondary where if it's a double, I could score."
This was contrary to all the ground rules laid out by the Red Sox coaching staff, with the disastrous results.
Looking at the rest of the American League, since 2010 pitchers have pinch-run 38 times. The Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman has been used six times by their manager John Gibbons. He has only done this in National League games, but was by far the most active user until he was scared straight.
After watching Stroman slide head-first into home plate in a 2014 game against the Red Sox, Gibbons had enough.
"I thought about it after the game and thought, 'This might not be too smart.' I wouldn’t do it again. Maybe your long man in the bullpen. There’s too much risk," Gibbons said. "He didn’t get hurt or banged up at all, but I just thought this probably wasn’t that smart. If something happened it could cost his career and cost us."
This seems to be the big take away. Players in the moment can't always be expected to hold back or play it on the safe side. With that in mind, risking crucial starting pitchers on these tasks still seems to be a bad idea.
History is a great teacher, if you are willing to study it.
Clearly, Farrell fails this history lesson and is destined to not make the Wright pinch running moves in future National League games.
Post a comment or via twitter @erics_redsox with your thoughts.
More by Eric D. Schabell