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Was pulling Blake Snell the right decision? — A World Series Game 6 Roundtable

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It’s the question we’re all asking.

World Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Six Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Rays lost Game 6 of the 2020 World Series, and the focus after the game is on Kevin Cash’s decision to lift Blake Snell in the sixth inning of a 1-0 ballgame.

Having tallied nine strikeouts in the first four innings, Snell was cruising but gave up a 1-out hit to the ninth hitter, bringing up Mookie Betts and Corey Seager as the next two hitters, representing the third time through the order for Snell.

Cash pulled Snell, and you know what happened next.

Was pulling Blake Snell the right call?

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Jamal Wilburg: Pulling Blake Snell at the top of the order the third time through was not the right decision with only the go ahead runner at the plate.

Snell’s performance having Betts, Seager, and Turner 0-for-6 with six strikeouts logically means that, even if they were a marginally better the third time up, odds are pretty good that only one of them gets a hit. You at least leave him in for Betts and then pull him as soon if there are two baserunners and he doesn’t close the inning. Overall, I would change the question from not the right decision to not the best decision.

JT Morgan: I’m not really sure if it’s the absolute best choice, but I definitely don’t believe it’s a blunder. It was a fine choice.

Yes Blake Snell was dominant tonight. Remember the last time we see Snell mow through the Dodgers in Game 2. The inning fell apart very quickly despite having a no hitter into the 5th with nine strikeouts. Snell was dominant last night and was able to get into the 6th. There was no room for error for things to get in a worse spot. This is the choice the Rays always make when they have their backs against the wall. Go back to Game 7 in the ALCS where Charlie Morton was absolutely dealing, but got in a tricky spot in the sixth and was pulled despite having only 66 pitches. That time Nick Anderson came in and got the job done. This time it didn’t work out.

Jim Turvey: Cash was 100 percent right to pull Snell.

It is how the Rays got to this point, it’s what Dave Roberts finally learned with Clayton Kershaw to finally deliver them both a ring, it’s the opposite of the decision he made with Tyler Glasnow that we killed him for earlier in the series, and honestly it’s kind of silly that we’re even having this conversation.

With that being said, he definitely should have brought in Ryan Thompson, not Nick Anderson. (Don’t @ me.)

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Adam Sanford: I think Cash should have left Snell in.

Snell was dominant, to a point unlike we’ve ever seen from him before. Betts and Seager looked helpless against him through their first two trips to the plate. However, I understand the decision and don’t think he should be lambasted for removing Snell from the game.

You have a runner on base in a 1-0 game, the top of the order coming up for the third time, and one of the top relievers in baseball waiting in the bullpen. We all have perfect vision in hindsight, but in the heat of the moment, Cash had to make a decision. This time it just didn’t work out.

Brian Menéndez: Whether we disagree and whether it was a mistake are two different things. Every decision Cash and the front office make are made to put players on positions to succeed. Sure, Anderson hasn’t been the same this postseason, but there is no Anderson at all if not for the Rays machine, same with Fairbanks. There is no Randy Arozarena to quite literally carry the Rays to this point if the Rays were unwilling to part with its best, healthy pitching prospect at the time.

On a micro scale, it’s so easy to opine that Cash didn’t see what was in front of him or that he didn’t have ‘trust’ in him. But to put a magnifying glass on this decision would be a similar mistake, ignoring the infinite amount of decisions that got the Rays to this point, and further, dismissing the ‘trust’ it has put in players to play large roles on this team that would not have otherwise had with other organization.

John Ford: I hated pulling Snell because it really looked like he was having a game for the ages. Like Jack Morris in the ‘91 Series. But I get that it’s what the Rays do, and you can’t argue with the effectiveness of the strategy.

What is indefensible is going to Anderson. Both the stats and the eye test screamed that he was not regular season Saint Nick. To me, that was the big mistake.

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Mister Lizzie: I have no idea whether taking out Snell was the right move.

All I can comment on is the process that Cash and co. use to make these decisions. They have to consider not just whether Snell had been pitching well, but whether he would continue to pitch well moving forward. They can see whether his velocity is dropping. They can see whether the other team is getting better swings. They have data on how he fares facing batters for the third time. Their job isn’t to provide the media with the narrative of the dominant pitcher on his game, it’s to put together the most auspicious match-ups and win the game.

Mostly I’m shocked that people are shocked, because Cash and the Rays have been doing this for years. I guess it shows that the national media, with a few exceptions, don’t bother to follow the Rays. The upshot is that the Rays lost this game and this series because their hitting was largely anemic, the pitching delivered a close game with or without Anderson’s performance.

Danny Russell: Sorry, this was a mistake.

These Dodgers are one of the greatest offenses ever assembled, they were going to get some hits along the way. Cash couldn’t expect a no-hitter from Snell like last time... but the reality was that Snell was better than that Game 2 performance. With the Rays bullpen getting banged up by LA in every game, you have to consider the recent history of your players and the performance you’re getting out of your Cy.

Snell had tapped into something special on Tuesday night. He was delivering what could have been a World Series MVP performance, and Cash put an end to it. Betts and Seager were formidable against any pitcher on the mound. In that moment, I go with the one giving you an historic performance.

Jared Ward: Pulling Snell wasn’t the mistake. Mookie has a career .297/.379/.509 and a 133 wRC+ against LHP. Mookie Betts has a career .304/.370/.522 against Blake Snell specifically. Blake Snell has an OPS of .742. when batters see him the third time in the game. Why abandon the process that got you this far?

In the ALCS Game 7, Charlie Morton was pulled after giving up 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB and 6Ks in 5.2 Innings, and that was with a 3-0 lead! No outrage then, because — as Blake Snell said after the game — it’s not an issue when it works out for the Rays. Unfortunately last night it did not. This loss is not on Kevin Cash, this is on the offense only providing Blake Snell with 1 run of support.

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Austin Reimann: Blake Snell dominated opposing hitters until the numbers dictated he could do so no longer. Given Blake’s performances post Cy Young award, the sample size works in favor of Kevin Cash’s decision to pull him with 11 outs to go. But the analytical portion of baseball analysis often leaves no room for outlier performances like the one we saw from Snell in Game 6.

He was dominant. Every single one of his pitches was working and he did everything in his power to put the Rays in a position to play a Gems 7. Whether or not it was the right move is beside the point. The main point is that, regardless of Snell’s performance, the offense has to be better.

Darby Robinson: I don’t believe pulling Snell was a blunder nor do I blame this loss on Kevin Cash. And while I certainly was all about the drama of Snell single handedly carrying the team to victory, I also fully trust that these hard calls are often why the Rays are even in this position to win the World Series in the first place.

I don’t believe pulling Snell in a 1-0 game was a blunder to end all blunders, or even that shocking, is because we all already saw this exact possible scenario happen in Game 2. It was unhittable Blake Snell. 8K’s, total domination until the 5th. A ground out and a K started that inning, still a no-hitter in tact. But then, suddenly it’s a Tichenor level bad call sequence and Snell gives up a walk and a two run bomb before you could even blink. Right around the mid 70s in pitches too. Then it’s a walk and a hit by Mookie and Seager. And suddenly a 5 run lead is a 3 run lead and the tying run is coming to the plate. That was unhittable cruising to “oh no” within the exact same inning. And what did Cash do then? He pulled Snell and went to Anderson who K’d Turner swinging to end the threat and keep the lead.

If you do something that works 9 times out of 10, I just can’t get too upset at that 10th time when it doesn’t work.

Ian Malinowski: Cash has been entirely consistent this year. He trusts large bodies of work. He does not put much weight on the predictive qualities of cold streaks or in-game performance. Projections are a tricky thing, and I don’t expect that the Rays get this right 100% of the time, but this framework does work.

The question is — like I wrote about when Snell left Glasnow in for the third time through three top of the Dodgers order, given the number of innings that needed to be covered — whether Snell was one of the best remaining options that was going to have to pitch and if he was, whether leverage concerns overrode that consideration.

Previously: Sticking with Tyler Glasnow in the fifth was an aggressive, competitive move

There are two aspects — Snell’s projection and The Stable’s projection. For two years, Snell has not consistently pitched like an ace, but has hinted that he might be one in the peripherals. If he had met those peripherals in extended use this season, Cash leaves him in this game, no doubt. Snell had valid reasons for his previous “struggles,” so the question is, what should Cash and the Rays have believed he was last night?

I would have left Snell in, although my left brain screams that it was right to lift him. Cash has nerves of steel and doesn’t hide from responsibility. That’s why I continue to believe he’s the best manager in the game.

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