Here’s a look back at last night’s World Series Game 6, the Cliff Notes version. The elements I thought were impactful or interesting are condensed here for rehashing and conversation. With 24 hours now between us and the game, here’s the obvious, and maybe not so obvious, that sticks out in hindsight:
- Dave Roberts and the Dodgers chose Tony Gonsolin for his 3rd start of the post-season after adding him to their rotation during the NLCS . It was a weird outing and weird first inning in particular. He struck out Ji-Man Choi on three pitches, but then gave up the homer to Randy Arozarena, and a 96.3 mph exit velo single to Austin Meadows. He walked Brandon Lowe and left a fastball over the middle of the plate to Manuel Margot before getting Joey Wendle to swing at a pitch that nearly hit him before striking him out. A shaky first was basically bookended by two impressive strikeouts.
- With the above in mind and more problems in the 2nd its easy to see why Gonsolin wasn’t long for this game. He looked great again striking out Willy Adames but gave up a double to Kevin Kiermaier and Mike Zunino launched a deep into the seats foul before striking out. By the time Choi came back to the plate and walked it was time to go to the pen for certain.
- Dylan Floro came up huge in relief and strikeout Arozarena with 2 on. Smart move by Roberts to go with him and open Alex Wood up for a clean 3rd inning. And even gutsier when you consider Floro’s only other World Series appearance this year resulted in 2 runs.
- On the other side, Blake Snell was absolutely masterful. There’s no getting around that, but he did get a little help in the 3rd inning. Chris Taylor singled to start the inning, and AJ Pollock hit a smash on a line to Wendle at third base that he snared. Then Wendle made a great play ranging towards the 3rd baseline that he made look easy, with Choi applying a tag to the hitter/runner at first to complete the play. Snell made easy work of Mookie Betts to end the inning, but if not for some sparkling defense by Wendle and Choi that inning could have looked significantly different.
- Admittedly, Alex Wood wasn’t very good this season… or last season, but he was incredibly impressive in his light use in this World Series. 4 innings pitched; no runs allowed. He threw 2 perfect innings and kept the Dodgers in the ballgame after Gonsolin didn’t instill confidence. Spectacular for a guy with a 5.96 ERA over the last 2 regular seasons.
- In the 5th I think Roberts went to Pedro Baez specifically for the purpose of having a righty face Arozarena. That strategy was the only thing about the inning that didn’t work though as Arozarena got a single after Baez got the first 2 outs and Roberts ended up going back to his bullpen for Victor Gonzalez, though the 2-out single led to no harm.
- Alright, the part everyone is waiting for… I haven’t talked about Snell that much because what’s there to talk about? There was absolutely 0 drama. He was pitching like a man possessed. Absolutely dominant. I talked at length this past weekend about the Dodgers seeing a lot of pitches and working the count. This worked to their disadvantage against Snell. 2/3 of his pitches were strikes, and loads of quality ones. He was in Cy Young form. But with all of this being the case, Nick Anderson was still getting loose in the 6th and Austin Barnes singled with 1 out.
- I’m not going to go through a grand effort to justify taking Snell out of the game. Yes, throughout his career the 3rd time through the lineup was his worst performance by OPS, but would you believe that over the course of the last 2 seasons his 2nd time through the order is actually worse? Its true. With that dispelled, I see no justifiable reason to remove him. A Cy Young caliber pitcher is cruising along with 9 strikeouts and 2 hits in 5 1/3 innings of work with just 73 pitches. Let the man work!
- Beyond that, Nick Anderson has yet to go a playoff game without surrendering a run (and is now officially out of chances). Why Anderson as the high-leverage first guy out of the bullpen here for the Rays? Why not Diego Castillo and his 1.64 post-season ERA? Or Ryan Thompson and his 1.93 ERA? Or literally anyone other than the guy in the bullpen that gave up the most Earned Runs? This part actually bothers me more than replacing Snell. Use one of your hot hands if you are going to make a move.
- All that said, I’ve read a lot of comments different places online placing blame and looking for consequences for Kevin Cash. If you take nothing else from this post than take this: Kevin Cash did NOT make the decision to remove Snell on his own. Forward-thinking, analytical organizations like the Rays talk about these decisions as a group. Baseball operations, the coaching staff and all other related parties are involved and come to a consensus decision in advance, much like was talked about a couple weeks ago when Aaron Boone pulled Deivi Garcia after one inning in favor of JA Happ.
- As for the inning itself… what a disaster it turned into. The Rays lead was gone in the blink of an eye, but I offer this: Betts doubled to bring up 2nd and 3rd with 1 out for Corey Seager, the soon to be World Series MVP. I think it would have made sense to walk Seager here. 1st base was open, so that creates the force and Anderson then pitches to the righty Justin Turner rather than the lefty Seager. The wild pitch scoring Barnes never happens. Seager’s RBI fielder’s choice to first (which Betts got an INCREDIBLE jump on) doesn’t happen either. If everything remains the same then Turner’s deep fly to the wall is a sac fly that ties the game, and that’s the extent of the scoring for the inning. I’m surprised no one suggested walking Seager.
- Julio Urias should have gotten low key MVP consideration. He just pitched 4 2/3 innings three nights ago, and was back out for the 2+ inning save two nights later, and had it all working.
- The 8th inning comes around and I specifically write the following in my notes: “Dodgers pulled Pollock and Turner for defensive reasons?!” I had remembered Turner making multiple strong plays at 3rd all series. This immediately seemed peculiar.
- Pete Fairbanks is out for a 2nd inning of work in the 8th for the Rays with still no sign of Diego Castillo, only the best pitcher statistically in the Rays bullpen this season. Fairbanks surrenders the insurance homer to Betts.
- What a futile way, but perfect summation for the Rays offense to end this series. Flyout by Margot and then 2 Ks by Urias of overmatched Brosseau and overmatched Adames. Urias made it look easy. Just incredible.
- Remember how I made a big deal about Gonsolin being shaky in the early innings and how key it was the go to Floro and Wood? Here’s a list of innings where the Rays got runners in scoring position: 1st Inning, 2nd Inning… that’s it. No Rays runner got past 1st base on the Dodgers bullpen.
- The top 6 in the Dodgers order vs. Blake Snell: 0 for 12 with 9 Ks.
- Post-season bullpen ERA for the bullpen that Kevin Cash wanted to get to so badly: 4.16
- Starter’s ERA for that same Rays team: 3.88
- Generally, managers don’t have that big of a say-so in how games go, but this Game 6 was a great example of everything Dave Roberts did working out and everything Kevin Cash did going wrong. Cash got nothing out of switching around his lineup or pulling Snell. Gonsolin puttered around just well enough to get out but look bad enough for Roberts to pull him early. Wood worked out despite a bad season and Urias was able to bring it home despite pitching so recently and without forcing Roberts to consider using Kenley Jansen. That’s just how fate went.
- Corey Seager was very deserving of the Most Valuable Player Award. Hit .400 for the series with a 1.256 OPS. 2 homers and the go-ahead ribbie to give the Dodgers the lead in Game 6. You can read more about Seager’s brilliance from one of my colleagues here.
- The only other guy I would have considered giving it to (besides maybe Urias) was Clayton Kershaw. He threw more innings than any other pitcher on either team and did it to the tune of a 2.31 ERA and 0.857 WHIP. If nothing else, its good to see who I believe to be the best pitcher of the last decade finally get a championship. Well deserved.
- Naturally, Justin Turner wasn’t really removed for defensive purposes, apparently his COVID test popped as inconclusive as the results came back in the 2nd inning. Yet, he was allowed to continue to play until a follow-up sample showed a positive result. I’m not going to dwell on this long, but in a post-season that largely went really well for Major League Baseball, in a time when a lot of eyes were on them and the game performed valiantly, what a sour taste to end the season on for every single entity involved.
And I hate to end on that, so I won’t. This season was fun, and tribulations aside, we were privy to some really good baseball. Honestly, being so used to the 7-month marathon that is a regular baseball season has made me yearn for more. It feels like it shouldn’t be over yet. I felt this even more strongly when the regular season ended, but I still feel it now. This season was a format that I hope we never have to see again because that would mean the world is in a better place, but as a fan I am just happy to see the game and that we were able to crown a 2020 World Champion.
Congrats to the Dodgers and their fans.