How Gabe Kapler is mismanaging the SF Giants pitching staff: Inconsistent patience with starters
In college, during one of my classes, my professor walked into the room a few minutes early. While he was setting up his lecture notes, he realized the room was hotter than he like. He walked over to the thermostat and turned it to its coldest temperature. He chuckled to the class and explained to the class the concept of an idiot in the shower.
The basic principle of the idiot in the shower is that they never allow for moderation. They turn the water on and since it is cold they turn it to its maximum temperature. Then when the water is scalding them they turn it to its minimum temperature. Then they are freezing and turn it all the way up… and so on and so on.
Since the Giants starters have been released from their tight early-season pitch counts, Kapler’s decisions have gone from hot to cold.
The juxtaposition of Johnny Cueto and Kevin Gausman’s starts against the Dodgers are the most obvious examples. Many fans, pundits, and even broadcaster Mike Krukow questioned Kapler’s decision.
Gausman was cruising through the Dodgers lineup into the 7th inning, but after his 81st pitch of the game resulted in a Cody Bellinger single, Kapler went to the pen. Tyler Rogers, who had pitched the day before, entered. Rogers went on to allow a three-run homer to A.J. Pollock that would ultimately be the difference.
Gausman had thrown 83 pitches in his outing five days prior and was at a minimum built up to throw 90 pitches. While velocity isn’t everything, his final pitch was his hardest of the day, clocking in at more than 99 mph.
We can’t know whether this played into Kapler’s decision or not, but it felt like he was overcorrecting for a mistake he’d made the day before. Cueto had been working a no-hitter into the sixth inning. However, after Hunter Pence misplayed a flyout into a triple, things began to unravel.
Cueto induced an RBI groundout from Austin Barnes, walked Joc Pederson, and then got Mookie Betts to popout. During Betts’ hit, Cueto showed a clear limp and Kapler went out with a trainer to talk to Cueto. He’d already thrown 84 pitches, and with a 5-1 lead, Kapler could’ve played it safe with the veteran.
Cueto’s command was beginning to falter. He’d already thrown 18 pitches in the inning and only 7 were strikes. Furthermore, Tony Watson was available in the bullpen (he would replace Cueto two batters later) to face off against Cody Bellinger. Instead, Kapler left Cueto in. He walked Bellinger and allowed a home run to Justin Turner.
The Giants won the game 5-4, but Kapler pushed a hampered Cueto (he was dealing with a toe blister) with a better matchup waiting in the bullpen. The next day, Kapler seemed to have the Cueto mistake in the back of his mind when he pulled Gausman.
It didn’t end there. The day after Gausman’s early removal, Logan Webb was on the bump. Still just 23-years old and only a couple years removed from Tommy John surgery, you’d expect Kapler to show even more care for Webb’s arm than Gausman’s.
Yet after Webb labored through a 36-pitch, 4-run third inning, Kapler sent him back out to start the 4th inning. He ultimately was pulled two batters later (finishing the night with 81 pitches), but it got the attention of Giants beat writer Henry Schulman.
Obviously each starter is their own player. Kapler shouldn’t treat them all the same, but between Gausman, Cueto, and Webb, Gausman probably has the healthiest resume and had thrown the least-stressful pitches. Yet, of the three, he received the quickest pull.