The SF Giants squeaked by with a win against the Texas Rangers on Sunday thanks to a walk-off home run by Patrick Bailey. Bailey's heroics received plenty of attention, but so did another moment and that was when Gabe Kapler pulled Logan Webb in the top of the ninth inning with two outs. Was that the right call?
Did SF Giants manager Gabe Kapler make the right call in pulling Logan Webb on Sunday?
Webb was excellent on Sunday. He faced off against a very good Rangers lineup and allowed just five hits and one walk across the first eight innings of the game. The Giants held a 1-0 lead heading into the ninth inning and Webb was at 96 pitches, so it was not an unusually high pitch count.
Kapler made the call to send Webb out for the ninth inning to finish the job. He had recorded his first career shutout in July and was looking to add to his résumé on Sunday. He got two quick outs thanks to a fly out from Adolis Garcia and a ground out from Jonah Heim.
J.P. Martínez came to the plate and laced a double to center field. Webb did not give up much hard contact all day and Martínez's hit was one of the harder-hit balls of the game. The speedy outfielder represented the tying run at second base.
Kapler came out to remove Webb from the game after 107 pitches. Camilo Doval was tabbed to secure the victory. Ezequiel Durán stepped to the plate and hit a hard ground ball to the left of Brandon Crawford. Martínez was going on contact and rounded third base as Crawford released the ball to first base. Durán beat the throw with ease and Martínez scored on the play to tie the game. Luckily, Patrick Bailey saved the day in what would have been a very ugly loss.
When it comes to bullpen management, I always emphasize looking at the process and not the results. Any analysis based on the results is just too shallow. Obviously, it was an unfavorable result for Kapler as Durán hit an infield single to the hole between third base and shortstop. If it was hit more in either direction, it might have been an easy play to end the game.
That said, the question is, was this a bad process by Kapler? I am torn here because I do not think either decision was bad. Webb was dealing against the Rangers and they struggled to make meaningful contact against him all day. Could he have closed it out?
Absolutely, but Durán was one of the top Rangers hitters in Sunday's game, recording two hits in three at-bats. If anyone was seeing Webb well, it was Durán. And, with the tying run on second base, it made sense to remove him in favor of Doval.
Was it the right call to bring in Doval? Is there really a bad situation to bring him in? He is one of the best closers in the game and he has faced off against the Rangers just once before. I think the limited track record is one that favors pitchers. Not that Doval really needs any help. He offers such a unique look with a fastball that reaches triple digits and an excellent slider.
So, I just do not think replacing any pitcher for Doval is ever a bad process unless, of course, he is going through a high-usage stretch. That had not been the case given that the Giants had lost four straight games before Sunday's game. He had not pitched since August 7.
Would it have been better to keep Webb in the game with a chance to close it out? I think he earned a chance to finish it out, but Kapler is managing the game to win. Was using Doval a case of over-managing by Kapler? I just do not think there is a good case for that. In the most important spots of the game, you want your best reliever, and for the Giants, that is Doval. That is a good process.
Now, if rewind the game by about 15 minutes, there was a situation that stuck out. Thairo Estrada led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a double. It would have been nice for the Giants to tack on an insurance run.
However, Giants hitters left Estrada stranded at second base. They are in the midst of a terrible stretch offensively, and they continue to use the same approach at the plate. It is almost a case of doing the same thing and expecting different results.
It would have been nice for the Giants to try and manufacture a run, which is not a phrase commonly heard in 2023. Joc Pederson followed Estrada by striking out. He is not allergic to bunting and the defense typically shifts to the right side of the field with a lefty hitter up. This felt like a good opportunity to move Estrada over with Patrick Bailey on deck. It would be nice to see the Giants deviate from their offensive philosophy at times and this would have been a good opportunity to do so.
This is a conversation for a different day. Going back to Kapler's decision, I think it was a good process leading to a poor result. That happens, but it is a move that is going to pay off more often than not.