Over the weekend, I (along with a lot of fans) was a little frustrated with SF Giants manager Gabe Kapler's decision-making that led to a loss against the Kansas City Royals. However, in the spirit of a objectivity, Kapler deserves a lot of credit for pulling the right strings in a 5-0 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.
SF Giants manager Gabe Kapler pulls all of the right strings in 5-0 win over the Dodgers
The Giants got out to an early lead thanks to a two-run double by Joc Pederson in the bottom of the first inning. they were facing off against a tough pitcher in Dustin May, so it felt like two runs might be all they would be able to scratch across the plate.
Pederson's double turned out to be the hit that eventually clinched the victory, but it was Kapler's in-game management helped pave the way for the win.
Over the weekend, I was critical of Kapler's systematic approach that led to a loss. He had a plan and did not adjust that plan based on the game, which inevitably played a role in the Giants' loss. However, being systematic is not a flaw in itself. It is when you execute that approach which can be benecial or disadvantageous.
The key moment of the game on Tuesday came in the bottom of the fifth inning. Alex Wood was fantastic through the first couple of innings, but we have seen this before. The veteran pitcher usually gets off to a strong start and then wavers rapidly around the fourth or fifth inning.
Wood walked two of the first three hitters he faced. The second hitter he walked was Mookie Betts. The Dodgers were entering their turn through the lineup, which has often been a disastrous point in the game for Wood. And, it happens almost immediately.
Kapler left Wood in to face one of the more dangerous hitters in baseball in Freddie Freeman but he did it because it was a lefty-lefty matchup. Freeman grounded out, moving the runners to second base and third base.
With Will Smith up at the plate, Kapler removed Wood for Jakob Junis, who got out of the jam. Wood recorded 14 outs in total and departed with a 2-0 lead and runners in scoring position. Pulling him before the fifth inning also took Wood out of the decision, so he was not able to record the win.
It was a move that was criticized quite a bit on social media. That said, managers do not and should not manage to help a player achieve some type of statistical achievement in mind. There are exceptions to this rule, but getting a win in the 11th game of the season is not one of them.
So, why did Kapler have such a quick hook with Wood? Below are the opposing hitter's OPS against Wood in the third turn through the lineup since joining the Giants:
2021: .909 OPS
2022: .941 OPS
Hitters do damage early and often against Wood once they have seen him for the third time. A .941 OPS is one basis point higher than Willie Mays' career .940 OPS. Taking him out at that point in the game makes a ton of sense.
Wood is an effective pitcher, but he has to be managed appropriately. If he is limited to just two turns through the lineup, that is when he is at his best. And, a manager's job is to put players in a position to succeed. This is an example of Kapler doing just that.
Wood was fantastic against the Dodgers, but the Giants have tried to push him for one more out too many times in the past and it has rarely benefitted the Giants.
It is a tough balancing act. If you look at Wood's numbers, taking him out was an easy decision. On the other hand, he was throwing well and might have been able to pitch deeper into the game. Perhaps, if the Giants had a larger lead, it would have been a good time to stretch him out.
That said, this is an example where Kapler really made a nice call and positively impacted the outcome of the game.