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Mudville: October 2, 2022 12:57 am PDT
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Lost Art of Common Sense

Lee Brice got it right.

The Nerds should take this advice from the talented singer-songwriter.

“Don’t outsmart your common sense.’’

In 2022, baseball is outsmarting common sense every day as the game continues to erode from within, thanks to common sense being tossed out the window along with batting average and so much more.

The league-wide average of .233 is the lowest in history at this moment.

Thanks, Nerds.

The loss of common sense is everywhere. Let’s start with the Yankees 6-5 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night when Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano put together one of the worst ninth inning game plans I have ever seen.

In essence he created a double loss: the Yankees 6-5 walkoff win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday and then the Yankees riding the wave to a 5-3 victory over the Jays on Wednesday, giving the Yankees yet another series win and the best winning percentage by far in MLB at .733.

It began in the ninth inning Tuesday night, all this happening after a fastball strikeout of Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

Nursing a two-run lead, Romano kept throwing sliders to the number 9 hitter — catcher Jose Trevino. He even threw a 3-2 slider to Trevino that missed badly for ball four.

Heck, why would you challenge a guy hitting .189 with a two-run lead and no one on base? No, let’s outsmart the hitter who can’t hit and who can’t be pinch-hit for because Aaron Boone was out of catchers.

No common sense.

So even when the opposing team is in a bind, these Nerd-run teams can’t take advantage. And you wonder why the average fan is frustrated by the doings of the Nerds.

That terrible walk brought the tying run to the plate and rolled over the Yankee lineup. So Romano dug the hole deeper — and no one from the Blue Jays even questioned what he was doing.

Romano did not challenge D.J. LeMahieu and walked him as well, bringing Aaron Judge to the plate. The Texas Rangers in the previous series had used fastballs to control the Yankee bats; and if Romano was watching this game he would have seen that Blue Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi went into the sixth inning with a no-hitter, relying heavily on his fastball.

I’ve had dozens of conversations with hitters through the years about taking what the defensive positioning and the pitcher give them. In the new no common sense land of baseball, though, that is antiquated thinking.

Let’s flashback to the sixth inning to get the full picture.

There was one out and runners on first and second after a double by LeMahieu and an infield single by Judge, when third baseman Matt Chapman lost the handle trying to make the throw to first. After getting a fly-out to center from Anthony Rizzo and leading the Yankees 3-0, Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo (no doubt following the orders from the Nerds at the top of the Blue Jays food chain) said that’s enough — we can’t push you Kikuchi, can’t have you manage your own game and work out of trouble, it’s time to start the parade of relievers.

So Kikuchi was out of the game, having allowed those two hits.

Soon after Montoyo got back in the dugout, Giancarlo Stanton popped a three-run home run — the shortest home run of his career — to right, yes in that Little League park known as Yankee Stadium, to tie the game at 3-3. The reliever did his job … for the Yankees.

Stunning that the Nerds would not allow Kikuchi to even attempt to finish the sixth inning. In this Risk Aversion World of baseball Nerds, the game was better off in the hands of the first of six relievers who would follow Kikuchi than the pitcher who had not allowed a hit until the sixth inning.

What do I always say?

It’s not about what’s happening on the field, it’s about the plan the Nerds put together earlier in the day. They don’t react to the game. They plan the moves well ahead of time.

Counting on that many relievers (or something like that) every night is pretty much what the Nerds have turned baseball into, an endless slog of relievers out of the bullpen.

That’s entertainment?

Yusei Kikuchi #16 of the Toronto Blue Jays is taken out of the game by manager Charlie Montoyo #25 against the New York Yankees in the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium on May 10, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, on the other coast, Joe Maddon was going to allow his starter, rookie Reid Detmers, to navigate nine innings and a no-hitter of the Rays, using 108 pitches.

Kikuchi was out after 89 pitches, 54 strikes, sitting on a 3-0 lead.

Hey, he did his job. Our mental skills coach says it’s important that Kikuchi feel good about himself. Get him out.

In Anaheim, Detmers only struck out two batters though, so does that really count as a no-hitter in Nerd World? You know, even though Jeff McNeil is batting .333, his hard hit rate is down so that .333 is misleading.

Hitting where they ain’t is another common sense principle destroyed by the Nerds.

Quick evidence of that is a statistic featured earlier this week on one team’s network, pointing out the Hardest Hit Rate Among NL Qualifiers.

Listed were Willson Contreras leading the way with his 59.7 mark, followed by Christian Yelich with his 58.4 mark, then Tommy Pham at 55.4, Austin Riley at 55.1, and No. 5 Patrick Wisdom at 54.9.

Balls have been hit hard since the beginning of baseball, so people notice. This is not a new thing the Nerds have launched. A friend of mine, and BallNine has many, many baseball friends around the country, sent me the Hard Hit Rate info with the following words:

Check the averages.

I did. Again, I’m all for hard hit rate but let’s look at averages, too; that means something. Batting averages are important.

I looked up the averages and Contreras leads the pack with a .292 mark, fine, and then it drops off a cliff. Yelich is hitting .234. Pham is hitting .224. Riley is at .237, and Wisdom is hitting .217.

Maybe it will turn — but maybe these hitters are stubbornly hitting into the shift or are not making adjustments like the Mets’ Jeff McNeil, who has flat-out said he is making it a point to hit the ball this year where there are no fielders.

As a most wise baseball friend of mine said of McNeil, “You mean he’s actually showing some bat control. What a concept!’’

That’s what good hitters used to do before baseball became Swing From Your Ass on every pitch.

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Reid Detmers (48) reacts after throwing a no-hitter to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 12 to 0 in an MLB baseball game played on May 10, 2022 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

I’ve had dozens of conversations with hitters through the years about taking what the defensive positioning and the pitcher give them. In the new no common sense land of baseball, though, that is antiquated thinking.

But it’s not. That’s smart baseball, common sense baseball.

The Nerds want everything to come back to them for credit. They have re-invented the game and for that we are all paying the price of watching games with lack of real action. Former Reds star reliever Rob Dibble mentioned that to me this week on his radio show: there is still something missing in the game — and I suggested that it’s common sense that’s missing.

In that Angels game, with the Angels up 10-0, the Rays brought in outfielder Brett Phillips to pitch and Anthony Rendon turned around and batted lefty, his first lefty at bat in the majors, and he promptly homered.

With a righty turning around and hitting lefty against a pitching outfielder, that should stop all the talk about the humidors. If a guy can get up lefty for the first time in the majors and hit a home run, that’s a pretty lively ball.

That also tells me that the approach of so many hitters is so wrong. They are not taking what the pitchers and defense are giving them. In essence, they are getting themselves out by not making the necessary adjustments because the Nerds don’t want them to adjust.

Nerds are on the field as well as players.

Back to the Blue Jays losing their most critical game of the year.

The umpires also played a role in this fiasco by tossing reliever Yimi Garcia for hitting Josh Donaldson with the second pitch after the Stanton Little League home run. That actually was a break for the Blue Jays, because Yimi had already given up that three-run home run.

Still, no common sense there either by the umpires. After his giving up a three-run home run to tie the game they surmised Yimi was out for revenge by putting the go-ahead run on first base with a hit by pitch with one out. Yeah, sure.

Don’t outsmart your common sense, umps.

Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the New York Yankees celebrates his sixth inning three run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays with teammate DJ LeMahieu #26 at Yankee Stadium on May 10, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

On this night the Maple Leafs were winning an NHL playoff game against the Lightning so probably no one in Toronto bothered to watch the Blue Jays and all this escaped their notice; but let’s be clear, Romano put a slider on the tee for Aaron Judge who lives for bad sliders on the tee.

If you’ve been reading me you know how much I’ve been talking about pitchers putting bad sliders on a tee all season. I’m sure it has something to do with pitch sequencing.

Let’s keep throwing the slider until there is a meatball slider.

Anyway, representing the winning run was Judge. And by the way, Romano, as I predicted a month ago, was having trouble hearing PitchCom commands at Yankee Stadium and he had his glove cocked to his ear most of the inning trying to decipher the calls. That also may have thrown off his rhythm — even more reason to rock and fire with a well located fastball.

To recap: After walking Trevino on that 3-2 terrible slider he then walked LeMahieu on five pitches.

During the Judge at-bat Blue Jays broadcaster Pat Tabler, who played 12 years in the majors so what does he know (he never went to a Driveline Coaching class) made it clear Romano was flirting with danger with so many sliders thrown to Judge, using the word “Interesting’’ after one such slider.

Translated that means: “What the heck!’’

Later in the at-bat Tabler offered, if Romano throws the fastball he must get that pitch up. Change the line of vision.

Tabler was trying to will Romano to do the right thing. Romano didn’t get the message.

With the count 1-2 after a couple “get my timing right’’ foul balls, Judge saw a humpback slider and crushed it into the left field second deck, a real home run at the Little League park.

Game over. Blue Jays stunned. Blue Jays Nerds stunned. Stunned the next day too, so two hard losses in 16 hours.

Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees celebrates with his teammates after his ninth inning game winning three run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on May 10, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Romano outsmarted his common sense in the ninth inning. And no one in a Blue Jays uniform offered any common sense. I’m sure when it was over and Romano got back to the clubhouse it was a race to the iPad to see what went wrong. What went wrong was pitch selection and playing right into Judge’s hands as Judge blasted the first walkoff home run of his career. Give Judge and the Yankees credit. Their Nerds were somehow convinced this past offseason that defense at shortstop, second base, and catcher is important. It’s also important to make contact and not strike out so much.

Gleyber Torres is back to being Gleyber Torres after the Yankees tried to make him a shortstop and the Yankees scouts have done a fantastic job of finding relievers to rebuild the bullpen.

The Yankees are winning in part because they have the fewest errors in the majors and they hang around until the other team makes a critical mistake and then they pounce.

That’s a winning formula and across town the Mets are doing a similar thing under Buck Showalter.

The Blue Jays are missing catcher Danny Jansen, who one scout told me, “has the ability to help their pitchers get through things.’’

That is an excellent baseball point and clearly Jansen has baseball common sense. Same goes for Trevino, a smart addition by the Yankees. His whole goal that ninth inning at-bat was to get to first base any way he could so the big boys could show the lumber. That’s common sense.

“This whole generation of kids have bought into this nonsense as well,’’ the scout said of players not thinking on their own and reacting to obvious game situations. The Nerds are no longer just in the Ivory Tower front offices.

“The Nerds are on the field, they are in the media, they have this perception, and it’s the wrong perception of what brings you success,’’ the veteran baseball man said.

Wise words. Teams like the Dodgers are having success attacking opponents in different ways.

“Dave Roberts and Bob Geren and their pitching coach Mark Prior have done a good job of taking the data and utilizing it to their benefit,’’ he added.

As I pointed out a while back the Dodgers also have been using the Win Reality VR hitting system for about five years now and that helps hitters create timing, pitch recognition, and strike zone discipline. So let me make this clear, not all data is bad, not all Nerds are a setback. Data and Nerds just need a little common sense to help them see the full picture.

Pitchers need to challenge hitters more and they can do that by working on their command, maybe take a mile or two off their fastball for command, use different types of fastballs, and also utilize different speeds to try to break that rhythm hitters are seeking.

Not every fastball is going to get hit.

“They give you all the hot zones,’’ one baseball man said of pre-game preparation. “If you throw a pitch here he is going to do damage; all I want to know if I make a good pitch, even if it is in his hot zone, there is only a three in 10 chance that he is going to get a hit. And with Judge, you better mix Judge up, you better not throw all sliders unless you have an incredible late breaking slider.’’

Romano tossed a meatball slider to Judge.

What makes this even more frustrating is that so many of today’s hitters are in constant guess mode with runners on base — and that is why you are seeing so many hitters taking a strike three fastball right down the heart of the plate.

Don’t outsmart your common sense — the lost art of common sense.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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