Let's just say, right off the top, that just because I disagree with something John Gibbons did doesn't mean I think he should be fired. One, you will never find a manager that doesn't do the odd thing that I'll disagree with. I'm sure that if I was manager, there would be games after which that I would say "damn, that was a dumb thing you did back in the 3rd inning". And two, strategy moves are far less important than we tend to think. Had Gibby pinch hit for Thole, it wouldn't have changed the odds of winning by more than 2% at best.
Every time I disagree with a move, I hear from the 'fire Gibby' group on Twitter and I'm not one of them. People tend to think a move made or not made costs us a game every time. The team didn't lose because Gibby didn't pinch hit, they didn't win because we didn't hit. A manager can do all the right things and lose, and can do all the wrong things and win.
Last night, when Gibby was asked by reporters, why didn't you pinch hit for Thole in the 7th, this was the response:
Now, really, I shouldn't make too much out of this, because I don't know if he followed this up with a better answer, but still.....
Gibby this is a silly answer. You have 25 members of the team, you should know all their strengths and weaknesses. Saying that Russell Martin or Justin Smoak would have been a better choice than Thole in that spot isn't an insult to Thole. Thole knows he isn't a great hitter.
In defense of his answer, I get the feeling that Gibby is feeling the pressure. He knows this is likely his last chance to win with this team. If they don't win this year, odds are very slim that he'll be managing next year. And, you know, the team lost. I'm never very happy after a loss and I've got a fair bit of distance between myself and the team. I can imagine that Gibby isn't a happy person after a loss and being questioned after a loss can't be fun. I can't blame him for being a little snippy.
It does remind me of the answers that Cito Gaston used to give, in similar spots. Why didn't you pinch hit for X? 'Because I wanted to show confidence in him. He's going to come up in a big moment in a game further down the road, and the experience he gains from today will help him then.' Lose today to win tomorrow. Which, of course, is the same sort of silly answer.
I'd be interested in hearing what the real answer is. I'm sure there isn't an answer that would really satisfy me, but, likely the thinking ran:
- He was planning on keeping Dickey in and wanted to keep Thole catching him. He knows that Russell could catch him, but there is likely some resistance, in his mind, to changing catchers mid-game for Dickey. For me, the chance of getting the better hitter in there when we had a shot at tying the game is more important but I'm not manager. And there is the idea that Martin was getting a day off from catching, so he should have a full day off from catching. I disagree with that idea, but some managers believe that.
- Thole had a bit of success in spring training, which was the last time Gibby had a chance to see him bat. Yeah, you and I will (and should) discount spring numbers and, yeah, his spring numbers were driven by a fair bit of BABIP luck, but he did have good spring numbers and that can sit in a manager's head the first few times he sees a batter.
- Thole did have a good at bat earlier in the game. Hot hand and all that. We didn't have many players have good at bats yesterday.
- Gibby maybe wanted to hold on to his pinch hitters thinking there was more game ahead. Of course, then he didn't pinch hit for Goins leading off the next inning.
I'm a big fan of pinch hitting, pinch running, defensive substitutions, all that stuff. I think guys on the bench should be used. I think managers have 25 players and should use them all.