The Baltimore Orioles are off to a surprising 3-1 start under first-year Manager Brandon Hyde.
2019 projects to be the first year of a major rebuild under the on-field guidance of Hyde and the front office mastery of Mike Elias and company. The Birds are off to a great start after picking up a series opening 6-5 win against the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night, snapping a 10-game losing streak at Rogers Centre.
This win came fresh off the heels of taking two of three over the vaunted New York Yankees in the Bronx this past weekend.
But what is all the talk around the Baltimore sports media scene this morning?
That would be Hyde’s controversial decision to remove starting pitcher David Hess after 6.1 innings of no hit baseball with a 6-0 lead after 82 pitches. The reactions, bountiful, have gone both ways:
Hyde and Hess would be heard from as well:
Hess’ reaction may have been the best part of this entire ordeal:
So where does that leave things? Let’s look at the things that went into the decision and assess the situation.
Hess was obviously on some sort of pitch count which seemed to impact the decision Hyde made to pull him from the game. As noted, he had thrown 42 pitches on Opening Day in relief of Andrew Cashner.
It was described as a “working day” by many in the media, which is when a pitcher is looking to get some work in before their next start. Normally these occur in bullpen sessions a few days before the projected start, but Hess found himself taking his working day during in-game action.
But Hess’ outing turned into 42 pitches after he only needed 17 pitches to get through the 6th in his opening day action. If Hess was the starter Monday all along as he was projected to be, why trot him back out there in the 7th inning of a 6-2 game? Certainly worth some second guessing.
Hyde consistently pointed out wanting to look out for what is best for Hess and his arm long-term. Typically, these types of pitch counts and cautioning of pitchers is discussed when the pitcher in question is coming off of some sort of injury and/or when a pitcher is a projected future ace. That doesn’t sound like Hess to me.
If you are still pro-Hyde after the first two points of discussion, I ask you this: What would the difference have been if Hyde had removed Hess at the start of the 7th inning rather than after he recorded one out in the frame? It almost felt like he was hoping that Toronto would get a hit in that situation so that he could better justify lifting the 25-year-old righty.
Why not let him keep working at that point? Best case scenario, he gives up a hit in his next batter and your decision becomes a non-story. Certainly possible Hess gets the next hitter as well but allows a hit to the next batter which again makes it easier for you to lift him. If he escapes the 7th unscathed, lift Hess anyways and cite pitch count, which would have been around 95-100 at that point.
Perhaps my biggest point of contention with the move is that heading into last night, the Orioles bullpen had thrown 16.1 of a completed 26 total innings pitched. This excludes the two innings thrown by “opener” Nate Karns in game two in New York.
The Orioles will start Cashner today, who has struggled with making it through five full innings at times. Karns will go as the opener again on Wednesday as well. Why not try to see how far Hess can get and preserve a bullpen that projects to be very busy this season between short starts from starting pitching and the employment of the “opener” strategy?
As a point of argument, don’t feed me that the bullpen almost tanked the game for the Orioles either. That’s not a valid reason for why Hyde shouldn’t have removed Hess. If the Orioles are going to lean on their bullpen as often as they may have to, Hyde can’t coach scared at any point and moving forward because his bullpen might have a so-so night.
My conclusion on this is that in the grand scheme of things, it honestly doesn’t matter. I think that he should have allowed Hess to give it a go. With that being said, I’m not going to crucify Hyde either.
I would have liked to preserve the bullpen but also feel that the decision to lift him is preventing most fans from discussing the most important happenings surrounding this Orioles club early on.
Let’s start with Hess who twirled on Monday night. 6.1 innings with one walk and eight strikeouts is a career night for him. Tip of the cap to the Hess Express.
Trey Mancini is RAKING. Coming off a disappointing second full season in the bigs, Mancini is 8-for-16 so far in 2019 with two home runs and four RBI. The defacto leader of this young bunch is off to a sizzling start and if the Orioles hope to prolong the magic, they will need “Boom Boom” to keep it up.
Dwight Smith Jr and Jonathan Villar are also off to nice starts at the dish for the Birds. Smith Jr has been getting the bulk of the work in right field and is 6-for-16 with two RBI and three runs scored. Villar holds down second base and is 5-for-17 with a home run and two RBI so far.
The prevailing point is don’t get caught up on the Hess decision one way or another. Things are going well for the Orioles early on. And in a season where that wasn’t expected to happen often (if at all), let’s enjoy it while it lasts.
Image Credit: Baltimore Sun