Los Angeles Dodgers: Was pulling Rich Hill the right move?


The Los Angeles Dodgers came out on the wrong end of a thrilling Game 2 of the World Series, but could their extra inning defeat have been avoided?

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros gave us one for the ages last night. What started as a pitcher’s duel turned into a home run derby once the game went to extras. The big storyline to come out of this contest (from my perspective) is that the Dodger bullpen was touched up a bit, and not just the final four runs allowed by Brandon McCarthy and former Astro and potential sleeper agent Josh Fields, but the two runs that led to extras in the first place.

Kenley Jansen, one of, if not the best closer in baseball, was brought in to get six outs. After allowing an inherited runner to score in the eighth, he gave up a solo shot to Marwin Gonzalez to lead off the ninth, ultimately sending the game to extras.

But what if Rich Hill was left in for another inning? Another out? Would Jansen still have given up that long ball? Of course we’ll never know the answer, but there is a case to be made that Hill should have been left in the game a little longer.

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For starters, he lasted four innings, gave up three hits and one earned, striking out seven and walking three. Not the cleanest of pitching lines, and with a bullpen that hadn’t allowed a run in 28 innings well rested and ready to take over, the decision to lift Hill at the moment made sense – but hindsight is 20-20 after all.

So we have Hill’s line for the night. He had also tossed 60 pitches, 42 for strikes, and was about to face the Astros lineup for a third time. That is all of the key information that we’ll need from the game for this little exercise.

On the year, Hill held a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts, so we’ll use that as a sort of baseline to determine whether or not he should have stayed in. Anything above that and the call to take the ball makes sense. Below, and we’re free to second guess.

At home, Hill had a 2.77 ERA and in night games that figure sat at 2.87. In 103 plate appearances the third time through the order, batters hit just .158 against Hill, the lowest of any time through the order all season. Of course, this is the World Series and not a rebuilding Reds team in May, so that can be taken with a little grain of salt.

At 60 pitches, he was right in between the 51-75 pitch threshold over at Baseball Reference, where he had allowed a batting average against of .194 in 150 plate appearances. All of this suggests that he wasn’t about to get shelled if he were to throw another pitch.

The main reason for pulling Hill seems to be that they were about to enter the fifth inning, his worst inning by ERA outside of the first. In the fifth inning this season, Hill held an ERA of 4.05, having made it that deep into a game in 20 of his 25 starts. He made it to the sixth just ten times.

Next: Red Sox season review, offseason preview

The strategy all year has been to limit the innings that Rich Hill gives the club to ensure that they’re more effective, while also keeping him healthy. In Game 2 on the biggest stage, that plan, while sound, may have just cost them a pivotal win.