Sunday was an exciting day for Tigers fans–something we haven’t been able to say much this season. Matthew Boyd took a no-hitter through 8 2/3 innings and fell just short of glory when a Tim Anderson double flew over the head of right fielder Nicholas Castellanos.
However, after the game, it was the decision to leave Castellanos in the game that became the topic of conversation, not the gem twirled by Boyd. We had an in-house debate between two of our editors, Don Drysdale and Alex Muller, on the merits of the question and whether or not Ausmus was wrong for leaving Castellanos in the game.
1Was the decision to leave Nicholas Castellanos in the game during the ninth inning of a no-hitter the right decision?
Don Drysdale: Absolutely not! As the manager, Brad Ausmus is faced with the duty of putting his team in the best position to reach a common goal. Despite being up by 12 runs on Sunday, that common goal was to record the final three outs of the game without allowing a hit and Ausmus failed. Leaving Castellanos in right field for the ninth inning was a mistake, not because he did not make the play, but because the Tigers had a better option that was left on the bench.
Alex Muller: I had no problem with keeping Castellanos out in right field during the game. We all know it’s going to be a work in progress for Nick as he transitions there full time. In a blowout game, to me, there is no better time to allow him to continue getting some valuable playing time. Sure, in retrospect, the game and outcome have no meaning. In this case, it’s the single moment that fans wanted to see. But the one constant in either situation is that it is high-pressure. If it’s a closer game, this is an entirely different issue.
2Ausmus said that if the ball wasn’t hit there, “it isn’t even a question,” agree or disagree? And, is this a matter of process over results? The process being Nicholas’s time in RF as opposed to sitting him to accomplish a no-hitter.
Alex Muller: I personally do agree that this became an issue after the fact because the ball put in play for the possible 27th out of a no-no just happened to be hit in the general direction of a player playing in his new position. Had that ball been hit to any other player in the field, this is not being discussed the next day. Again I stress the importance of Nick getting regular reps in his new position and making sure he gets those in high-pressure spots.
Don Drysdale: Is it even a question? Of course, it’s a question. Would it have been the first question asked by reporters? No, because it would not have been as important. That being said, I could drive to work safely using only my elbows to steer but that does not mean it would be the best decision. Whether or not the ball was hit to Castellanos in RF has nothing whatsoever to do with determining if Ausmus made the right call by leaving him in the game.
As far as the process of allowing Nick to develop in RF is completely irrelevant in this situation. Putting your best team on the field for the final three outs of a potential no-hitter greatly outweighs giving a player one inning of work in the outfield. Brad calling the question “dumb” and saying he knew it was the first question he would be asked, all but proves that he too was thinking the same question. Ausmus leaving Nick in RF for the final inning had nothing to do with him getting reps, it had to do with a manager making a mental error in what could have been a big moment for Matt Boyd, the rest of his teammates, and Tigers fans.
3Ok, then, Statcast gave the catch probability 1% and the hit probability of Anderson’s ball 29%, does make a replacement even matter if the ball was going to drop anyway? Also, is there a psychological aspect to this of Brad trying to build confidence in a player that has already been removed 20+ times for defensive purposes at third base and has been essentially replaced by a rookie?
Alex Muller: I guess the only thing I’d be curious of myself is how much better, if at all, is the catch probability rate if any of the other possible replacements were out in right field instead of Castellanos. Is it significantly better to the point where it’s enough to point the finger at the manager?
I absolutely believe there is a psychological aspect to this, but only to a certain degree. While it does give a confidence boost for Nicholas being in a high-leverage spot, I just have a hard time seeing many managers in that specific spot — huge lead late during a no-hitter — even considering to roll out his Grade-A defensive alignment just to preserve any pristine personal achievement. It’s not that they don’t care about them, that’s certainly not what this is about.
Don Drysdale: As I have said, for me, this has absolutely nothing to do with whether the ball was catchable or not. It has to do with putting your best team on the field to reach a common goal, something Brad did not do. Not surprisingly, the White Sox used a pinch hitter, hoping to break up the no-hitter, why should the Tigers not do their best to keep the no-no intact?
There is certainly a psychological aspect to the game of baseball but I highly doubt that substituting for Castellanos, a player who has already been substituted for 20 times, is going to have any negative effect whatsoever on his play moving forward. In fact, I would go as far as saying that if one decision by a manager has that much effect on what happens in a player’s future, said player is probably not cut out for the game of baseball in the first place. The best players are able to put what happened today behind them, good or bad, and focus on the future.
4Ok, so then the question must be asked, was the reporter out of line for asking that specific question first? Brad said he even knew it was coming. Why focus on the negative, if it is even negative, instead of the gem Boyd threw?
Don Drysdale: First of all, the question was completely fair and the only reason this is being talked about was because of the way Ausmus responded to it. If he would have just answered the question rather than taking shots at the reporter, this part of the story would be a non-issue. As far as asking the question first, I do not see that as a big deal at all. Reporters are there to cover the game and to report on things they deem important. The reporter who asked the question obviously thought it was a question Brad needed to answer, so he asked it. What’s really sad about this whole thing is that by Brad reacting like a child, he has taken away from Boyd’s gem more than any question asked by a reporter ever could.
Alex Muller: I don’t necessarily think the reporter is out of line for asking the question. However, I also believe wholeheartedly that the question is not even being considered if the ball is not hit towards Castellanos in that ninth inning. And for me, it does give off a negative vibe when any reporter points to that as his first question, effectively taking away the clear notable performance from that game. Hell, we’re probably not even here typing this up if Boyd pulls off the no-hitter, or that final out is hit anywhere else into the field. I can certainly see why Ausmus would get upset. While I did not like his personal attacking of the reporter who asked the question, who does have a track record of “stirring the pot” if you will, it’s understandable given that a near non-factor part of the game becomes the focal point over what SHOULD be a focal point.
My opinion, that’s not the question you lead the postgame interview with. Start it off by talking about Boyd’s performance and the team’s hitting approach. The unlikely catchable ball in right field is not and should not be the headline of this story. As an amateur reporter myself who covers high school sports, I don’t necessarily agree with his approach in that situation with Ausmus.
I think this is just all pent up frustration on from the manager, the fans, and now the members of the media, trying to scratch and claw to find anything positive. So when we see some fraction of possibility that the fly ball could have been caught, we get upset after the fact, even though I think people deep down know that it would not have mattered.
At the end of the day, the call really is a toss-up. However, Nation, let us know your thoughts in the comments about whether Brad was right or wrong. It’s really too bad Boyd couldn’t finish off the no-hitter. It’s the sixth no-hitter the Tigers had broken up in the ninth inning since 2010. No other team in the majors has more than three.