I don’t play baseball video games or Strat O Matic anymore. The reason is I am a 45 year old man. I am closer to 60 than 18. The days of playing games are over.
But when I did, I would always try to employ strategies that for ME seemed to be smart but I knew would never fly in the real world.
Switching the lineups daily, using relievers as starters, using starters for an inning on their throw day, tossing out the notion of a closer and bringing in the best pitcher for the circumstances.
My pitching staff stats would look bananas by the end of the year. Guys making 20 starts would have 11 to 12 saves. Guys with 30 saves would have 4 or 5 starts but not go more than 3 innings in them.
I loved the concept of a staff where you had 3 guys go 3 innings each and rotated them so they make about 20 starts, close out 20 games and make 20 middle relief appearances.
I would love to do all of that.
But the real world would make that a near impossibility.
That’s why I was thrilled when I saw how Jim Leyland used Ted Power in a potential elimination post season game in 1990. It didn’t work, but it was straight out of my way of thinking.
The Pirates were down 3-1 to the Reds in the 1990 NLCS but took game 5 with a solid start from Doug Drabek and a save from Bob Patterson (who had 5 saves all season.)
Game 6 was in Cincinnati and was do or die for the Pirates. The Reds were throwing Danny Jackson, whose lone job it was to give Cincinnati 6 strong innings before turning it over to Charlton, Dibble and Myers.
The Pirates were expected to hand the ball to lefty Zane Smith. But Jim Leyland was thinking like your pal Sully.
The Reds heavily platooned their lineup. For lefties, Glenn Braggs and Billy Hatcher would play. Against righties, Paul O’Neill and Herm Winningham got the call.
What if the Pirates started a righty to get one side of the platoon up and then bring in a lefty to force the Reds to consider leaving them in or pinch hitting.
So who did Leyland call on? He called on Ted Power, who had saved Game 1. That’s right. Power was a bullpen closer for the opener and the starting pitcher for the potential elimination.
It was Power’s first start of the year.
The Kansas State alum was a product of the Dodger system and played for the 1981 World Champs (he didn’t get to pitch in October.) Dealt to the Reds for Mike Ramsey, he became an effective middle reliever for manager Pete Rose, saving 27 games in 1985 and settling in as a set up man for John Franco and making spot starts.
In 1987, he was moved to the rotation but was not very effective and became trade bait.
Coincidentally, he was dealt to the Royals in a deal involving Danny Jackson, whom he would be facing in 1990.
Between 1988 and 1989, he bounced between the Royals, Tigers and Cardinals before landing in Pittsburgh.
Power had a decent 1990 for the first Pirates playoff team since 1979. His 3.66 ERA was OK but not great. He saved 7 games.
Like my potential computer pitching staff, Leyland’s bullpen did not have a save compiler. Bill Landrum had 13 saves. Bob Patterson had 5, Bob Kipper had 3, Stan Belinda had 8, Scott Ruskin has 2, Vincente Palacios had 3, Power had 7 and even starter Bob Walk had one. There was no tyranny of the save here.
Power came into Game 1 with the tying run on second and the winning run on third and one out. The Reds tried a double steal. Catcher Mike LaValliere saw he had no shot to get the runner at third and threw out pinch runner Billy Bates at second. Power then struck out Chris Sabo to earn the save.
He made one more relief appearance before getting his surprise start.
Reds manager Lou Piniella saw what Leyland was doing and made his line up a bit of a hodge podge. O’Neill got the start but so did Billy Hatcher. And Hal Morris, who was a cinch to start against the right hander, also sat.
Power wasn’t bombed but was hardly brilliant. He threw 2 1/3 innings, allowing 3 hits and a run.
With one out and one on in the third, Zane Smith came in to relieve with Pittsburgh trailing 1-0. The Pirates would tie the game but a pinch hitter for O’Neill, Luis Quinones, drove the go ahead run in against Smith. Carmelo Martinez almost hit a game tying homer against Randy Myers in the 9th but Glenn Braggs caught it over the wall.
Braggs was not in the starting lineup against Power but came in as a defensive replacement. The game was a 2-1 final and the combination of Power and Smith held Cincinnati to 2 runs into the 7th.
It wasn’t as if Leyland’s strategy failed. It is tough to win when 2 runs allowed is too much.
We thought alike.
Power starts and gets the team into a state of confusion. You need the bats to hit as well to make it really work.
Hopefully someone else will use that train of thought some day.