I'm all about John Cohen and what he's done to revive Mississippi State baseball, but sometimes his in-game decisions have me scratching my head. Not just last night, but all the time - we just don't share the same baseball strategy. But for this, we'll review a few decisions from Friday night.
Here was the lineup for Game 1 vs. LSU:
1. Frazier SS
2. Bradford CF
3. Renfroe RF
4. Detz 1B
5. Slauter C
6. Henderson LF
7. Rea DH
8. Frost 3B
9. Pirtle 2B
Why is Frost starting over Norris? I understand Frost had been hitting well recently, he's a lefty vs. a RHP, but Norris is a big time hitter (.333) and we're facing a big time team. What's more, Frost is a liability at 3B. Half the time he one-hops the throw to first - and he made a critical error in the 7th inning on a throw to second. I'm okay with starting Frost at 2B, however, because he should have been in there over Pirtle - who is now hitting .146.
Here's the lineup I'd like to see for Game 2:
1. Frazier SS
2. Bradford CF
3. Detz 1B
4. Renfroe RF
5. Rea DH
6. Norris 3B
7. Slauter C
8. Frost 2B
9. Robson LF
The first two are perfect. I'd switch Detz and Renfoe because Hunter has a lot more power (.316 higher slugging %) so you want him in a position to do more damage; and with Detz's extraordinary .563 on-base %, he will probably be on the base paths for Renfroe. I know Cohen is probably putting Renfroe in the 3-hole to protect him, but with Frazier, Bradford and Detz in front of him (with an average OB% of .478) I'm willing to let them pitch around him and likely lead to a massive inning - there are still some good hitters back there in Slauter, Rea and Norris.
If Rea is healthy enough to play 1B, then I'd move Detz to 2B and DH Porter against another RHP. Start Norris at 3B. In a night game after a night game Slauter needs to be in there, not Ammirati and his 60 points less of a batting average - this is a big series Mitch can handle it - save Ammo for a lesser team or at the very least wait until a day game after a night game. Frost is better suited for 2B and he is swinging the best bat among the four candidates at the position. I'd start Robson because (1) he is a lefty, (2) he could be a spark at the end of the lineup, (3) Henderson hit into three double plays Friday night.
I. MSU was up 4-3 in the bottom of the 6th. Wes Rea led off the inning getting hit by a pitch. Frost was up next, and bunted him to second base. Stop right there. WHY ARE WE BUNTING IN THE 6TH INNING, WITH THE LEAD, WITH BRETT PIRTLE ON DECK?
A. If we are going to bunt, then pinch hit for Pirtle with Porter, Norris or even Flair - instead he hit a popped up for the 2nd out.
B. If we are going to play for one run, then pinch run for Rea with Robson or Armstrong and let Frost hit. Maybe try to steal second base instead of giving up an out to get Rea to second base - where he was pinch run for with Pollorena anyway.
C. I could see playing for one if we were down 4-3, but we were up. I understand the concept of an insurance run - but you don't do that until the 8th inning. LSU has a potent offense and three more innings to score runs is plenty. I think you should always play for the crooked number before the 8th inning, or at least before the 7th. Bunting here is like getting into the red zone, running three times up the middle, and attempting a FG in the middle of the 3rd quarter that would give you a 6 point lead vs. Alabama.
D. Here's what I would've done: pinch run for Rea with Robson and pinch hit Norris for Frost (of course, I would've had Norris starting anyway). Maybe we score, maybe we don't, but I think it gives us a much better chance than with giving up an out - and I would attempt to steal with Robson if Norris gets ahead in the count. What's more, Norris would have been playing 3B in the 7th when Frost made an error that led to the tying run.
II. In the top of the 7th, Myles Gentry started the inning walking the leadoff man. Then, the aforementioned error by Frost. Chad Girado came in to pitch and threw a wild pitch to advance the runners to 2nd and 3rd. Then he walked the man he was facing. This is the time when you realize your pitcher does not have it tonight for whatever reason, and you need to go back to the 'pen. Instead, Girado thew another wild pitch and the runner from 3rd scored, tying the game. Bracewell eventually came in to close out the inning, leaving two on base.
III. Why wasn't Holder brought in for the 10th inning? Here you've got a shutdown closer who is striking out batters at a pace that would make Nolan Ryan blush, and we bring in Cox? Nothing wrong with Cox, but this was only the 4th relief appearance of his career. When you're playing at home your closer cannot record a save in extra innings, so you use him in the 10th, especially when you've got a top 5 team in an extra inning game - don't take any chances.
I'm sure there will be some decisions I don't agree with today. It's too bad because I'm available for Coach Cohen to call for advice any time. Hopefully the Dawgs will win today.