The 2-hour and 3-minute rain delay in yesterday's game put the Reds in a position to make a controversial decision by having Aaron Harang come back out to finish the 5th inning after the delay. The risk of the decision is that Harang had to keep loose for two hours, so he must have been pitching off and on in the clubhouse at that time. If that's the case, then he likely threw well over 150 pitches on the day yesterday, an awful lot even if many of them were in non-game situations.
The bigger concern for me is the motivation behind the decision:
There are a lot of managers who would not have let Aaron Harang return after a 2-hour, 3-minute rain delay. But Dusty Baker did. Harang was very happy about it because it allowed him to earn the win. Harang kept throwing during the delay to keep loose.
It feels strange for me to say this given the stathead reputation and all, but isn't it just silly for the Reds to risk any kind of potential injury to their ace just so he can get credit in a statistical column? I know a pitcher's record is a matter of pride for himself, but the team's record really is what matters most, isn't it? Is it worth risking injury to a pitcher who struggled with injuries last year, just so that he can be in line for potentially getting credit for the win?
That's the thing too. When Harang came out to pitch again after the delay, it was only a 5-3 game. What if the bullpen had come in during the 6th, like Jared Burton tried to do, and blown the lead, nullifying Harang's chance at a decision? The fact is that there was still a lot of game left to play.
I know some have defended the move saying that Harang was due up at the bottom of the inning, so Baker didn't have to waste a reliever to pitch the 5th. I don't buy it though because he could very easily have pulled a double-switch. As a matter of fact, that's exactly what he did anyway. Joey Votto pinch hit for Harang and then stayed in the game with the pitcher moving to the number 8 spot in the order. If he was going to double-switch anyway, why not just do it after the rain delay? At least then he could have done a double-switch that actually made sense.
What's funny about this whole situation for me is that there are players that constantly criticized for playing for their own stats. Typically it's home run hitters who "don't do the little things." But what about managers who make decisions with the only justification being the stats? Pitchers get left in for too many pitches just so they can qualify for a win. Closers are only brought in during save situations, even when the team might be better served by having them get out of a bases loaded jam in a tie ballgame. Are these situations any better than a guy swinging for the fences? Does it ever make sense to let a stat direct your decisions or efforts in a game? Should the team or the season always outweigh personal achievement? Is it possible to have both?