Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rob Thomson Did The Right Thing

Ever since Nick Swisher was thrown out at home plate in the top of the 7th of last night's game, people have been shaking their fists at Rob Thomson.

Swisher was leading off the top of the 7th of a tie ballgame, and was hit by a slider from Matt Lindstrom. The pitch got him in the right foot, and after hobbling around a bit Nick went to first. The hobbling would leave one to believe Swisher was hurt, and therefore was going to be more station to station (a la Hideki Matsui) than a pest on the basepaths (a la Brett Gardner). I believe he was fine after shaking it off, just like after one stubs their toe. Sure, it hurts like hell when it happens, but after a minute you're fine and walking around as if nothing happened. After all, if Nick had done any real damage, then he would have been removed from the game... even as a precautionary thing, as we've seen happen numerous times early in a season. But Nick remained in the game until the end.

So after a short delay for the hit-by-pitch, Robinson Cano came to the plate. After three pitches, which brought the count to 1-2, Robbie drove a slider down the right field line. Swisher was on his way to 3rd and Thomson was waiving him home. The throw from Endy Chavez wasn't right on line, but it was a strong throw. JJ Hardy then made a perfect relay throw home to nail Swisher on a bang-bang play. Replay showed that the throw being to Wieter's left helped him to block the plate, making it extremely difficult for Swisher to reach all the way around Matt's leg and touch the plate before the tag (make a mental note of this for later).

So not only was Swisher not injured after the HBP, but JJ Hardy's relay throw was as good as you can possibly ask for (hence the bolded and italicized "perfect" in the previous paragraph). If the throw was a little less than perfect Swish likely would have scored, giving the Yankees the lead, resulting in the the vast majority of Yankee fans saying Thomson made a great call. At worst, some Yankee fans would have said Thomson's decision was questionable, but they wouldn't be lambasting the guy.

And let's not forget that Swisher slid head-first into home plate, something that I believe is flat-out stupid. First and foremost, the chances of injury are really good. Nick was reaching out with his fingers, a part of the body that is not exactly tough to injure thanks to no muscle surrounding a bunch of tiny bones. Then, soon after his fingers is his face, all of which could slam into hard plastic shin guards wrapped around really stable legs. Even if a runner sliding head-first into home was able to avoid injury, a lot of momentun would be lost if there was any sort of collision, as one's arms are not nearly as strong as one's legs. Push somebody with your arms, and then push somebody with your legs. Did the victim fall away more with your arms pushing or your legs pushing? It's why MMA fighters don't immediately go after an opponent laying on the ground, whose legs are aimed at him. A runner should slide feet-first as to help avoid injury, as well as be able to hold onto as much momentum as possible, should a collision occur.

Oh, and by sliding feet-first directly at the plate, it probably would have led to Wieters not being able to get the tag down and in front of him (remember, Matt tagged Nick on the foul side of the base line... right where the throw went). Especially seeing that Wieter's legs were spread to get to the throw, creating a nice "5-hole" for Nick to put his feet through and get directly to the plate.

The point is, a lot of things had to go right for Swisher to be thrown out after being sent home by Robbie Thomson... and they did. The vast majority of the time the run scores, Yankee fans rejoice, and Mariano Rivera would have locked down win #2 at the end of 9 innings instead of 12.

Maybe my feelings simply come from coaching third base, and my belief in being aggressive on the basepaths. I don't like the "what if"s that come with holding the runner, and waiting for another batter to get him home. Of course my team doesn't have Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira batting 4th and 5th in the order, but as we saw after Swisher was thrown out (leaving Cano at 2B with one out), having the heart of the order coming up is no guarantee of a runner scoring. Either way, though, I strongly believe that most of the time Yankee fans are applauding Thomson's decision instead of berating him for it.

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