John Farrell’s decision to pinch-hit for David Ross is a head-scratcher


Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Here in Boston, our professional sports teams have some of the top coaches in each of their respective sports, so as a fan I try not to do too much questioning when it comes to their in-game decisions. And after last season’s run, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell has certainly earned my trust. But the decision by Farrell to pinch-hit Jonathan Herrera for David Ross in today’s 7-6 Patriot’s Day loss to the Baltimore Orioles was certainly a head-scratcher.

To set the scene, it was the bottom of the eighth and a Mike Napoli home run off Darren O’Day to lead off the inning had made it a 7-5 game. After a Mike Carp groundout, Xander Bogaerts singled to left and Daniel Nava reached on an infield single. With O’Day still on the mound, Farrell sent the switch-hitting Herrera to the plate to bat for Ross, preparing for a potential pitching change. Once the move had officially been announced (Farrell take notes), Buck Showalter made a move to the bullpen, bringing in lefty Brian Matusz. Herrera then struck out swinging on a botched hit-and-run in which Bogaerts was tagged out in a rundown.

Sending Herrera to the plate in this situation was a curious move. Many will argue that the sidearm throwing O’Day is a tough matchup for a right-handed hitter, which is true. Left-handed hitters have a considerably higher BA than right-handed hitters against O’Day over the past three seasons (.253 compared to .189). But Napoli and Bogaerts, both of whom are right-handed, had both just hit him hard. Plus, Ross’ career splits (numbers against righties and lefties) are virtually identical and he had only faced O’Day once in his career, which is certainly not an evidence-providing sample size. Not to mention, Ross had homered the inning previous and Herrera isn’t exactly Babe Ruth coming off the bench. Would I be questioning the move if Grady Sizemore had been the one to pinch-hit? Probably not.

It’s easy to second guess in hindsight. If Herrera had got the job done, Farrell would have been a genius. Also, there’s no way to know how Ross would have fared in his at-bat. But in this situation, I think Farrell was over thinking the lefty-righty matchup possibilities and it may have cost the Red Sox a chance at getting back to .500.