What does it take for a manager to start a 22-year-old pitcher with nine innings of big-league experience? What sort of things rattle around in the brain of a manager who is willing to do that? Joe Maddon might be insane. We're all thinking he's adorable in that analytical manager sort of way. Then one day he'll run on the field in a sexy cop costume that he bought at a Spirit store, and we'll think, oh, right: he's just insane.
Or he could be a genius. Or lucky. Not sure just yet, but leaning towards genius. Insane might still be in the running. But here's the three-pronged attack of Joe Maddon's ... whatever:
Maddon had to look in the eyes of a 22-year-old pitcher who he didn't know that well and figure out if he'd crack in a playoff game on the road. It's not like Matt Moore was with the team all season, impressing the coaches with his maturity. Maddon had organizational reports about Moore, but if a manager is going to put a prospect on the line like that, in front of national TV and a hostile road crowd, he'll probably want to look in that kid's eyes and see if he can pick up any fear or timidity. Maddon saw something he liked.
Do you realize what 22-year-olds are like? They're usually morons. No idea about anything. And there are probably some 22-year-olds who are all offended by that, but look at what's in your left hand right now. Drugs. You're holding drugs and possibly a set of keys that don't belong to you. That's because you're 22 years old. Joe Maddon had to look Matt Moore in the eyes and figure he was cool. He could pitch a playoff game for his second start in the majors. No problem.
Scouting and statistical evaluation
There are a lot of kids who throw hard. The Giants have a left-hander who was in their AAA rotation and can throw just as hard as Moore. That's great. But the Giants would sooner start a reanimated Russ Ortiz in the playoffs before Dan Runzler. When the Rays brought up Moore, Maddon probably wasn't hovering around his bullpen sessions. He certainly didn't see every pitch. But what he saw made him think that Moore could be an asset over the next month-plus.
And there's a difference between seeing a kid throw hard, and knowing he did it while accruing gaudy statistics. Moore's stats this season were silly. And when you watch him, it looks like the ball comes out from his ear and then reappears five feet from home plate. The eyeball test and the logic test all graded out to something worth considering.
Not giving a shit
Is there a single manager who would have done what Maddon did? David Price and James Shields weren't available, and Jeremy Hellickson would have had to start on short rest. Jeff Niemann has back problems, and Wade Davis was pretty inconsistent this season. So there wasn't an easy decision to make. But would any of the other 29 remaining managers in MLB who would have seriously considered Moore? It's tough to say without crawling into their minds, but I'm guessing no.
It's not that baseball managers are risk-averse. It's that we all are. Bringing up a rookie to start the first game of the playoffs is risky. Other supposed geniuses have tried it, failing spectacularly. If Maddon had started Wade Davis, no one would have blinked. Maddon didn't give a shit. He started the pitcher with the live young arm, and it paid off handsomely.
He might be slightly insane, but whatever he did before Friday's game, it worked last night. It's probably best not to judge or evaluate. Just appreciate him. He certainly isn't dull.