Take him out, leave him in. Take him out, leave him in. One of the hardest decisions for a baseball manager to make during the game is deciding when is best to pull the pitcher from the game.
Many factors contribute to this, including pitch count and how well the pitcher is throwing during the game. One great debate still exists in baseball today: should you take out a pitcher who has a no-hitter or perfect game going?
Monday night, Rich Harden, starting pitcher for the Texas Rangers, had a no-hitter through 6.2 innings, before getting pulled from the game because of a high pitch count. As the game progressed, the no-hitter was broken up in the ninth inning. Neftali Feliz gave up a hit, needing only two outs for something historic. In a post-game interview, Harden said the right things but was clearly upset that he was not left in the game for a chance to chase this incredible feat.
Now most people will side with Ron Washington, Ranger manager, who said you have to protect your pitcher and can’t leave him in there. If the pitcher wants to stay in and feels like he can keep throwing, however, you have to give him the chance to stay in the game.
With the exception of Nolan Ryan, most pitchers will not throw a no-hitter or a perfect game anytime in their careers.Â The few pitchers that do accomplish this great feat only accomplish it once. Harden deserved that chance Monday night – and it just didn’t happen.
Take a look at this baseball season: a couple weeks ago, the Twins faced the same situation. Kevin Slowey was pulled after seven innings, despite not allowing a hit. Jon Rauch gave up a hit in the next inning, thus ruining Slowey’s no-hitter.Â I’ll admit there is no guaranteed that Harden or Rauch would not have given up a hit in the last two innings of the game, but in both games we will never know if either of the pitchers could have gone the distance.
Earlier in the season, A.J. Hinch, Diamondback manager, left Edwin Jackson in the game – even though he didn’t have a high pitch count – because he had a no-hitter in tact. Jackson made history, throwing a 149 pitch no-hitter. Hinch gave Jackson a shot at history, and Jackson threw the game of his career. I just wish Harden and Slowey had the same opportunity.