Last night's starting pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers, Wade Miley, only threw five pitches and faced one batter before being taken out of the game. Was it an injury? No. Was he ejected by the umpires? No. It was a planned, strategic move on the part of Brewers manager Craig Counsell.
In an effort to force opposing Los Angeles Dodgers manager, Dave Roberts, to set a lineup based on left-hander Miley as the starter Counsell put the southpaw out there to start the game. But Miley was only a decoy and after pitching to the first batter (he walked Cody Bellinger on five pitches) Counsell went to his bullpen for right-hander Brandon Woodruff.
Counsell was obviously hoping that the Dodgers would start an all right-handed lineup as they did for Miley's last start in game two of the series. However, Roberts didn't give them exactly what they wanted and ended up starting two left-handed batters (Bellinger being one of them).
ESPN, quoting Roberts after the game, talking about his starting lineup, saying, "Obviously our lineup today was different than the other lineup when we faced Miley. So you gotta prepare for the unexpected. So I like where we were at [after Miley was pulled]."
It's been 16 years since the Oakland "Moneyball" A's shocked the baseball world and won the AL West with a record of 103-59 (which included a 20-game win streak). Since then, the use of analytics has only gotten more entrenched in the league and when it comes to pitching, the Milwaukee Brewers, this season, have taken it to a higher level than anyone else ever has.
Counsell regularly goes to his bullpen in the fourth and fifth innings and has even referred to his starters as "initial out-getter." They, like all the other pitchers on the team, have roles and Counsell has figured out the best way to use them all for as long or as little time is needed in every game. And obviously, it has worked - getting the team to the NLCS.
Now, had the team been down 3-1 in the series instead of tied 2-2 going into game five, then Counsell has said that Miley would have been the real starter. And having lost game five, Miley is penciled in as the game six initial out-getter with his team's season on the line tomorrow.
He will almost definitely throw more than five pitches on Friday. But how many more? Who knows!