Yes, ball player-wise Lance McCullers is young, but he’s not that young. Carlos Correa is younger. Alex Bregman is younger. When Jose Altuve was Lance’s age he led the majors in batting average and hits. When Larry Dierker was LMJ’s age he was a second-time All-Star in his 7th full season in the majors. Heck, Audie Murphy won the Congressional Medal of Honor at the age of 19 for holding off a company of Germans single-handedly and then leading a counterattack without ammunition.
The one thing that is mostly young about Lance is his maturity. We’ve seen this before. We’ve seen a meltdown last season when he could not get on the same page with his catcher Evan Gattis; he seemed to have an infantile episode having to deal with someone other than Brian McCann. We saw a meltdown in the 7th game of the World Series where his pitches were more likely to hit the ribs of the opponent as the strike zone. We saw a meltdown earlier this season where he gave up 8 runs in 2/3 of an inning where he blamed having to follow a plan that was not his plan.
And then Saturday night there were again some signs of strain or over-emotion or immaturity. Early on Yuli Gurriel messed up a very hard hit ball right at him. Lance showed his displeasure with the misplay right out in the middle of the field for all to see. As they headed off the field Jose Altuve showed some emotion back at LMJ just before getting into the dugout. Then later on to finish off a ragged start, Lance did not get a strike call against Edwin Encarnacion and followed it up with a batting practice home run pitch.
There is a fine line between players being emotional bull dogs and being over-amped. Lance McCullers seems to be tottering on that line right now. When he is riding his emotions, but controlling them, he is one of the best pitchers in the league. When he doesn’t control those emotions he is the second coming of Lucas Harrell.
So, going forward, what happens?
- Does Justin Verlander step in and give him some advice on how to channel and control that emotional energy?
- Does Manager A.J. Hinch take action and if so what?
- Give lights out reliever Collin McHugh a starting spot back?
- Put McCullers in the bullpen? In the minors?
- Give him time out and take away his I-phone for a day?
- Or let his players self police LMJ?
What would you do?