Archive for the ‘silly managers’ Category

The Worst Intentional Walk I’ve Ever Seen

August 19, 2009

I watched the Twins game against the Rangers last night. One of those weird games that for a while, nobody seemed to want to win…least of all Rangers manager Ron Washington.

Now, I don’t see a lot of the Rangers, but I’ve always liked Ron Washington. Maybe because he’s a former Twin, maybe because he just carries himself like the kind of guy who should be a very good manager (the way I think most non-Twins fans probably see Gardy). But this was…interesting.

Top of the 6th inning. Four runs already in for the Twins, now tied at 5. Nick Punto on first, Delmon Young on third, two outs. Right-handed reliever Jason Jennings is the new pitcher. Before even throwing a pitch, he picks Punto off, but the defense bungles it — Omar Vizquel throwing to third behind Delmon for no particular reason, and unsuccessfully — so now there are runners on second and third with two outs. Leadoff hitter and LHB Denard Span at the plate. After Span comes RHB Orlando Cabrera. Washington has Span intentionally walked to get to Cabrera with the bases loaded and two down.

Some numbers for you to consider:
Denard Span vs. RHP, season: .281/.367/.381
Orlando Cabrera vs. RHP, season: .294/.318/.394

Now, granted, Jennings himself has huge platoon splits, and would much rather face a righty than a lefty. But Span is an atypical lefty. He’s never had big platoon splits in the majors or minors, he has almost literally no power, and this year, he actually has severe reverse splits (with an .842 OPS against lefties compared to the .748 above). As a right-handed pitcher, the only thing you’re worried about against Span that you’re not especially concerned about with Cabrera is the possibility of the walk–the very thing you’re handing him for free!

And remember, there are two outs, so no double play. The only advantages here are the chance for the 3B or SS to get a closer force out (how often do you think that really makes the difference?) and whatever small advantages you think you get from facing Cabrera rather than Span and from Jennings facing a RHB rather than a LHB. And for that you’re loading the bases — in a tie game in just the 6th inning, remember — and risking a huge inning, a run scoring on a HBP or unintentional walk, etc.

Ohhhhhhhhh, and I have just one more set of slash stats for you. Consider the guy who comes up after Cabrera:

Joe Mauer, vs. all pitchers, 2009: Seventy million/eleventy billion/Zorbon-X6Qsquared.

That’s right. Rather than face slap-hitting, reverse-splitted Denard Span with two outs (a situation in which the most likely negative outcome was a walk anyway), Ron Washington thought it would be a good idea to intentionally load the bases to face what in that situation was a very similar hitter, just one hitter in front of the very best hitter on the planet. Say O-Cab scratches out an infield single? You’re looking at a one-run deficit with the bases still juiced and Babe Freaking Ruth coming up. And for what purpose again? Oh yeah…none in particular. I’d much rather have two chances to get the out pre-Mauer than one.

Pretty definitely the worst IBB decision I’ve ever seen. One of the worst managerial moves I’ve ever seen, period.

Ah yes, and it “worked.” Cabrera hit the ball hard, but Byrd tracked it down in center, and Mauer was left on the on-deck circle (and naturally homered to crazy-deep center to lead off the 7th, his second of the game). No justice, I tell you.

But then, okay, here’s a little bit of justice for you: if Jennings pitches to and retires Span to end the inning, and then O-Cab leads off the 7th with the out to center, there are three outs in that inning, rather than two, at the point when Delmon Young comes up and hits the 2-run homer that real-life Delmon hit to give the Twins the lead (and eventually the win). Not nearly as immediately gratifying as my O-Cab-single-plus-Mauer-grand-slam scenario would have been, but a little bit of karmic retribution nonetheless.

Intentional walks are dumb. Intentional walks that load the bases one seeing-eye single in front of the best hitter in the game are unforgivably dumb.

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Does Bob Geren Know What He’s Doing?

May 22, 2009

For the editorial staff, yesterday was a good day for laying flat on one’s back and not looking at a computer screen for any length of time at all. So today’s something is coming up a little late and a little short. But we seem to be on the mend, so the epic post may come tomorrow or Sunday.

While I was laying there yesterday, one of the few games that ended before my 8:30 bedtime was Oakland at Tampa Bay, so when my eyes were open, I was watching that.

The A’s took a 5-3 lead in the top of the 9th. Rather than send his closer (Brad Ziegler) out for the bottom of the inning, however, manager Bob Geren sticks with rookie Andrew Bailey, who had just pitched the 8th. Bailay walks the first batter, Willy Aybar, and at this point, Ziegler starts warming up. Bailey then gets Akinori Iwamura to send a lazy fly ball to left, but then serves up the game-tying home run to pinch hitter Ben Zobrist.

Now Ziegler’s in the game, and he promptly serves up a ground-rule double to catcher Dioner Navarro, then walks BJ Upton to bring up the left handed hitting Carl Crawford. Now a lefty has started to throw in the A’s bullpen. It matters not, however, as Crawford lines Ziegler’s first pitch into center field, bringing home Navarro with the winning run.

I don’t get it. I’m actually on board with not bringing Ziegler in to start the 9th, because really, your setup guy should be able to handle a two-run lead. But you should at least have your closer warming up to start the inning, right, so that if Bailey does get into a little trouble, you can bring your closer in before the game-tying HR? (You could argue that “closer” label aside, Bailey is actually a better pitcher than Ziegler right now, and I wouldn’t fight you. But Bailey did throw 44 pitches in two innings two nights earlier, so Ziegler at least had a much fresher arm.)

Here’s the real issue for me, though: Ziegler is a side-arming righty who has held right-handed hitters to a .222/.265/.257 mark while lefties have beat him around to the tune of .295/.392/.426. You might argue that he’s miscast as a closer, since most managers will leave their closer in there against anybody regardless, but by sending the lefty to get warm in the bullpen when Crawford came up, Geren showed that he was aware of the problem. So why not send him to warm up a batter or two earlier and bring him in to face Crawford? Was he just asleep at the switch?

Geren will be criticized (to the extent that anyone cares about the A’s) for not putting his closer in to start the inning. But while that was certainly a strange move, I can understand it. Aybar is a switch hitter, Iwamura a lefty, and Zobrist (who pinch-hit for the RH Gabe Kapler) another switch hitter. I’d rather have the traditional RHP, Bailey, face those three lefties than the sidearmer (unless, again, you think Bailey was tired). The mistake, though, was not getting the left-handed reliever warm quickly enough to face Crawford, three batters later. The fact that he was warming up while Crawford was hitting (presumably to face Pena, two batters after that? Either the inning or game would very likely have been over by that point anyway) makes me think that Geren just didn’t think about it fast enough. And that’s inexcusable.

Andy Sonnanstine and Other unDesignated Hitters

May 18, 2009

Not a lot of traffic here on the weekends, I’ve noticed. And I get that — why would you waste your time reading junk on the internet if you can’t be pretending to work while you do it? So if you’ve been away for a couple days, check out Saturday’s rant about official scorers and fielding percentage and Sunday’s slightly-less-than-thrilling conclusion to the All-Metrodome Team.

So how about this game, huh? Joe Maddon intends to start regular third baseman Evan Longoria at DH and Ben Zobrist at 3B, but on the lineup card he turns in, both were listed at 3B. Once Zobrist has played in the field, then, the Rays have forfeited their designated hitter, and instead of having the best player on the team (and probably in the AL) batting in their #3 spot, that spot is populated by their pitcher, Andy Sonnanstine. You’d think that would be kind of a disadvantage, wouldn’t you?

Aber nein! Sonnanstine (4-for-10 in his career with two walks coming into the game) was a better hitter than he was a pitcher yesterday, going 1-for-3 with his first career double and second RBI to help get himself a 7-5 “win” despite giving up five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. Longoria did get into the game as part of a double-switch when Sonnanstine came out, and walked in his only PA. (As an aside, is he allowed to do that? Since he was listed on the initial lineup card, hasn’t he already been “used”? Well, anyway.)

If I’m at a game and keeping score, I’ll often do certain things habitually. If Justin Morneau is getting the start at DH that day, I’ll have written “Morneau – 1B” before I’ve even thought about it. So why shouldn’t it happen to a manager (or whoever transcribed for him) too?

I happened to be present for the last AL game in which a pitcher batted more than once, between the Twins and White Sox in 2007 at the Cell. In that game, Mike Redmond was catching and Joe Mauer was the DH. Redmond was hurt in the bottom of the first, and the Twins weren’t carrying a third catcher, so Mauer had to suit up and catch the rest of the game, requiring Matt Garza (now a teammate of Sonnanstine! Coincidence??) to bat for himself. Garza didn’t help himself out the way Sonnanstine did, but he pitched much better (as Garza is wont to do), and Morneau hit three homers, and the Twins won a very fun 12-0 laugher with one hitter tied behind their backs.

But why stop there? Let’s look at…

AL Pitchers with 2 or More PA in the Designated Hitter Era!!

It’s happened eleven times (a query requiring just one PA comes up with 76 results, but most of them were huge blowouts, and several were actual hitters who came into the game only to pitch in said blowouts, so we’ll stick with the guys who got to stay in the lineup for a while). Assorted facts:

  • With the Rays’ win yesterday, the 11 teams that have done this have a record of 7-4. It’s an odd game.
  • Including Sonnanstine, the group is a combined 3-for-28 (.107) with 8 strikeouts, no walks, and, perhaps most surprisingly, only one sacrifice (by Garza). Sonnanstine’s double was the first extra-base hit by anyone in this group.
  • I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that seven of the eleven happened in the first four years of the DH rule (1973-76), when one assumes that managers were still just coming to grips with the intricacies of this crazy new world in which they were living. The first two instances both involved closers (Lindy McDaniel and Tom Murphy) hitting for themselves to finish out extra-inning games. In both, the managers had used a player at DH that they later moved to shortstop, forfeiting the DH. Again, it took them a while for some managers to really get the hang of this DH thing. (Bob Boone has no such excuse, however; the exact same thing happened in 1995, with the Royals’ Chris Stynes moving from DH to 2B in a game that ultimately went 16 innings.)
  • Here’s my favorite one: October 2, 1974. It’s the last day of the season, and Rangers manager Billy Martin forgoes the DH entirely in order to let future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins hit for himself. Jenkins — a career .163 hitter — does quite well for himself, going 1-for-2…and his one hit, coming in the sixth, breaks up the no-hitter of the Twins’ Jim Hughes! Jenkins comes around to score, helping himself on the way to a 3-2 comeback win, Jenkins’ 25th of the year. The game is the last one another future Hall of Famer, Harmon Killebrew, would play with the Twins. (Here’s the source for all that info.)
  • George’s brother Ken Brett did it twice, and went a combined 0-for-6. It actually wasn’t a terrible idea, though; with a 94 OPS+ and 10 HR in 373 PA across a career spent largely pre-DH or in the National League, the other Brett was almost certainly a better hitter than many of the DHes the Twins have used in the last few years, a list that has included Jason Tyner, Jeff Cirillo and Luis Rodriguez.
  • It happened only once in the 1980’s, right here. It appears to be the same situation as the one with Garza, Redmond and Mauer; one catcher, Ron Hassey, was DHing when the acting catcher, Ron Karkovice, was injured fielding a bunt, and there were no more Rons catchers on the bench. Pitcher Bill Dawley had to lead off the next inning, contributing the first of his two groundouts.
  • And finally, one that Joe Maddon can feel better about: July 22, 1999. Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove has Alex Ramirez in right field and Manny Ramirez at DH, then changes his mind and flips the two (because ManRam told Hargrove he wanted to play RF, which I think says a lot about both Manny and Hargrove). Only he has a bunch of different lineup cards now, and the umpire is given the wrong one. When Manny takes the field while listed as the DH on the official card, they’ve forfeited the DH, so pitcher Charles Nagy goes 0-for-2 with a strikeout batting 7th. The team loses 4-3 to the Jays; is this the one time where the manager’s mistake really made a difference (negatively, so not counting Fergie)? Alex playing in the field instead of Manny and hitting instead of Nagy certainly could have led to another run or two.

So what have we learned? Well, Mike Hargrove is (and Billy Martin was) kind of ridiculous, but we knew that. Fergie Jenkins was awesome? Knew that, too. I guess the only takeaway point is this: AL teams that forfeit their designated hitters play .636 baseball (11 games across 37 seasons is a meaningful sample, right?). You’re welcome!

Is Tim Lincecum on Lou Piniella’s Fantasy Team?

May 6, 2009

Check out the lineup Sweet Lou trotted out yesterday afternoon against the reigning Cy Young Award winner:

1. Gathright CF
2. Miles SS
3. Fukudome RF
4. Lee 1B
5. Hoffpauir LF
6. Fontenot 3B
7. Scales 2B
8. Hill C
9. Marshall P

Oy.

I mean, Fontenot isn’t a third baseman, but Aramis Ramirez is hurt, so no choice there. And D-Lee has earned the right to play himself out of the lineup, which he may be in the process of doing, but he hasn’t done it yet.

But Gathright’s speed is his only asset, and with a career .302 OBP, he doesn’t give himself much of a chance to use it; Miles has never been a good player (and really isn’t a shortstop) and is off to a .483 2009 OPS; Scales is a great story, but is still a 31 year old making his big-league debut; and Koyie Hill is the backup catcher, which you expect to see for any day game after a night game, but Hill may well be the worst-hitting non-pitcher in the Major Leagues.

On the bench, meanwhile (and apparently healthy), are Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, Milton Bradley, Ryan Theriot, and Reed Johnson. Throw in the sort-of-injued A-Ram, and you’ve got 11 All-Star appearances, four top-ten MVP finishes, last year’s National League Rookie of the Year, last year’s American League OPS leader, one of the best offensive shortstops in the NL, and, well, Reed Johnson (who did hit .300 last year), all on the bench. For Joey Gathright and Aaron Miles.

My only theory: Lou Piniella is in a fantasy baseball league, and just really needs a win from Lincecum this period. Fukudome (the only legitimate starting position player who is playing like such this year and started for the Cubbies yesterday) is also on Lou’s team, but Soriano is on the roster of his closest competitor.

I’d like to see you come up with a better explanation for this nonsense…

And hey, guess what! it worked. For Lou’s fantasy team, that is.