Saturday, September 26, 2009

Marlins Will Rue The Day They Didn't Beef Up The Bullpen

  • A proven closer might've made the difference for the Marlins:

They're not dead yet, but after last night's devastating loss to the comatose Mets, the Marlins are on life support in their playoff chase. Given how they've been given last rites so many times this season, it would be foolish to count them out with a week left in the season----anything can happen----but one can only wonder what might've been had they followed through on their attempts to beef up their bullpen at mid-season. Are they going to be hovering around the firepit in the backyard and reminiscing over their season while still wondering what might have been?

Having sniffed around and gotten into serious discussions with the Padres about Heath Bell, but deeming the demands too steep, the Marlins stuck with what they had, relied on journeymen like Brendan Donnelly and shut their eyes going with skittish Matt Lindstrom and the young and inexperienced Leo Nunez. It's cost them more than one game and could very well have cost them a playoff spot.

As talented as Nunez is (and I still can't fathom what Royals GM Dayton Moore was thinking when he traded that arm for Mike Jacobs), he's not experienced at closing; his command isn't very good; and he tends to leave fat pitches out over the plate because he relies too heavily on his velocity and gives up a lot of home runs. Eventually, he's going to be an All Star closer, but he isn't now. What would the Marlins look like had they made the move for Bell; or if they'd gotten Billy Wagner from the Mets; or Brad Ziegler from the Athletics? There's no way to answer the question, but one can only assume they'd be better off now with those four of five extra wins they would've gotten with a legit closer.

It's only par for the course for the Marlins to shut their eyes and go with what they have, for better or worse. For much of this season and under Jeffrey Loria's ownership and Larry Beinfest's running of the organization, it's worked brilliantly but the downside of that is sometimes the learning process costs a team games and that's what's happened with the Marlins and their closing situation. An inspiring season for a club that few expected to contend is now assured; but it could've been so much more.

  • A simple strategy for Jeff Francoeur:

Jeff Francoeur has been a revelation for the Mets with his enthusiasm, attitude and all-around hustling play. He's embracing New York and New York is embracing him; his acquisition for the mediocre and somewhat miserable Ryan Church will be seen as a huge win for the Mets and Omar Minaya in the coming years especially if Francoeur is able to fulfill his multiple-MVP talent in a Mets uniform.

That said, there's still the problem of a football player's over-aggressiveness that's hampering Francoeur from maximizing his ability. Every hitting coach has a theory on how to combat this, some make sense and some don't. One of the problems that Francoeur had in Atlanta was that he was playing near his home and had dozens of people diagnosing and treating his struggles with various remedies. Once he started slumping, being dumped on by upper management and ripped in the media, he was a mechanical and mental mess trying to incorporate everything that anyone and everyone suggested which placed him into an even bigger funk.

What I'm wondering, amid all the ideas of opening up his stance; closing his stance; moving his hands higher or lower; checking his eyes; etc, did anyone think of the simplest strategy there is? And that strategy would be to treat the beginnings of his at bats as if he's ahead in the count 2-0, 3-0, or 3-1 and pick a zone in which he'll only swing if the ball is there. Without being condescending for anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, hitters ahead in the count look for a pitch to crush and if the pitch isn't in their "happy zone", they let it go. What's to stop Francouer from implementing this simple yet effective strategy to increase the number of pitches he sees and thereby raising the number of pitches he has to choose from and getting more pitches to hit? He'd definitely walk more under such a mandate and he'd have a chance of becoming the superstar all his tools suggest he can be.

  • What would the Yankees have done with Chamberlain if he had a pefect game going into the middle innings?

Twitter was abuzz as Joba Chamberlain retired the first 11 Red Sox to face him last night. "Perfect game!!!!" Blah, blah, blah. There was little chance of that really happening, but I was left wondering what the Yankees would've done had Chamberlain entered the seventh inning or so with his pitch count around 90 and had a perfect game going.

Would Joe Girardi have bowed to history rather than the JOBA RULES/JOBA RUINATION? Would GM Brian Cashman have called down at a certain point and said to get Chamberlain out of the game and that he didn't care how deeply he was into perfection? Would the bench have deliberately called an inappropriate pitch from the dugout to try and bust it up?

We'll never know because it didn't get that far, but I'll tell you what would've happened----they would've pulled him if his pitch count got high enough. Period. After all they've gone through with babying him, they're not going to let history or anything stand in the way of their "plan", as faulty and stupid as that "plan" is.

I'm not saying they would've been wrong. I wouldn't let him pitch 120-140 pitches either. It would've been interesting to see; and I can tell you right now that Girardi, pitching coach Dave Eiland and Cashman all breathed a sigh of relief when Victor Martinez took Chamberlain deep.

  • Viewer Mail 9.26.2009:

Jeff at Red State Blue State RE Rich Harden and Kevin Trudeau:

I think Harden asked not to pitch again because he's embarrassed to be a part of that club. I would be.

As for Trudeau, remember when John Stossel got his ass?! That was brilliant. How he's still going I haven't the faintest clue. These are the same people who voted for Strom Thurmond over and over again (I presume).

I think you're letting partisan politics affect your view of the Cubs, Jeff. They've underachieved, but it's not like the current mess we have here in New York with the Mets; or in Cleveland with the Indians.

I did see the John Stossel-Kevin Trudeau interview. I don't know how he does it either; the guy's a genius in his way. It's like he had a grand plan for when they shut down his Coral Calcium operation to become a healthy living advocate and drug company whistle blower. He's a chameleon and as disgusting as he is, I can't help but admire him for his sheer audacity. It's those kind of balls that make someone very, very rich.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Kevin Trudeau and his "public service":

What a great idea. Writing books as a public service instead of making money on them! There's just one hitch: paying our bills. Does he address how we're supposed to do that in his infomercial????

The man's a sociopath, Jane.

John Seal writes RE Rich Harden:

As an A's fan, I'm of two minds about Rich Harden. One says he's a big baby: with the A's, he'd repeatedly shut himself down because he didn't 'feel right'. He'd then spend three or four weeks nursing his boo boos (which frequently were never diagnosed as anything) before taking the mound again for a few starts, after which the whole cycle would start over again. My other mind says: isn't is refreshing that there's a baseball player who won't try to man his way through an injury, only to make it worse? On this point we agree: it is well past time for Harden to move to the bullpen. It's clear that his body isn't built to support a starter's workload, and he could be a superstar closer if he wanted to be. Let's hope there's a team out there willing to try the experiment.

Jim Palmer was the same way with the refusing to pitch unless he was 100%, but Palmer won three Cy Young Awards. I honestly think Harden's got something wrong with his entire musculature; it's always something different. Maybe he needs a higher fat content in his diet and body. I'd hesitate to give him too much credit on his own for this decision to shut it down; he's definitely got people whispering in his ear to protect himself for impending free agency, but no one's telling him that the economy is in such a state that the days of teams throwing money at anything and everything are over.

The one thing that will preclude him from being a closer is that he obviously wants to get paid and starters make far more money than closers do. If it happens, it'll be because some team signs him as a starter, he gets hurt again, and they agree to make the move. Since he's never closed before, he wouldn't get much money at all to do the job out of the box. He's going to have a hard time getting more than a 2-year deal and it's going to be with a team that wants him as a starter. The move to the bullpen will be done in desperation after another injury-riddled, teasing, lost season.

1 comment:

She-Fan said...

Joba would never have gone past the sixth, perfect or not. The point was for him to pitch well, and he did. But it would have been fun if he'd retired every Red Sox hitter he faced.