Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Lightning 10.25.2009

  • The beneficiaries of the game 6 rainout:

The Angels benefit from the rainout of game 6 more than the Yankees do.

What the postponement does is allow the Angels to use the depth of starting pitching to remain flexible with whom they're going to use in both games 6 and 7. One would assume that in game 6, scheduled starter Joe Saunders (who pitched well in game 2), Jared Weaver and Scott Kazmir will all be available with John Lackey ready to go in game 7 on three days rest. The Angels are in no position to be messing around if Saunders gets off to a rocky start and the ability to use the entire pitching staff will give them an advantage over the Yankees.

The Yankees have the opportunity to start C.C. Sabathia in game 6 and move Andy Pettitte to game 7; they've said that everything will remain the same and Pettitte is going to start game 6 as scheduled. In truth, there's an argument on both sides and neither is indisputable. The "get it over with" theory suggests that Sabathia----who would be pitching on full rest----should be the choice. He's the ace; he's been brilliant in the playoffs; and he gives the Yankees the best chance to win. Pettitte pitched well in his game 3 start and his veteran cachet makes him a solid choice as well.

For the record, if it were me, I'd move Sabathia up and start him in game 6 to try and get the thing over with. The last thing I'd want to do if I were the Yankees would be to let the entire season boil down to one game and run the risk of another hideous gaffe by manager Joe Girardi cost the club a trip to the World Series. Even if they lost game 6 with Sabathia (and I don't think they would), Pettitte's no playoff slouch and the entire staff, even maybe Sabathia for a batter or two, would be available for game 7.

I'm saying right now that if this series gets to a seventh game and they have to face John Lackey and an Angels team that can smell a trip to the World Series, the Yankees will lose. They must get this over with tonight to win the series.

What the rainout also does is place a greater spotlight on Girardi. The best thing for a manager under fire over a failed decision is to get right back into the dugout and in the heat of the battle to start the next game. With this extra day off, Girardi will have to answer the questions regarding his bizarre decisions again tomorrow (and he was getting testy before game 6 was called). More time to think leads to more vacillation and the last thing Girardi needs is extra stuff bouncing around in his head. Inadvertently, he might do something to stave off criticism rather than make the right move and this is worse than the insipid errors he's made in the entire post-season up to now.

There have been calls to bench the slumping Nick Swisher. If Eric Hinske was on the roster, then I'd say yes, bench Swisher in favor of Hinske; but he's not. Why, I don't know. Hinske has had 2 at bats vs Saunders (1 for 2); but he's 4 for 11 career vs Jered Weaver with a homer; and he's pummelled Darren Oliver at a 4 for 9 clip with a homer. Choosing Freddy Guzman over Hinske was a mistake that can't be put on Girardi; it sounds like a front office decision to me and a bad one.

They don't have anyone to stick in the lineup who'd provide anything over Swisher. Even as he's slumping, Swisher still works the count and draws walks and is a power threat. Benching him would be an overreaction which, according to the game 6 lineup originally posted on Saturday, they weren't making. Any move with Girardi is subject to change at a moment's notice----and that's not good.

  • Do the Cardinals realize what a potential disaster they'll be without Tony La Russa?

Tony La Russa is worth at least ten wins a year for his club. Simply by maximizing the players he has on his roster and strategic sleight-of-hand, he takes teams that, on paper, would win 75 games, and coaxes 85. This has been the hallmark of his career. It's not the two World Series wins; the accumulation of records, accolades, Manager of the Year awards and respect----it's been his and pitching coach Dave Duncan's skills to make something out of nothing. If he leaves, the Cardinals are in deep trouble.

Not only is their club in almost complete flux with free agents Mark De Rosa, Matt Holliday and Joel Piniero; but they have an even bigger problem confronting them: Albert Pujols's contract is up after 2011 and it's hard to imagine him being interested in re-upping long-term under a new manager for a club that's not going to spend the cash that he could get on the open market.

Pujols does not want to leave St. Louis and his reluctance to be a money-whore in his dealings with the club has kept his salary at a relatively paltry $16 million per when he easily could've rivaled Alex Rodriguez in a long term deal with the Dodgers, Mets, Yankees, Red Sox or Angels. Now, if La Russa leaves, what motivation would he have to be benevolent? Pujols is subtle in his steering the club through sheer force of greatness; but he does do it quietly as is his right. The give-and-take of a historic player taking short money gives him that leverage to let the team know that if La Russa leaves, he's not even discussing a long-term extension unless he gives the nod to the new manager. How that would go is a giant question.

The Cardinals embracing of stats in recent years and only spending or being aggressive in pursuing big names when they felt that had little choice but to placate the Hall of Fame manager and first baseman has created a chasm in how to run the club. Owner Bill DeWitt isn't stupid, but he was the one who started the ball rolling with the warring factions in the front office between Jeff Luhnow and Walt Jocketty; the eventual firing of Jocketty and hiring of a conciliatory choice as GM in John Mozeliak who dances between the raindrops of the manager's displeasure while seemingly following orders has been an issue with La Russa for years.

What if La Russa leaves?

Are the Cardinals going to find a "name" manager to replace him? Who would the pitching coach be? Would they give Pujols some say-so in who the manager is?

It would seem that they'd have little choice but to hire a Bobby Valentine or a Jim Fregosi----veteran managers who wouldn't be seen as puppets of the front office and had known experience at handling a clubhouse or game at crunch time. No pitching coach would be able to get the results from the likes of Kyle Lohse as Duncan did; and with Chris Carpenter always a candidate for an extended stay on the disabled list, the starting rotation could be short next year.

There's also the possibility that the Cardinals would go for a younger, cheaper manager who follows orders; they'll then run the risk of Pujols not wanting to leave the only baseball home he's ever known and wait him out----a dangerous game----as they move forward with cheaper and younger players to their current free agents. No matter who they hire, this current club would be no better than an 83-win team without La Russa/Duncan; and if it's a puppet-manager with little experience? They'll fall further than that.

The easiest and smartest thing to do is to keep La Russa, but this time it doesn't sound like a negotiating ploy by the manager to extract as much money and power as possible from the club; he truly sounds tired of everything that's gone on over the past few years after Jocketty's firing. At his age, with his accomplishments, does Tony La Russa need to beg the front office for veteran help? Does he need to see his longtime aide-de-camp, Duncan, angered by his recommendations being dismissed and seeing his son banished from the organization?

Whether the Cardinals realize it or not, they're in a precarious position with their manager. They need him more than he needs them and it really looks like he might leave this time. The Cardinals aren't going to have a small problem of replacing him; they're going to have a lot of big problems in assuaging their fans, media and most importantly, their first baseman and finding a new manager.

It could get messy.

Very messy.

And I think La Russa's going to leave.

  • Viewer Mail 10.25.2009:

Joe writes RE Moneyball:

You say "Moneyball hasn't wooooooooooooorked!!!!!" When you refer to "Moneyball" what do you refer to? It is unclear.

I go back to my earlier questions from a few weeks back. Is a high OBP bad? Is identifying market inefficiencies a bad thing?

I enjoyed the whole spectral/Halloween kinda thing you did there on "woooorked." Quite entertaining.

Did you read Moneyball, Joe? Did you think it was based in reality? Or was it a twisted, agenda-driven bit of creative non-fiction, skillfully cultivated by a talented writer in such things who found a story he could craft in such a way that it would appear as if a "revolution" was starting when in reality, it was a strategy utilized to mitigate a lack of financial resources and failures of the prior administration?

Was there or was there not an "us against them" mentality with every scout, coach, manager or opposing front office exec who didn't fit into the template of 20-something Ivy Leaguer or Bill James acolyte treated as if they were, at best antiquated and at worst imbeciles?

Did you think it was fair the way Art Howe----who had had more success as a manager than Joe Torre ever did before getting to the Yankees----was portrayed as a brain dead moron along for the ride? How Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta's approach in the draft was meant to remake the way every team approached the procurement of players? Has anyone taken a look at the results of the A's "stat/result" oriented approach has fared in the intervening years? I have and they're not any better than most and are in fact worse than many.

What about the young, fresh-eyed GMs who were handed the keys to franchises in the aftermath of the book? What happened in Los Angeles when DePodesta took over? What happened in Toronto under J.P. Ricciardi? What happened in San Diego under Sandy Alderson? And even in Oakland under Beane? The Red Sox are pointed to as a club who used numbers to formulate the two-time World Series winner they've been under Theo Epstein, but it's conveniently glossed over that they've made some ghastly mistakes and used their financial might to throw money at the problems as their feted for their acumen with numbers.

I do not believe OBP is bad.

I do not think clubs shouldn't expose market inefficiencies.

I believe that those who take the numbers as a literal interpretation of how teams should be constructed are as dogmatic and idiotic as those that ignored numbers as they gained more prominence and validity.

I believe teams should use every available aspect of finding players at their disposal. That does not include having some numbers cruncher walking up to veteran baseball man Bruce Bochy and for some inexplicable reason suggesting he bat pitcher Woody Williams second; it doesn't include decrying the brilliance of a true baseball genius like Tony La Russa; it doesn't include disregarding a multiple-MVP talent like Jeff Francoeur because he's painfully impatient.

I still don't know what answer you're looking for in your continued question about OBP and refusal to accept what I'm saying. This is the way I feel. Take it or leave it.

I'd like to take credit for some Halloween-creativity with the "wooooooooooorked" thing, but I've said that over-and-over again as a way of yelling at people who don't listen rather than as shtick. Thanks for the compliment and I'd like a little give-and-take about the OBP instead of just hearing, "no, you're not answering the question".

On the bright side, I must provide something in my work that appeals to you and am glad you're still reading even if we agree to disagree.


Gabriel said...

If Joe says that you are still not answering his question, then I'll assume he does not read your posts, he just looks at "Moneyball hasn't wooooooooooooorked!!!!!" and comments something that disagrees.

Jeff said...

Again, I see the answer you've provided for the question(s); and being that I am in the upper echelon of the intelligence scale, I say you can consider the task done -- a long time ago.

Why you try to plant nightmares for the Cardinals faithful though, I'll never know. It hurts. It hurts bad. I still believe Tony will be back and if for some reason he doesn't return, then Mozeliak will have no choice but to placate Albert's desires. Albert IS the Cardinals. Believe that.