Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Lightning 11.1.2009

  • And Joe Girardi as the party piñata:

Even when Yankees manager Joe Girardi does the right things, he gets attacked.

Aside from not sending pitching coach Dave Eiland to give Andy Pettitte a breather during his tough bottom of the second----especially after he walked Jimmy Rollins with the bases loaded to walk in a run----what did Girardi do that was so questionable last night?

He stuck with Pettitte, trusting his pitcher's veteran instincts to carry him through; he went back to Nick Swisher in right field and Swisher busted out with a double and a homer; he's made it clear he's trusting Damaso Marte as the primary lefty out of the bullpen and Marte's getting the job done; he gave Joba Chamberlain another shot out of the bullpen----possibly a questionable decision----but Chamberlain had a solid 1-2-3 inning; he deployed the deadly lefty bat of Hideki Matsui as a pinch-hitter at exactly the right time and Matsui homered; and he tried to stay away from Mariano Rivera in the ninth with a four-run lead, saw Phil Hughes give up a homer and went to Rivera to get the save. To me, that wasn't a "by-the-book" use Rivera only in a save situation maneuver by Girardi, it was the right thing to do given the situation to try and rest his closer but use him when needed. Rivera had a cushy two out save and shouldn't be affected adversely for tonight.

What's the problem?

I don't like the haphazard way Girardi manages; nor do I like his defensive explanations after the fact; but I'm not picking on the man just for the sake of it. Last night, he had a good game and his team won. There's no reason to quibble with him at least for one night.

  • Is Cole Hamels's problem his workload, his location, or both?

Everything's relative.

The paranoid stat zombies who are so obsessed with pitch/innings-counts to the detriment of pitcher development will no doubt have a field day at Cole Hamels's struggles. There's anecdotal evidence for the assertion that he's overworked as he falls apart when he reaches the middle innings in a big chunk of his starts, but there could be other factors at play with him.

In the year following his heaviest workload at age 24, Hamels keeps hitting the same speed bump and toppling backwards over and over again. In the Phillies World Series run of 2008, Hamels threw over 260 inning, many of them high-pressure and tough. While he appears to be healthy, his location is off and it's costing him dearly.

Which is it?

Is his location just not right because, well, because?

Is the work diminishing his command just that tiny bit where he's giving up homers instead of pop ups?

Is he tipping his pitches as was alleged in the NLCS?

Or is it a combination of everything?

The accumulation of work is something that's hard to quantify if the velocity is normal; the pitches are moving; and the player is healthy, but something's causing Hamels to run out of gas in the middle innings and to degenerate from world-beater into a frustrated and hittable bit of mediocrity. It could be the smallest thing that's causing him to miss that critical inch to get his pitches where he wants them and it's a good chance the workload is the proximate cause.

Neither he nor the Phillies would trade the championship from 2008 for anything. They wouldn't have won without Hamels last year. But he's slightly off and it's quite possible that the stress from 2008 is affecting him now in imperceptible ways. The hitters are perceiving it though and Hamels and the Phillies are being punished as a result.

  • Managerial candidate----Pete Mackanin:

Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin was interviewed during the Fox broadcast of game 2 and it reminded me of what a qualified and under-the-radar baseball guy he is.

Mackanin has managed in the minors for 14 years; he's been a big league coach and interim manager with the Pirates and Reds, handling both jobs well; and is at an age, 58, where he deserves a full-time shot as a manager. The Washington Nationals would be a perfect spot for Mackanin to get a well-earned chance to run his own club as a field boss.

  • Viewer Mail 11.1.2009:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Hideki Matsui:

I hate losing Matsui's bat, but he can hardly walk, let alone run, so putting him in left field wouldn't be a good idea. Not only would he be a defensive liability, but he could hurt himself even more. Also, having him come off the bench is very appealing.

I think Jane would be a better manager than Girardi. And I mean it.

Franklin Rabon writes RE the debate of the meaning of the "sombreros":

Hey Paul,

Just a quick comment to say I agree with the 3K's = hat trick, 4K's = Sombrero, 5K's = golden sombrero. That's what I was taught as a kid and heard all the way through high school.

I had one sombrero and one golden sombrero in high school. My only saving grace was in the golden sombrero game I got a hit and we had another guy who struck out six times, which our coach called the platinum sombrero. The guy was called "plat" for the rest of the season. What's even worse about a golden sombrero game, in high school, is that in order to get that many ABs, it means that the rest of your team is hitting very well. In my golden sombrero game we scored 14 runs.

I kinda remembered the meaning being something different from today's prevalent belief of the terms, but hadn't bothered to check. I'd trust an old-school baseball guy like Keith Hernandez than the new age way the term has been bastardized like it was part of some slumber party game of telephone.

I can't remember if I ever gave anyone the sombrero in any connotation when I was pitching; I'm pretty sure I hat tricked a few guys in between having them knock me off the mound with line drives. One thing about my hitting----I always made contact. It may not have gone particularly far, but I had the hand-eye coordination to hit the ball.

I had several nicknames when I was playing and it wasn't just the easy "Lebo" or "Leeb". One memorable one was "The Mess"; another was "Flake".

Not much has changed in the intervening years.

I think we have to take back the terms regarding the "sombreros" because everyone's had it wrong for years and it's enough. Spread the word.


She-Fan said...

Thank goodness that sombrero thing has been straightened out once and for all. Now I can sleep at night! I was very surprised by the turn around with Hamels last night. He looked unhittable - and was - for three innings. Then he unraveled. Pitchers fascinate me.

Jeff said...

I will spread the word as soon as this hangover goes away. Speaking of which, they had the game going at the bar last night and I quickly remembered how blindly idiotic the masses are. By the 9th inning, in Chicago bar, suddenly I'm surrounded by an influx of Yankees fans? Please. I know that winning can be infectious, but Chicago let me down last night.