Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Bulletpoint Culture

  • Short attention-span theatre:

Rather than interpret every situation on its own merits with analytical appraisal, it's easier to pigeonhole; to stereotype; to mash everyone into the same vat with no concept of, nor concern for derivatives. It's the culture of data; of safety; of hedging; of the bulletpoint over context.

Because it's easier and less of a risk to shove everyone into the same category, experience and intelligence takes a backseat to whatever pops out of a calculator.

Joba Chamberlain has four pitches; a starter has more "value" than a reliever, therefore he must be a starter.

Every pitcher has to have a pitch count to prevent injury.

Anyone can be a closer.

The manager is a negligible aspect to a team's success or failure.

Clutch hitting doesn't exist.

And Joel Pineiro was a product of Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan and won't be able to replicate his success in St. Louis with the Angels.

This attitude that diminishes individuality is how certain teams stumble and others succeed. Nothing is exhibiting that as well as Joel Pineiro.

Watching Pineiro's cold and brutal efficiency in dismantling the Yankees yesterday afternoon was a prime example of why it's an invitation to disaster in disregarding the nuance of the story rather than relying on a summary.

Using all of his pitches, but mostly relying on a sinking fastball, changing speeds and location, Pineiro delivered a primer on how to handle a powerful lineup; more importantly, he made a bold statement to the naysayers who scoffed at his evolution under La Russa and Duncan as something that wasn't going to be replicated upon leaving the comfortable shelter of the Hall of Fame-caliber duo in St. Louis.

Pineiro was the beneficiary of the way La Russa and Duncan are able to penetrate the thick skulls of their charges; of stressing the importance of throwing strikes and relying on one's fielders; of maximizing what the individual is able to do rather than what he wants to do. To take what Pineiro was when he arrived in St. Louis----having failed as a closer for the Red Sox; and being injury-prone and ineffective after a solid career-start for the Mariners----and turn him into what he is now was due in part to a pitcher who knew it may have been his last chance to rejuvenate his career; and the reputations of La Russa and Duncan for turning around the careers of floundering talents.

Sometimes it takes hitting rock-bottom to get an athlete to finally listen to someone telling him the truth.

Pineiro is a different animal than other reclamation projects who only evolved in St. Louis and reverted back to what they were after they left. Jeff Suppan; Garrett Stephenson; Kent Bottenfield; and Storm Davis all learned their lessons with the Cardinals, but those lessons weren't transferred to other venues. A major part of the success of these pitchers wasn't simply the lessons learned from La Russa/Duncan; it was that the other players were part of the improvement in a team-wide effort.

Because the bullpens play such an important role in what La Russa does, it's easy to misinterpret a pitcher who wins 15-20 games as having "improved" when he really hasn't. Suppan's stuff was never much better than it is now; but La Russa was able to take a pitcher who was durable and threw strikes, get him to use his defense and pull him from the game with a lead to accumulate wins. With the Athletics, Davis was the epitome of such a pitcher; he'd get in his six innings; leave with a lead and turn it over to a deep and well-stocked bullpen. It garnered him 19 wins in 1988 and a big, stupid contract from the Royals (dutifully provided by their then-GM, the "genius" John Schuerholz).

With Pineiro, it's different.

The hard part of dealing with a pitcher who's known success in the big leagues doing it "his" way is to get him to understand that he needs to make changes to his mechanics and alter his approach. Cleaning and streamlining Pineiro's motion to the smooth, simple and repeatable thing of beauty it is now was the easy part; getting him to adapt and throw a sinking fastball and use the fielders behind him wasn't.

But they did it.

Those that take every player as little more than a wooden functionary are categorizing that which cannot be categorized; they're playing it safe and undermining any experience and subjectivity that comes from observation. It's an absence of confidence as much as understanding; of knowing without a book of data to fortify that knowledge.

The conventional wisdom was that as soon as Pineiro left the Cardinals, his success would disappear.

It's ridiculous.

It's a wide-ranging analysis based on nothing other than specious logic that is the hallmark of those that think they're experts based on a perceived understanding of numbers and it's what causes ghastly mistakes that have been prevalent in the Moneyball era.

  • The Yankee fans booing of Javier Vazquez:

The Yankee fans booing Javier Vazquez had nothing to do with his performance yesterday. He was solid enough; he got outpitched.

I truly believe that the bullseye on Vazquez's back has to do with residual affect of Yankee fans never having gotten the opportunity to express their ire at the way Vazquez melted down in the second half of 2004 and that he got shelled in the playoffs. They never got the chance to let him have it in 2005 because he was traded. It's silly and it's vindictive, but somewhat understandable. It's hard to forgive and forget what happened it 2004 even six years later. He's here and they're getting their fill.

In addition to that, there are concerns about Vazquez's mental toughness and whether or not he can handle New York. Booing's not going to help and eventually, it's going to devolve into a feeding frenzy of a group attack/joining in; the guy next to me is booing? I'll boo too.

Of course it's unfair, but the questions about Vazquez are legitimate with or without the abuse.

  • Viewer Mail 4.15.2010:

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the Mets:

Indeed, the Mets are playing terribly right now, but it could be worse: they could be the Orioles.

I have made it a point to watch all Brian Matusz's starts because I have a tiny man-crush on they youngster and his ace-like abilities... but watching that game Tuesday night where the O's bullpen did their usual imploding thing really got me down. I mean, I was literally depressed after watching it. You could see on the Orioles' faces that they knew they were shit and they were really embarrassed about it.

The total attendance was around 13,000 people. In Baltimore. Home of Camden Yards. What a tragedy the O's have become.

Sorry, that was a long-winded way of saying it could be worse for the Metropolitans.

It's a sad state of affairs indeed when people are consoling Mets fans by saying, "they could be the Orioles"; it's the equivalent of saying. "well, at least you have your health".


Neither the Mets nor the Orioles are this bad. The Orioles have a ton of talent, but this horrific start is lending credence to the need for a managerial change in Baltimore and it's better to do it early. I don't think anyone, anywhere thinks Dave Trembley is the man to turn things around on the field for the Orioles and while owner Peter Angelos has left Andy MacPhail to his own devices in rebuilding the club, he's not going to let the season come apart this early. Trembley's in deep, deep trouble.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE the Mets:

Or they could be the Astros.

Another team that's nowhere near as bad as they're playing. People scoff, but their starting pitching----Roy Oswalt; Wandy Rodrgiuez; Brian Moehler; Felipe Paulino; Brett Myers----is quite respectable. Their lineup has pop; and they have some arms in the bullpen. I like Brad Mills as a manager. They've just gotten off to a bad start. They were never contenders, but they're not a 100-loss; or even a 90-loss team. Things have just gotten off poorly.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Mets and Bobby Valentine:

Ah, Bobby Valentine. I knew you'd go there. But Wally Backman? Are people really mentioning his name? I don't know much about the Mets, but I do know he'd be a disaster.

A few people have suggested Backman. If nothing else, he'd flip the food table and get in the faces of players he didn't think were busting it on the field. While Valentine would be a bold move, Backman would be a desperation move that would be hard to see working. He'd have to coach in the big leagues for a bit before even receiving consideration as a manager.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Bobby Valentine and the Mets (the comment is redacted; the entirety is available here):

Bobby V is certainly all the things you said and is capable of doing the things you said. Here's the other side. Bobby V and Steve Phillips couldn't stand each other because Phillips was trying to protect his power and Bobby wanted more input on personnel matters. It didn't help that Bobby V was openly critical of Fred Wilpon, and in METropolis that's a big no-no.

The Wilpons need to go off campus for a GM that will institute a standard operating procedure for this organization and MAKE the Wilpons comply in order to secure his services. I.E. LARRY BEINFEST!

Valentine's reaction to his firing and the retaining of Phillips was more emotional than anything. He was under the impression that Phillips would be gone too. His classic reaction to his firing and Phillips's retention still echoes: "And Steve stays?!?"

My question is how long are the Wilpons going to hold a grudge? Valentine was dumped in 2002. That's almost eight years ago.

Is it the right thing for the franchise to bring Valentine back? Yes. Is it the cheapest and potentially the most lucrative route? Yes. Is it a gamble? No more of a gamble than staying this course which is heading into a mountain.

The bottom line factor should be more of an attraction than anything. The cost of firing both Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel, finding a new GM/manager tandem and essentially starting over again in April dooms the club to seven months of torture; of relentless attacks; and the experts in the media suggesting what needs to be done. Keeping Minaya saves the club the money on his contract and of paying someone else big money to take the job; and bringing in Valentine could save the season; at the very least, it'll keep people coming to the ballpark; nothing will speak louder than empty seats in a beautiful new ballpark due to apathy and disgust.

They need to stop hedging; stop playing it safe and/or halfway that would be giving the fans the head they want (Manuel) and hiring someone like Bob Melvin. Nothing against Melvin, but he's vanilla.

Say what you want about Valentine, he'll get people's attention.

Tossing an explosive package like Valentine into the mix gets them right back into the conversation again and it has to be done sooner rather than later. There's no guarantee Valentine's going to be available in a month. He's sitting there and waiting. He wants the job. They need to do it now.

As for Larry Beinfest? I'd sign onto getting him NOW!!!! He's the best GM in baseball. Period.

PairFace writes RE the Mets:

Your NL East predictions are not 2 weeks old yet, and the Mets are in a "death spiral"??? Don't you have them winning the East???

You have some other logic issues, as well. The Angels have "leadership", but the Yankees and Phillies get by with "relentless lineups"??? What 2 teams played in the WS last year??? Seems to me like you need some leadership to make it to that point.

And I guess Jerry Manuel is out of the running for MoY, huh???

I don’t think I can help you because you either can’t read; can’t comprehend; or there's some disturbing combination of both at play.

Did the Angels lineup compare with that of the Phillies or Yankees? Are you unable to grasp that leadership and talent are two separate concepts? That following the death of Nick Adenhart, just about any other team would’ve folded the tents and gone home for the season----and everyone would’ve understood----with a manager other than Mike Scioscia and a steady organization like the Angels?

A manager like Tony La Russa is going to be able to extract more from his roster than a Joe Girardi. I’m convinced that even you (well, maybe not you) but anyone with a modicum of baseball sense could’ve managed the Yankees to the World Series last year; in fact, that team would likely have functioned better without a manager at all if said invisible man was not the overthinking and too smart for his own good Girardi.

Do you have the audacity to compare Charlie Manuel with Scioscia or La Russa?

As for the logic issues, at least I can read. If you read the excerpt from my book (which you must’ve done since you’re on my site(s) 10 times a day religiously; and you probably have the book too), I said the Mets season was going to go one of two ways, either band together or collapse. They’re collapsing. It’s not that they’re playing poorly; they look dead; they look like they don’t care; that’s a reflection on the manager that they’re no longer listening; that he’s lost the team.

And no, simple math dictates that if Jerry Manuel gets fired, he's not going to win Manager of the Year.

Maybe if you start reading me 30 times a day instead of 10-20, you’ll finally start to get it. I’d slow down for you, but I don’t want to alienate the readers that do know what I’m talking about and aren't nitpicking to attack in an attempt to bolster themselves from their insecurities.

Next comment, doubtlessly you'll go into your regular pattern from ridicule to calling me names to telling me how big you are (as if I care).

If you comment respectfully (even if you want to attack me), I'm more than happy to debate about anything; I'll print the comments and respond. I'll even link your unread blog----maybe someone will actually look at it; but if you cuss at me; call me names, I'm not going to respond.

Pick up a copy on Amazon and I-Universe in paperback and E-book. And now on Barnes and


She-Fan said...

It's weird about people booing Vazquez. Fans have every right to boo their own players (they paid good money, blah blah), but as much as I scream at the TV and on Twitter, I just couldn't bring myself to boo a guy at the ballpark. What purpose does it serve other than to release frustration and disappointment? It's certainly not going to make the player go, "Oh, right. They're booing me. I'll do better now."

Jeff said...

I'm ready to start sluggin' away if ya need it, Prince.

And don't the Yankees boo everybody?

theBrooklynTrolleyBlogger said...

Javy was kind of cornered into answering the question regarding getting boo'd. It really wasn't that bad. But if getting boo'd is something that's on his mind, he's already in for a tough season. If the fans are in his head already, he hasn't heard anything yet. This town, Yankee fans, boo'd Mantle, Jeter, Mo. Mets? We boo'd Reyes, Beltran and Johan in his very first game at Shea...etc etc.
Javy, you better get thicker skin. Is the boo'ing right or wrong or misguided? It doesn't matter. In baseball, everyone gets boo'd. Get over it and pitch.

She-Fan said...

You're up on my blog. Hope people buy the book!