Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pitching And Defense, Huh?

  • How's that 'hopey-changey' thing workin' out for 'ya?

I extend my sincerest thanks to the former Governor of Alaska; former Vice Presidential candidate and noted uneducated lunatic----Sarah Palin----for the above affectation in attempt to criticize that which she has neither the capacity nor the desire to understand.

The only way for the Red Sox new focus on pitching and defense to work is if they actually get some pitching and defense.

Marco Scutaro's error in the eighth inning on Derek Jeter's grounder kept the rally alive for the Yankees and was followed by Nick Johnson working a bases loaded walk to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead.

It's too early to start criticizing the newfound emphasis on pitching and defense for the Red Sox as having "failed" after one game in which a lack of defense cost them; but it's not too early to question whether Scutaro, a journeyman player who got paid based on his career year at age 33, is going to be the latest in a long line of Red Sox shortstop imports to falter.

After the way Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo were miserable and unable to handle the Boston pressure, it's not too early to wonder as a pre-season question if Scutaro is the answer at the position. He's average defensively and regardless of the range exhibited by Adrian Beltre, the Red Sox are going to need Scutaro to at least make the routine plays.

Last night he didn't and it was the first failure of the move to pitching and defense.

  • Joe Girardi's bullpen management:

As the likes of Jeff Torborg have proven with their litany of failures as a push-button manager who makes pitching changes to have an answer to reporters after the game rather than because they're the right decisions, you can't become Tony La Russa by trying to copy the La Russa playbook of mixing and matching his pitchers to hitters.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi is feeling his way through the bullpen roles early in the season as he tried Dave Robertson as the eighth inning man before playing lefty-lefty with the soon-to-be-overworked and achy Damaso Marte. After Marte, he turned to Joba Chamberlain who looked close to the dominating force-of-nature he was in 2007 as a nuclear weapon out of the bullpen for then-manager Joe Torre.

It's hard to criticize Girardi for giving several different pitchers like Robertson (with a massive strikeout/innings pitched ratio of 63/43 last season) to see if someone emerges into the job. Chamberlain shouldn't be handed the role even though he's eventually going to seize it if he's left alone.

The one problem the club is going to have is Marte.

With only one lefty out there; and the Red Sox with J.D. Drew and David Ortiz; the Rays with Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford, Marte's going to get overused very quickly. Whether or not it was Girardi's decision to keep the useless Sergio Mitre over Boone Logan or Royce Ring is unknown, but eventually it's going to be a problem as the season moves along.

  • Viewer Mail 4.7.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Jason Heyward:

I only saw highlights of Heyward's debut, but he looked way scary. The analysts compared his swing to Winfield's but I see Strawberry's in there too.

No one's denying his ability; but we've seen the pressure/hype-machine sabotage so many superlative talents that the Braves are doing a disservice to his development whether he lives up to it or not.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Carlos Zambrano:

I have said it over and over, time and time again: Carlos Zambrano is NOT an ace, and the Cubs deserve to be ridiculed for paying him as if he were an ace.


Halladay is an ace. Beckett, an ace. Carpenter, an ace.

Carlos? An ass.

No matter how great a talent a player is, eventually he does have to put it together on the field. A great start here and there amid a morass of mediocrity and----like Monday----nauseating performances have to be taken for what they are. Zambrano's never going to live up to that contract; nor be an ace until he makes necessary alterations. I'm beginning to believe that he needs a change-of-scenery and I'm sure the Cubs and their fans would love to oblige.

On another note, Jeff gave me a glowing review of my book in his most recent posting. He's a loyal soldier, but an honest one, so you should believe his positive reaction.

Franklin at Bravesbloggerinlawschool writes RE Jason Heyward, Jeff Francoeur and Jordan Schafer (the comment is redacted; see the whole thing here):

The cases of Schafer, Francouer and Heyward are all pretty different. Schafer is the most obviously different. There is this perception that won't go away that Schafer folded under the pressure of expectations. That's not remotely true. He... Broke... His... Wrist. Which is kinda, sorta important for swinging a bat.

Francouer was always more a product of the outside media than the inside media. He had a great smile, looked like a baeball player and was popular with the hometown fans, especially the females. Maybe the Braves rode this a little bit at times, but they were never the ones putting it out there.

Finally I'm not worried about Heyward's mental approach to the game. From all reports, he's as solid mentally as they come, very much like Tommy Hanson.

Are you still in law school, Franklin? Are you on my college graduation plan of 1989-2005 with breaks and school changes?

Schafer didn't have a broken wrist as is repeatedly alleged. He had a spur and two small bones were linked during the surgery----story. That said, it's a fair point with him; he does deserve a clean slate if he was injured, especially to the all-important wrist.

With Francoeur, the Braves were heavily immersed in the media love affair with him. They did nothing to curtail his free swinging ways and dumped on him when the struggled. His fall from grace was more the fault of the club than anything the media and Francoeur did or didn't do. You can't play a prospect up as the next coming----whether or not they believed it----and then abuse him when he fails. If Francoeur's hacking away wasn't an issue when he was doing well; when the club was getting use from him; his charm; his enthusiasm and his looks, then it shouldn't have been a problem when he stumbled. They battered him to the point where he didn't know whether he was coming or going and this spurred his departure. It's a bit of revisionist history/excuses to absolve them of responsibility in his downfall.

With Heyward, you can't possibly say that he's going to be able to handle the pressure being heaped on him until after the fact. Rather than place him in a cocoon and nurture his talent to maximize it under as small a microscope as possible, they've put a 20-year-old in the position where he's got to produce and carry the team. It might work, but it's still a mistake.

There are baseline strategies to developing a player and the Braves are making the same error again and again.

Joe Campise writes RE Jorge Posada:

As an ex-pitcher Jorge Posada drives me crazy behind the plate. He misses pitches that are very catchable and he doesnt call a good game. Whats your take?

Every pitcher has his preferences. I liked to think as little as possible when I was pitching so I generally threw whatever sign I received. That was a long time ago. I can understand both sides of the argument that Posada is hard-headed and stubborn; and the pitchers would prefer to deal with someone who listens to them.

Veteran pitchers coming from other organizations----C.C. Sabathia; A.J. Burnett----do have a right to tell the catcher that they want a say in the game-calling. I can't criticize Posada given the fact that he's got all that championship jewelry as a starting catcher. The big problem with the veteran imports is that they didn't grow up with Posada as Andy Pettitte did; they can't come to a meeting of the minds with him because he's so temperamental.

In the end, that comes down to the manager. Girardi should've sat Burnett and Posada down and gotten them on the same page, and he never did.

John Jones at Jonestein writes RE the Texas Rangers:

Hey Prince,

Just discovered your site via RSBS. Your assessment of the Rangers is right on the money, IMHO. As you said in an earlier entry, so many head-scratching moves in the off-season, plus, I'm beginning to think Hamilton is made of paper mâché. As far as Wash goes, I've been saying all along that new "hitting coach" Clint Hurdle was hired specifically to step in once the Rangers inevitably start to slip in 2010...we'll see how that goes.

Anyway, you have a new blog-stalker, looking forward to reading you this season.

Welcome aboard, John. You'll find two things with me: A) you never know what you're gonna get; and B) at least it's interesting.

It was inexplicable what Daniels did with Kevin Millwood-Rich Harden; with C.J. Wilson; and the entire Ron Washington nightmare. I hadn't thought of Hurdle as the manager-in-waiting, but he's competent and a disciplinarian to get in the face of the young players if they step out-of-line.

It's hard to know how much Daniels has to do with some of these calls. It's widely known that he wanted to hire Don Wakamatsu as the manager instead of Washington, but was overruled; then he spearheaded the rebuilding of the club to contender status with masterful trades; and followed that up with the odd winter of 2009-2010. What he does if things spiral out of control on and off the field will be a window into the thought process----until it changes again.

  • The Prince on the Podcasts:

Check out my appearances from this past weekend with Sal at SportsFanBuzz. The Podcast links are available here---- Part I and Part II on Friday; then Sunday with Mike Silva at New York Baseball Digest. The link is here: NYBD Podcast. Fast forward to 1 hour and 36 seconds to hear me.

And my book is still available on Amazon and available on I-Universe in paperback and E-book.


Joe said...

Yes, it IS way to early to question whether or not Scutaro is going to succeed in Boston. He made one error. Who knows, he may make 30 this season. But anyone concerned after one error would not being thinking right.

She-Fan said...

I agree that the Yankees need more than one lefty in the pen. I would have kept Logan, because Marte, despite his very good postseason, scares me.

Gabriel said...

I have always thought that a successful bullpen has at least a couple of lefty pitchers, to split the workload.

Jeff said...

That's the Joba I like watching. As asinine as he acts with his celebratory fist pumping, etc, he sure is entertaining. So I tip my cap.