Friday, July 16, 2010


Why didn't Roy Halladay start for the Phillies last night?

He pitched on Saturday before the All Star break. Thursday should've been his scheduled day to pitch; but Jamie Moyer started for the Phillies and got rocked by the Cubs in a 12-6 loss.


In fact, Halladay isn't scheduled to pitch until Sunday night!

Are the Phillies so invested in keeping their lower-tier pitchers on turn that they're going to sacrifice an extra start from one of the best pitchers in baseball? For what? It'd be one thing if Halladay was injury-prone and needed the extra rest to keep him healthy; or if he was on an innings/pitch limit as Phil Hughes is for the Yankees; then it would make sense to hold him back, but to start Moyer and Joe Blanton in the first two games after the break instead of Halladay?

In web-searching for a possible nagging injury that hindered Halladay or some other logical reason for this decision, I came across this from

And the quotes from Phillies manager Charlie Manuel are, um, strange:

"So many games he's gone into the eighth inning throwing 116, 120 pitches," said manager Charlie Manuel. "He's had seven complete games. That's way more than anybody else. They were talking about [Ubaldo] Jimenez finishing three at the All-Star break."

"He's pitched a lot," Manuel said. "If you give him a one-turn blow, he'll probably make that up on the off-days as we go down the line."


He's gone into the eighth inning throwing 116, 120 pitches because Manuel left him in the games to pitch!!!

Whose fault is it that Halladay has been worked so hard? Is Manuel making the call as to whether Halladay stays in the game with a high pitch count or throws a complete game or not? Halladay is very demanding and proud; he wants to stay in the games, but the manager is the one in charge and needs to look at the big picture even if the player disagrees with him.

The Phillies bullpen has been so shaky that it's logical for Halladay to be left in close games to finish what he starts----he wants to do it; can do it; and there's no one in the Phillies bullpen that Manuel can really trust. But check his Gamelogs. Did Halladay need to throw 118 pitches to complete a 10-0 win over the Mets on May 1st? 119 pitches five days later in going seven innings with a 5-run lead over the Cardinals?

Those were two games in which he could've been rested a bit for the good of the team and it was Manuel who left Halladay in the games. It's a managerial nuance that cannot be discounted in the running of a club and how one decision affects all other decisions; it's not a matter of one game since Manuel has used Halladay's workload as a basis for the extra rest.

The only sensible explanation I can formulate is if Halladay does have some nagging ache that the Phillies are keeping quiet; something that won't require a missed start or a DL stint, but spurred them to take a cautionary approach and give him a few extra days. Aside from that, it's absurd.

Halladay is a horse. He's old school and wants the ball as much as possible; more importantly, the Phillies are in a position where they're likely going to need Halladay to pitch on short rest late in the season if they want to make the playoffs.

Halladay should've pitched the first game back from the break.

  • Other pitching choices:

There are certain circumstances where it makes sense to use starters from the back-end of the rotation to begin the second half even if the aces are on normal rest.

The Mets for example started R.A. Dickey rather than Jon Niese or Mike Pelfrey. Niese has put himself in the position where he could start the first game of a series and be considered close to top-tier; Pelfrey struggled toward the end of the first half and appears to need the extra rest. Dickey has pitched very well this year; plus Mets manager Jerry Manuel likes the idea of having a knuckleballer start the first game of a series to subsequently mess up the opposition's timing when normal pitchers enter the game.

And the Mets were facing Tim Lincecum.

Most managers would never admit this, but there are games that they look at the pitching matchups and know----barring anything unforeseen----that they're probably going to lose. One famous incident (apropos with the death of George Steinbrenner on Tuesday) was before game 2 of the 1996 World Series when the Boss stormed into Joe Torre's office and exclaimed (I'm paraphrasing from reading and memory), "This is a must win!"

Knowing they were facing Greg Maddux at the top of his game, Torre replied, "Tell 'ya what Geoge, we're probably gonna lose tonight too."

Torre added that Atlanta was his town, that the Yankees would win all three games there and end the series at home. It was amazing that he was: A) right; and B) had the audacity to say it to a guy who might've fired him during the World Series at the utterance of such a defeatist statement.

The 2010 Lincecum hasn't been the dominant Lincecum to which we've grown accustomed, but he's still capable of shutting down even the most potent lineup and he did so with the Mets despite the return of Carlos Beltran. Dickey pitched well, but sometimes you have to tip your cap to the opposing pitcher and move forward. Part of that is taking into account the likelihood of losing and make a sacrifice by throwing one of the background soldiers out front and hoping for the best.

Lincecum was dominant and it wouldn't have made much difference who was pitching for the Mets because they would've lost anyway.

  • Angels 8-Mariners 3:

Every time Joel Pineiro pitches another good game, I will say the following (pretty much what I said this past winter, although with a slight alteration): "The Mets should've signed Joel Pineiro."

Back then, I said, "The Mets should sign Joel Pineiro."

But they didn't, hence the change in tenses.

  • Genius!!!!

Let's put the Mariners 2010 train wreck into perspective, shall we?

While current GM Jack Zduriencik was referred to as a "genius" with a frequency that made one think he could balance the country's budget, send a rocketship to Mars and teach Sarah Palin that the word is pronounced "nuclear" rather than "nucular" while simultaneously turning the Mariners into contenders, it hasn't worked out that way.

Do the stat zombies get a do-over from their objective reality? Can they backtrack on the allusions of brilliance that rained down on Zduriencik when he acquired Cliff Lee and improved a club that won a surprising 85 games in 2009 after losing 101 in 2008?


But, they're not looking for a do-over; rather than stating the obvious----that Zduriencik isn't a genius----they're ignoring the disaster in Seattle.

You do realize that their record, 35-54, is identical to what it was at this same juncture in 2008, right?

The only difference seems to be that the GM in 2008 was Bill Bavasi, who was reviled by the stats-obsessed; and now it Zduriencik, who's one of their poster children, someone who "gets it".

Look at the similarities----they're striking.

The 2008 Mariners made a flashy trade for a big time left-handed starting pitcher in Erik Bedard.

The 2010 Mariners traded for Cliff Lee.

The 2008 Mariners signed Carlos Silva to a long term, big money contract and he was atrocious.

The 2010 Mariners signed Chone Figgins to a long-term, big money contract and he's been atrocious.

Injuries sabotaged the 2008 Mariners as J.J. Putz got hurt early in the year.

Injuries to Jack Wilson and the terrible pitching from Ryan Rowland-Smith and Ian Snell left the 2010 Mariners woefully short in background personnel after Lee and Felix Hernandez.

The 2008 Mariners were 13th in runs scored; the 2010 Mariners are 14th in runs scored.

The biggest difference between the two clubs is payroll and perception. The 2008 team payroll was $117 million; the 2010 payroll is $91 million. The money is not irrelevant, but where's the criticism for Zduriencik?

Even before he was seen as double-dealing in the latest Cliff Lee trade machinations and supposedly did a number on the Yankees----who thought they had a deal in place for Lee before Zduriencik spun around and traded him to the Rangers----there were questions about what he was trying to do.

The Lee acquisition from the Phillies was a no-brainer; trading for Milton Bradley to get Silva's contract off the books was a worthwhile gamble; but Figgins? Re-signing Ken Griffey Jr? Re-acquiring Russell Branyan a few weeks ago with the team hopelessly out of contention?

It's nothing personal against Zduriencik. I've repeated these themes regularly, but it's only because I'm waiting for the savaging of the work Zduriencik has done to emerge from other sources----especially the stat zombies, whose objective reality stops when it calls into question the decisions of one of their own.

Sounds subjective to me, but people think I'm psychotic.

  • Viewer Mail 7.16.2010:

Max Stevens writes RE the media and the stat zombies:

I was recently toying with the idea of subscribing to Baseball Digest and Baseball America. I used to get the Digest when I was a kid growing up in New York in the mid 70s.

Do you look at Baseball Digest, Baseball America, Sporting News, etc., or are they completely outdated sources at this point?

I share at least some of your derision for the sabermetric crowd. I was recently scolded on a NY Mets blog for not backing up a comment with "evidence based research." Whatever. Once it becomes about nothing other than mathematical formulas, I check out. However, I have a healthy appreciation for Bill James and his methods as one of numerous complementary modes of thought that can enhance our understanding of things.

What role do stats and data play in your understanding of the game?

I've canceled all my subscriptions to sports magazines. I used to get Baseball Digest as well, but the weeklies are dying not just in sports, but in every subject because the access to information is there at the touch of a button and it's mostly free. There was research and thought behind the stuff that was published in the magazines because it was checked and re-checked before it went out to the public, but corners have to be cut to fight the losing battle with the web.

It's a dual-edged sword now with the rapid-fire news and opinion rampant with websites, blogs and especially Twitter and Facebook. People end up publishing things in a rush because they want to be the "first" to get it out there, but many times the hastiness leads to assertions that end up being wrong; other times they say things they regret.

In one sense, it's a negative that the supposedly "credible" media has their facade torn away, a positive that we see that they're just as knee-jerk and reactionary as the rest of us----and in many cases, far more stupid.

Regarding the stat zombies, I'm not surprised they attacked you with their call for "proof". Unable to formulate an independent thought because they have neither the experience nor breadth of baseball knowledge to go with their gut, they prefer to have an explainable reason for what they believe. It's insecurity more than anything else. I have respect for what Bill James has done, but stats are a tool, not the final arbiter and James himself is incredibly obnoxious.

If a manager doesn't go against the percentages when his experience-based baseball knowledge is telling him that it's the correct move; when he does the safe thing due to orders from above or fear of consequences, then he's not a manager----he's a puppet; and I don't want a puppet managing my team at crunch time.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Buck Showalter:

I'd be very interested to see what Showalter could do as manager of the O's. He's a very smart guy.

I can tell you right now, they'd be a .500 team possibly by next year; and contending by 2012. Then, given his history, he'd wear out his welcome by 2014 and the Orioles would bring in an empty suit, emptyheaded manager because Showalter was too tightly wound to take them to the next level. It's happened everywhere he's been and there's no reason to think the Orioles would be any different.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Yunel Escobar and Bobby Cox:

I bet Bobby Cox threw a kegger once he knew Yunel was out the door.


For an old-school manager like Bobby Cox to have to watch and endure Escobar and the prevalent brain lock/selfish ambivalence that he exhibited, it's no wonder he wanted him gone. With the warriors Cox managed like Chipper Jones and John Smoltz, he could no longer stand the sight of Escobar and I'm sure every veteran in the Braves clubhouse was right behind the manager in wanting to shove Escobar out the door (or off a bridge), talent or not.

Gabriel (Acting Underboss) writes RE Escobar, Alex Anthopolous and the Blue Jays:

I don't like the trade, but I've learned that Anthopolous knows what he's doing, so let's give him (and Escobar) the benefit of doubt. I think his line of thinking is: get Escobar, if he works, trade him when Hechavarria is ready, if not, trade or release him when Hechavarria is ready.

It's the most interesting trade so far, though.

This is a no-lose proposition. They were never going to get a better return on Alex Gonzalez; the Blue Jays are not contenders; and passing on this offer would've been insanity. I believe in talent as long as the player isn't causing off-field trouble; and even then I'm willing to take a chance on a player like Elijah Dukes; perhaps that's a frailty on my part. There's always a chance that Escobar will get the message----admittedly, at this point, it's hit or miss like the Mets with Jeff Francoeur; but the talent is absolutely, positively worth it considering what they gave up to get him.

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She-Fan said...

Your assessment of the Mets' defeat last night at the hands of Lincecum is the perfect example of the cliched expression, "Sometimes you just have to tip your cap." Nothing you can do when you're up against a guy at the top of his game.

Jeff said...

In Alan Schwarz's "The Numbers Game", he writes Bill James as being apologetic for the crazy stat zombie culture he was responsible in creating.

I mean, the dude can be obnoxious, yes. But I feel like he's not really a stat zombie per se. I feel like he gets it -- that it's more than just numbers, but that numbers can be useful tools when combined with a deep knowledge of the game on the field.

Joe said...

James has admitted that scouts do like 90 percent of the work in bringing players in. But he's been pretty adamant that statistics at the Major League level sum up a player very well.