Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coping Skills

  • Can Yankee fans stomach pragmatism?

No one could've believed that Sergio Mitre entering a 0-0 game in the eleventh inning was going to have a positive ending for the Yankees, especially not Yankees manager Joe Girardi, but this was a case where prudence in the interests of the long-term goal was the wise course to take.

Sure, Girardi could've put out all the stops to win one game against the Rays; tried to hold onto first place; pitched Mariano Rivera for one or even two innings to keep the game tied and hope to score a run in one of the innings; to win a game that is essentially meaningless in the grand scheme; but he didn't. And I applaud him for it.

The main criticism for some managers is that they make maneuvers to shield themselves from criticism rather than because it's the right thing to do----I call it Torborging after former Mets manager Jeff Torborg. Girardi has done that on occasion, but most of the time I believe he does things because: A) he has his blue book of stats that he adheres to ad nauseam; and B) he thinks they're the right things to do.

Did last night's game matter enough to push Rivera again to try and win it at all costs? He'd pitched 2 innings on Saturday and pitched again on Sunday; prior to that, he hadn't pitched since September 4th; they hadn't really needed him, but that and his poor performance on Saturday says to me that something may be bothering Rivera (and this is my own speculation).

It's more important to have Rivera healthy for the playoffs than it is to win the AL East. People argue that the division matters, but the argument is based on some phantom, Steinbrennerean silliness that has no place in reality; and Brian Cashman's main theme in running the club since taking command has been objective reality backed up my numbers and money. He and Girardi have not been on the same page in certain instances, but it appears as if they're in agreement about this----it's the playoffs that matter.

Was it a winning decision to use Mitre last night? Of course not. Was it smart in a long-term pragmatic view? Yes.

The big question is whether Girardi can handle the public scorn that accompanies that thought process. He's shown a thin skin in dealing with the media before and while he's gotten better at that aspect of the job, he's already stressed out from the season and presumably doesn't need to be second-guessed when he knew that he'd be ripped if the team lost.

Even though they lost, the wise decision was to use Mitre and hope, then use Rivera if the Yankees got a lead. It didn't work, but it was still the right call.

Jimmy Rollins hasn't played well since 2008.

Supporters don't want to hear that, but he's been declining rapidly----almost plummeting----from what he was in his career year of 2007. He's been injury prone and inconsistent and there's a viable question as to what the Phillies can reasonably expect from him moving forward. Rollins, as much as he's reviled around baseball by opposing players and fans, is more than his production on the field. In a big spot, you do not want to see him coming up to the plate. (Ask Jonathan Broxton about that.)

Now that he's been diagnosed with a strained hamstring, the Phillies are going to take the cautious approach to make sure he's healthy for the last week of the season; he's able to participate now, but it makes no sense to push it while the team is winning; besides that, they're going to need Rollins for that last weekend series in Atlanta which may determine the NL East winner and possibly a playoff spot overall.

Rollins is a player for whom Wins Above Replacement is a valuable stat to examine to a certain point.

I'm not a fan of WAR; I think it's overblown; how many teams have a player sitting behind an Albert Pujols who could replicate even a fraction of what Pujols does? And how many teams would sit by and allow an "average Triple A replacement" stand in for a Pujols for an extended period if he gets hurt and they have any intention of contending? To quantify it by examining a superstar player's baseline, average replacement is a colossal waste of time.

With Rollins, it's important to calculate what he brings to the table in the lineup, in the field and impossible to determine by a formula what he adds with his swagger. My prior assertions that the Phillies have had enough of Rollins and his mouth were wrong. He is the prototypical "straw that stirs the drink"; he's their engine and while they've been able to get by with Wilson Valdez standing in for him, they won't be the same without Rollins. So, if you look at potential replacements around the league and combine Rollins's somewhat low salary for 2010-2011 of $16 million, he's relatively irreplaceable.

They could find someone to play better than Rollins and stay out on the field; but would they get someone who brings that total package? Troy Tulowitzki isn't available; Derek Jeter's not leaving the Yankees; and other names like Stephen Drew wouldn't jazz anything up, nor is it known what they'd do in a clutch, season-breaking circumstance.

Rollins is declining as a player, but his value is more than the sum of his statistical parts and the Phillies wouldn't be the same without him.

  • Viewer Mail 9.14.2010:

Max Stevens writes RE the Mets:

I would love to see the Mets hire Wally Backman. I just don't think that the Wilpons have the stomach for the kinds of antics he would bring with him. But he's exactly what the Mets need, a hard nosed guy who's fiery and passionate. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

It's a question as to what they're doing first and how they're going about it. Will they hire a manager first and then a GM? To me, that's the epitome of the backwards way they've run the team in the past. If they're bringing in a legitimate John Hart/Kevin Towers-type of baseball man, they're not going to sign on and immediately have their hands tied with a manager they didn't hire unless they're desperate for the job.

Like I said with Backman, it'd either be a train wreck or a sparkplug. I'd go for it.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE broadcasting cannibalism and me:

I've often thought the same about Hart... how can he work for a club then dish on everything else going on. That's sorta like having a girlfriend/wife then having a chick on the side that everyone knows about.

Just doesn't feel right.

How 'bout the Prince send his resume to to the Mets for GM consideration?

I've had more of an issue with it concerning Bill James, but I don't know how a broadcaster or analyst can consult with a specific team and make league-wide assertions simultaneously. If they were consultants available to everyone, it'd be one thing, but Hart is on the payroll of the Rangers and MLB concurrently. It's odd.

As for the GM stuff, even I'm not that arrogant (I don't think) to believe I could walk out of the blogosphere and be a GM; there are relationships that have to be cultivated throughout baseball before taking that leap and for someone to think they can simply do it without any apprenticeship is a disaster waiting to happen; of course for a team like the Pirates, how much worse could I do than what they have now? I would be absolutely willing to be an advisor. No question about it.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger (Brooklyn Capo) writes RE the Mets managerial search:

Tim Teufel is the one most familiar with the prospects the Mets are farming-up. He had many of them in Coney Island and more recently in Binghamton. He just may be the best choice (like Davey Johnson's graduation to the big club with many he managed below). There are certain Baseball people who speak very highly of Tim. Me personally, I don't share that opinion, but I'd be willing to be dead wrong about him.

I think Larry Bowa and Tony Pena are definite options as well. I've thought about Mazzilli, and heard him mentioned around. Mazz got screwed in Baltimore as we know. Like Teufel, I'm not warm to the idea.
But if I were wagering, and if the Mets wind up keeping this all in house (Again) Teufel may be their man.

Teufel has been mentioned by others as well; I don't see the Mets going that way, but he could be a coach on Backman's staff. I think Bowa is a fantastic strategic manager and perhaps he'll have learned his lesson in the third go-round; he'd flip the food table and rip guys when they need it, but his players have despised him in his managerial chances. If anything, he'd be the man to take over for Joe Torre ahead of Don Mattingly.

People have spoken well of Lee Mazzilli; he's got the personality and Mets ties; it doesn't feel right to me. It all depends on how they go about it with the GM and who's running the show.

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

I'll be a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Thursday.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and Noble.com. It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.


She-Fan said...

I agree about using Mitre, expect that Joba was available. Well, in fact he wasn't because apparently he still has an innings limit. That's the part I don't get.

Jeff said...

He may not have brought Mo in, but he and Maddon both went a bit crazy with their respective benches. The Rays lost their DH spot because of it! I know they have expanded rosters this month and all, but I still thought all the shuffling was a bit much.

Now, if you don't mind, I have some Torborging to do. (Oooh, that sound dirty)

Gabriel said...

I agree in your assessment of the WAR statistic. It's a very tricky statistic both in calculation and interpretation. As an example, this season José Bautista has a WAR of 4.6, and Miguel Cabrera has a WAR of 6.5. I think those are subestimations of the "win capability" of those players, and I think the teams they're in would be a lot worse than 5 and 7 more losses, respectively. It doesn't take into account the sparkplug mentality players like Rollins have, and in my opinion, the "average player used" in those calculations is not representative of what a team may have for a replacement.

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