Tagged: Ballgames

Throw Away “The Book”

Through the 100 plus years much has evolved to make it this the great game it is.
One manager would develop a strategy that would catch on and so it would become part of  “the Book”. You know the book that says certain managerial moves during a game is dictated by an unwritten rule that has become a common lexicon of in-game strategy.
These moves have become so inbred that even announcers will question a manager who does something that is against “the Book.”
I say that this book is overrated and has become a crutch when it comes to managing certain key situations. Besides where is this “book” that everyone refers to? I can’t find it on-line or in any bookstore.

Here are some common rules from this evasive book that are outdated:

1.    The batter takes a 3-0 pitch. How annoying is it to watch a batter take a pitch that he and almost everyone else in the park knows will be a lollipop fastball right across the plate? Why not go hackin?
2.    Platooning. Credited to Casey Stengel who it is said to be the first one to platoon. Talk about overrated. This especially affects lefthanded batters against lefthanded pitchers. Say you have a lefthanded batter on a roll against a series of righthanded pitchers. Then a journeyman lefty starts and the guy still has to sit. If a guy is hot, let him play regardless who is pitching. And the all-righty lineup against a lefty starter even if some of them are battling to stay above the Mendoza line. Sheesh!
3.    The situational lefty. Every team has one left hander in the bullpen whose sole job is to get that tough left handed batter out then vamoose, he’s gone.  And then managers complain about a tired bullpen. What, this guy can’t face more than one batter?
4.    The bullpen rotation. This one is probably the newest entry in the book and also the most annoying. It should never have made it into the book in the first place. Now it is forever transcribed that only a certain pitcher can be used to “hold” a lead in the 8th. We have seen numerous times this year when our designated “holder” Derrick Turnbow has blown leads. So many in fact, that we have nicknamed him Turnblow or T-Blow. What is it going to take to realize that strategy can include using other pitchers in this situation? Why do we have to rely on underperformance to determine the outcome of games because that’s what the book says?

Whatever happened to the gut, intuitive moves that may be risky but necessary to cross up an opponent? Why don’t more managers go against the book? Are they afraid of the outcome of the move or the outcry of the media and fans? Or because they are slavishly devoted to “playing the percentages”?

If a pitcher is lights out at home and gets his brains beat in on the road (Coco Cordero) doesn’t logic dictate that something else should be considered? Or do we just watch one loss after another because he’s the closer come **** or high water.

There are many good tried and true strategic moves, such as the use of the sacrifice, the bunt and the steal. But if this so-called book is supposed to be followed as if it were the 10 Commandments, then what do we need a manager for?

Just go by the “book” and see what happens. I would hope someday that the numbers geeks at the Baseball Prospectus break down this “Book”. I bet there would be some interesting reading!

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Ned Yost. Push Button Manager

Ned_yost_1I suppose as a long-suffering Brewers fan I should be elated that the team is 7.5 games ahead in their Division. But day in and day out I see Manager Ned Yost make the same in game pitching decisions that makes me wonder if he is managing on autopilot.
The latest caper was this afternoon, a beautiful day for baseball. Our rookie phenom, Yovani Gallardo is starting against the Royals. At the end of seven he has given up 4 hits, one run, two walks and six strikeouts and is well below the dreaded 100-pitch count.
The Brewers are leading 2-1. Gallardo pitches out of a big jam in the seventh with all of the coolness of a wily veteran. It’s hard to believe that this is his second major league start.
But rather sticking with Gallardo, who at 21 is hardly in danger of burning out his arm, our fearless skipper decides to push the same button he has all year and bring in Mr. 8th inning, Derrick Turnbow who promptly gives up the tying and go-ahead run and leaves with only one out. Only Corey Hart’s 9th inning homer to tie it saves Turnbow from an embarrassing defeat. The Brewers go on to lose in 11, 4-3.
Managing is less play the hunch and more by the “book” than ever. The reliance on the bullpen to determine the outcome of games regardless of how well the starter might be doing is truly taxing. It’s bad enough starters are pulled after 100 pitches even though they may be showing no signs of fatigue. Now we have to witness the late inning bullpen rotation – Mr. Hold and Mr. Save.
Gallardo deserved to stay in the game.
This push button strategy is used much too often now and today it probably cost the Brewers a win.
The new rallying cry among teams is now “Let’s hold ‘em until we get to the bullpen”.
What happened to the day when a starter was allowed to finish what he started, especially
when he’s going good?
This is a trend in baseball I don’t care for.

At the First Turn

Well, this 2007 season is 1/5th over and already there have been many surprises that will set the tone for the rest of the race.
First among them are the Milwaukee Brewers who, as of this writing, are now in possession of having the best record (18-9) in all of baseball. Patient fans have been waiting for the young kids to mature and this seems like the year that JJ Hardy, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and Prince Fielder will finally begin to pay dividends. Add to that a vastly improved starting rotation and a back of the bullpen that has not lost once when leading after seven. While there are many young and exciting shortstops right now, JJ Hardy certainly has to be considered near the top of the list. This is a future All-Star in the making. Their big drawback is the platoon at third base. Ryan Braun is tearing it up in
AAA, but the Brewers have a history of not rushing budding stars (Yovani Gallardo).
Jj_hardy
By the way, that’s why I write this humble blog instead of being a GM. I harken back to a blog written in July criticizing the Carlos Lee trade (all the Brewers got is currently the best closer in the league Coco Cordero) and one in December when I wailed away about the club not picking up some good available middle relievers.

Speaking of young teams, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays probably have the best crop of young players in all of baseball. Carl Crawford is already an accomplished star. Elijah Dukes, BJ Upton, Delmon Young and Scott Kazmir all have the potential to be stars. Rocco Baldelli is a solid player but has health issues. The biggest contrast right now between the D-Rays and the Brewers is the pitching. They have a hard time getting free agents to pitch there and they have let some good young pitchers go like Chad Gaudin, David Bush and Brandon Medders. Plus they play in the killer AL East before miniscule home crowds.
Bj_upton

As the Brewers start strong, the implosion of the Cardinals and the Yankees is distressful. While many fans are gloating, these two proud franchises are facing difficult challenges.
The Cardinals have 2 HR among all of their outfielders and their pitching staff is mediocre as long as Cris Carpenter remains injured. They can’t hit and they can’t pitch. And with the tragic loss of Josh Hancock, it will be a long season for the defending champs.

The Yankees meanwhile are scouring the playgrounds for any studs with live active arms. Their starting rotation is pretty much devastated with the exception of Andy Pettitte. Their bullpen, average at best, is already overworked and Marino Rivera went into May with two ugly outings and no saves. The Yankees’ bats are keeping them trolling but some pitchers need to arrive and soon. You can’t keep playing 11-8 games.

The best division remains the AL Central with the NL West not far behind. Both promise another year of exciting races. The Dodgers against the Padres is turning into a better rivalry than the Dodgers/Giants.

The home away from home series that Indians had with Seattle in Milwaukee was nothing short of marvelous. At first it seemed like a joke, but the Milwaukee fans came out. The teams expected maybe 5,000 for each game, but it averaged almost 20,000!

Two evolving stories to watch as the season unfolds.
The first is A-Rod’s response to his hyper-critics with one of the best months of hitting in the history of baseball. Don’t be surprised to see him put up huge numbers this year. Bobby Abreau is hitting .247 and Johnny Damon .229. Meanwhile Mariano Rivera is 1-2 with a 10.57 ERA and 1 save. Yet, I don’t hear the fans booing them. The treatment he gets when he’s struggling and the adulation when he’s hot is hypocritical. I hope he opts out of his contract and plays for the (gulp) Red Sox next year. Spoiled Yankees fans do not deserve him.5275

And no column is complete without commenting on the Cubs. After the first month of the season, the Cubs are hard to figure out. They’re getting their overpriced money’s worth out of  Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly but Alfonso Soriano just hit his second HR of the season today. Their bullpen is unpredictable and Lou Piniella has already had two meltdowns – one with the umps and one with the press. It’s always exciting at the friendly confines but here’s predicting that they will underperform and break their fans heart yet again. Hey, they’re the Cubs! As seen on a fans T-shirt last year: Club Useless By September. Something to look forward to.

The Forecast For Today Is….

During the World Series last year I blogged about the horrible playing conditions and suggested ways to shorten the season and the playoffs so that the season would not end on the cusp of November.One factor overlooked is the similar horrible weather that occurs in the Northern cities upon the start of the season. Cold outs and snow outs this year in Chicago and Cleveland and games played up and down the Northeast and within the Midwest that should not have been.
The weather is so bad in Cleveland that an entire series was snowed out and the next series against the Angels is to be played in Milwaukee!
But like the end of the season it doesn’t have to be this way.
First, the ridiculous decision to play a series on a neutral field. Not only does it rob the Indians fans of the chance to see the Angels for the only time this year, there is no home field advantage. Some curious and bargain seeking fans in Milwaukee will venture over to Miller Park, fork over ten bucks to sit in the good seats and see games from the other league with mild enthusiasm. The Brewers will benefit from parking and concessions.
The reason cited by MLB for this wierd decision is to save the Angels from flying all the way from Anaheim to Boston, sight of their next series. But that doesn’t fly with me. In this age of chartered flights it is common for teams to travel cross country and play the next day. The wise decision would be to switch the dates of the two series. Have this series played in Anaheim and in Cleveland in May.
I’m sure some thought will be given on how to open a season after these weather incidents.
One solution would be to have the cold weather cities open the first week on the road in either warm locales or those northern teams that have roofed stadiums. These teams should not open their home schedule before April 14th. I know it’s a long time but consider how the Indian fans have already missed 6 home games and how the club has lost significant revenue. The arguments will include that it is too long to wait for fans to have opening day. If a team opens a season like the Phillies at 1-5 will fans still come out for the opener?
Of course they will if for no other reason then the pent up desire to see baseball. In Chicago and New York, have the teams open their home schedules simultaneously. This will raise interest and the parks will still sellout. Yankee fans could care less about the Mets and vice versa. Same goes for the White Sox and Cubs. Each has their own loyal following.
The Dodgers should not open their season on the road against a team with a roofed stadium. The Braves at Philadelphia, Florida at Washington, Tampa Bay at New York, Toronto at Detroit and Cleveland at Chicago makes no sense. Atlanta, Miami and Tampa Bay certainly have milder weather and Toronto has a dome.
Sorry, but this foul weather really “dampens” the excitement of the start of a new baseball season and it doesn’t have to be that way.