The manager’s fault

DMZ · August 7, 2005 at 9:38 pm · Filed Under General baseball 

“A good defensive team gets licked 1-0 or 2-1 and you know what the fans say? They say, ‘They played so good and still they lost. It’s got to be the manager’s fault.'”
— Mike Kelley, who played various roles on the Minneapolis Millers, in 1965 on prefering players who can hit even if they can’t field


65 Responses to “The manager’s fault”

  1. Steve Thornton on August 8th, 2005 1:06 pm

    Giving up an out for a single base is crazy. Teams that do that better have a whole list of other things they do outstandingly well if they want to win.

    The other side of the “long ball” coin isn’t “small ball”, it’s on-base-percentage. If you lead the league in OBP, you’re going to score a ton of runs, even if you don’t hit homers. If you lead the league in Sacrifice Bunts, you’re never going to win anything.

    Remember, on base percentage is simply the “not-out percentage”. If you don’t make outs, your runners will eventually score. THIS IS HOW OFFENSE WORKS. If you keep giving up outs to move them over, you’re killing your offensive potential. Maybe when it’s the bottom of the ninth and you need a run to tie or win, and your batter is Willie Bloomquist.

    Overall “small ball” is a stone loser of a strategy. It doesn’t balance out anything; it reduces the number of runs your team scores. That’s always bad.

  2. Steve Thornton on August 8th, 2005 1:09 pm

    I don’t believe that anyone can hit sacrifice flies deliberately.

    Speed? Sure. Stolen bases are good to have. But no one who advocates “small ball” ever calculates in the cost of caught stealing. The difference in run scoring potential between “man on first” and “man on second” (i.e., from a stolen base) is quite small. The difference between “man on first” and “bases empty, ONE OUT” is huge. It’s not just about the lost runner, IT’S ABOUT THE OUT.

    If you’re not stealing three times as many as you’re getting caught, you’re hurting the team, whether you have five or a hundred.

  3. goodbye baseball on August 8th, 2005 1:10 pm

    FYI, the 1985 Cardinals had 314 stolen bases. I wonder if the Mariners have stolen that many in the last decade.

  4. Mat on August 8th, 2005 1:29 pm

    Was this your way of preparing us for a bunch of 2-1, 1-0 contests between the Twins and Mariners over the next three days, DMZ? It certainly seems to me that they’ll be playing “first team to 2 runs wins,” given the Twins’ propensity for not scoring or allowing runs, the M’s propensity for not scoring runs, and Safeco’s run-diminishing effects.

    As for “small-ball,” consider me in the Earl Weaver school of small-ball tactics. “Don’t play for one run unless it’ll win you the game” and “if you play for one run that’s all you’ll get” are two of my favorite axioms when it comes to in-game tactics. Bunting has its place, but you aren’t going to find that place until the 8th or 9th innings.

  5. goodbye baseball on August 8th, 2005 1:29 pm

    Excuse me while I eat crow for lunch today. The Mariners have stolen 495 bases since the 2001 season began.

    Guess my perception came from the gradual decline since 2001 culminating in the 66 they have this year to date. The Mariners stole a club-record tying 174 in 2001 and won 116 games. They have 66 SBs this year and have only won 47 games. In between, both the stolen base and win totals have declined every year. I don’t see a coincidence in that.

    Ichiro and Reed are guys who can pilfer plenty of bases. One thing I would like to see Hargrove do is turn these guys loose more often once they get on base. Or is he scared of IBBs to Sexson and Beltre if a base is open, not to mention getting thrown out. This team was unafraid to run then; why should they be now?

  6. dw on August 8th, 2005 1:47 pm

    48. When I say small ball, I’m talking about doubles and triples, as well as sacrifice flies, well-timed stolen bases, and aggressive yet smart baserunning. Speaking of stolen bases, didn’t the ‘85 Cards blow the National League away in that category as well?

    Yes, but keep things in perspective here. 1985 was a wide-open year for speed. Three things have happened since then:
    1. The slide-step
    2. The end of Astroturf
    3. The return of the long ball

    The Cards added 314 bases to their offense at a cost of 96 outs. That’s 78 HRs at a cost of more than three games worth of outs, or .813 HR-equivalents per out. I know the math is inaccurate, but that suggests the Cards were scoring about an additional run per game just with stolen bases. If you assume that it only takes three SBs to make a run, that’s 1.1 runs per out.

    The problem is, no current team can steal 300 bases. The SB is not dead (contrary to an idiotic article recently), but you’re not going to see a team with half the defense played by 30-SB guys anymore (as the Cards had). The slide step really did a number on SB numbers, and it hasn’t gone anywhere, so outside of the Podsedniks and Crawfords you’re not going to have a 75 steal player, not when 20 HRs will get you promoted faster.

    I’m not saying that a speed-driven team won’t ever happen again. Baseball is a very cyclical sport. But I don’t think you’ll see a team steal 300 bases again.

    And in order to steal and with abandon, you need a high OBP. Coleman’s OBP was only .320, but putting him on first meant he already had second. Tommy Herr, though, stole 31 bases on a .379 OBP. Willie McGee stole 56. Cut their OBPs back to Coleman’s level and I don’t think you see Herr cracking 25 or McGee cracking 45. In short, speed is a nice thing, but you need a high OBP to do it.

    One thing I just left out with the climate change towards SBs: Pudge. Before he came up, catcher’s arms weren’t coveted as a potential weapon against the steal. After Pudge, everyone had to have a strong-armed catcher to stop the thieves.

    So, I wouldn’t rely on the steal to generate offense, because you need a lot of steals to generate the same level of offense you can get out of a cadre of 20 HR guys.

    I never said anything about productive outs earlier, although I don’t mind them as long as they’re followed by clutch hits.

    I don’t mind throwing money into an industrial shredder, either, as long as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy appear to give me a new plasma TV.

    In short, my attitude towards scoring is that it doesn’t matter how, as long as they get done.

    Look, that’s everyone’s belief here. You ask Derek, Dave, Jeff, the women, that freak from Idaho, and they’ll all say the same thing: So long as they score more runs than the other team, who cares how it’s done? But what’s the best, most inexpensive way to generate offense?

    — High OBP from a number of players
    — XBHs (including homers)
    — Smart baserunning and game tactics

    You need to get guys on. Then you need guys behind them to get them home. And in the process, they shouldn’t do anything stupid on the basepaths and know when to steal and when not to. That’s all you need. You have that and some pitching, you’ll do damn well.

    BTW, did you know that the Cards had a 3.10 ERA in 1985 and allowed the fewest homers and runs? Might that have helped them just as much as their bat-out-of-hell running?

  7. msb on August 8th, 2005 1:56 pm

    vaguely OT, Jim Street has some interesting comments by Baylor on Ichiro & bunting more

  8. goodbye baseball on August 8th, 2005 2:14 pm

    dw said: You need to get guys on. Then you need guys behind them to get them home. And in the process, they shouldn’t do anything stupid on the basepaths and know when to steal and when not to.

    I’m not disagreeing with you on any of these points. The frustration when I watch the Mariners is that there is too much of an emphasis on the long ball. We’ve got the guys who can provide that in Sexson and, although not as much as expected, Beltre. The top two (Ichiro, Reed or whomever) are struggling with getting on base and I don’t think Hargrove trusts his guys to be smart yet aggressive once they are on.

    In regards to BTW, did you know that the Cards had a 3.10 ERA in 1985 and allowed the fewest homers and runs? Might that have helped them just as much as their bat-out-of-hell running?: Yes, and of course.

  9. Steve Thornton on August 8th, 2005 2:32 pm

    Too much emphasis on the long ball? In what way? There isn’t any long ball, except for Sexson. They know that; they’re not waiting for the long ball, because they know and we know it’s not coming. Just because they’re not taking off in a blind quest for the stolen base doesn’t mean they’re waiting for the long ball. What they’re waiting for, or should be waiting for, but not getting, is another baserunner behind them, and another after that. It doesn’t matter what kind of hits or walks you get, as long as you don’t make out: OBP. OBP. OBP.

  10. Steve Thornton on August 8th, 2005 2:38 pm

    Here’s an example of how damaging CS is. Boston (currently 32-for-39 stealing, a .82 clip) is getting more value from the stolen base overall than Chicago, who have a MLB leading 113 SB, but have been caught 50 times. That’s at a valuation of 0.3 runs for a SB, -0.6 for a CS, which is exceedingly generous.

    Another example from the past: Rickey Henderson’s stolen bases were hugely valuable. Harold Reynolds’s hurt his team, running his way out of as many as 29 scoring innings a season.

  11. roger tang on August 8th, 2005 2:38 pm

    re 59

    Well, when it comes right down to it, I think the emphasis is on the long ball because it’s more efficient than the stolen base–and the homer department is yet another area where the Ms are deficient. Focussing on just the stolen bases is missing all the other problems which might be more pertinent [for example, stolen bases will naturally be down if OBP is down].

    Also, I think a) Ichiro is not stealing as much is a much older trend that just this year, and b) Reed should NOT be stealing if he can’t get a better stolen base percentage than 4 out of 11….

  12. roger tang on August 8th, 2005 2:39 pm

    argh, I mean re 58, not 59

  13. goodbye baseball on August 8th, 2005 2:46 pm

    59. I’m only going by what I’ve seen up to last weekend, which has included some dreadful overswinging by certain former members of this team as well as Beltre’s home run cuts even before he recognizes down and away pitches. Since I was in Snoqualmie at a blues festival and didn’t see the series with the ChiSox, I’d like to know if this weekend’s lack of offense was a matter of poor pitch recognition by the hitters, overall pressing, or just good pitching by Buehrle and Garland, two of the game’s best.

  14. Ralph Malph on August 8th, 2005 2:50 pm

    The frustration when I watch the Mariners is that there is too much emphasis on the long ball.

    Huh? I see them bunting and hit-and-running and not hitting very many home runs. I don’t know what you mean by this. My frustration when I watch them is that they aren’t very good.

  15. Steve Thornton on August 8th, 2005 3:37 pm

    Beltre’s problem, as far as I can tell, isn’t his home run cuts, but his bizarre attempts to pound pitches that are a foot low and outside down into the dirt. He’s scaring the worms to death, but not threatening the fences much.