Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves – Box Score – August 14, 2011 – ESPN.
I blame Jerome Holtzman. The whole concept of the “save” has taken over bullpen usage so that managers push all their best relievers back in the game, so the worst relievers pitch the middle innings, even if it’s a game situation. So when Brandon Beachy tired and had let a run in with a runner on base in the sixth, Fredi Gonzalez turned to his worst (remaining) reliever, Scott Linebrink. And when Linebrink allowed three straight singles, allowing what was once a 4-0 lead go to 4-3 with the tying run on third and go-ahead run on first, he went to rookie Arodys Vizcaino. It is doubtful that he ever considered using Jonny Venters. Vizcaino actually pitched well, striking out three — but threw two wild pitches or passed balls (Brian McCann, in his first game off the DL, probably should have blocked both) which allowed the tying run to score.
The Braves had built the lead with the help of some bad Cubs defense. Dan Uggla — who went hitless today, so there’s that to add to the misery of this lousy game — hit a sac fly to score Michael Bourn in the first after Bourn went to third on a fielder’s choice/error. More sloppy defense helped lead to two more runs, by Alex Gonzalez and Jose Constanza, in the second. In the fourth, Constanza walked, stole two bases, and scored on a Bourn single. Beachy was cruising… but then he got to the sixth. He throws a lot of pitches, and he tends to tire suddenly. He should get over it in time. I don’t know how long it will take to get over not getting this win he deserved.
The Braves retook the lead in the bottom of the inning thanks again to sloppy defense. Jason Heyward hit a bloop single, stole second, then the pitcher threw away a swinging bunt by AAG to score Heyward. Unfortunately, Gonzalez couldn’t get to second on the error, and he wound up stranded.
Fredi doesn’t get any blame for bringing in Eric O’Flaherty in the seventh; the two-run homer O’Flaherty gave up is all his. The Braves then went meekly for two and two thirds innings before Bourn walked and stole second with two out in the ninth. But Martin Prado fouled out on a 3-1 pitch to end it.
Oh, and Jonny Venters struck out the side in the eighth. The Cubs struck out eighteen times (once reaching against Vizcaino on the K/WP) and won.
The Cubs couldn’t give this game away, even after trying so hard.
Gonzalez made exactly one (1) questionable call today: not going the full Tony LaRussa and bringing in Sherrill to face the LHB Colvin in the sixth. That is the extent of his questionable calls today.
Everything else is over the top whinging from fanboys who think they know more than they do.
Sam, you’re acting a little … catty.
@2 – “Fanboys who think they know more than they do.”
Boy, you said it Sam.
Using your worst reliever when the game is in doubt and you have six other options is pretty much always questionable.
Lol.. Yeah, those guys are the worst.
Sam, you Fredi fanboys are quite sanctimonious.
Sam…Where and what time does your Fredi fan club meet? I would just like to know so I don’t ever accidentally stop by there
I’ll try to reign in the cattiness.
Fredi brought in Linebrink, who had been pitching pretty well before the DL stint, and who had recovered quickly (but had to be on the DL for 15 days once put there) to get through the sixth when his starter faltered. There is nothing wrong with that decision.
Fredi didn’t bring in Sherrill to face one punch-and-judy LHP when Linebrink allowed a couple of singles. The modern TLR book there is to go with the “LOOGY” but it’s not unconscionable to not be a Tony LaRussa clone in that situation.
Fredi then brought in Arodys Vizcaino, whom everyone was ecstatic to see replace Scott Proctor last week, to get strikeouts with runners on base. Vizcaino DID EXACTLY THAT. Unfortunately, Brian McCann couldn’t block some nasty breaking pitches in the dirty and the tying run scored on a “wild pitch” that should have been scored a passed ball.
So, to review, Fredi Gonzalez’ bullpen usage in the sixth actually worked. Brian McCann’s rusty defense behind the plate allowed the Cubs to tie the game. The only pitcher who didn’t do exactly what he was brought in to do was Linebrink. Vizcaino did his job EXACTLY AS WELL AS JONNY VENTERS WOULD HAVE.
The Braves then took the lead in the seventh. Gonzalez then went to his vaunted “O’Ventbrel” strategy. Unfortunately Eric O’Flaherty gave up a single to Darwin Barney and a bomb to Carlos Pena, and thus the lead.
Down by a run at home, Fredi USED VENTERS AND KIMBREL to hold the game and give his offense a chance to tie and win. This is, of course, the strategy that people here have been begging for all year, but it’s ignored in a flurry of “Frediot” stupidity and hate. Because hating on Fredi feels better.
(Reigning in the cattinness again… Sorry.)
Fredi then hit for a guy hitting .170 against LHP with Chipper Friggin’ Jones, for which he was once again strung up, tarred, feathered, drawn and quartered. Seriously. PH for a .170 hitter with CHIPPER JONES and you get hate mail?! WTF.
This loss is on Scott Linebrink, Brian McCann and Eric O’Flaherty for not doing their jobs. It is not on the manager.
In re the previous thread, Fredi’s firing was at least not publicly linked to the Hanley dustup, which occurred May 18-20, and Ramirez met with Loria et al prior to taking action. He was fired a month later, apparently for not being able to get over .500 after the previous years team was 12 games over.
Fredi: “The sixth inning is our Achilles heel.”
Was Linebrink a little rusty?
Fredi: “Yeah, a little bit.”
#9: I agree, Chipper pinch-hitting for the lefty against a lefty was a sound tactical move.
But saying that Fredi’s bullpen usage in the sixth actually worked? Are you smoking catnip or something? It did not work. Look at the numbers on the board. Yeesh.
Sam, it kinda feels like you’re over-selling the Fredi hate in this case, in order to give yourself an excuse to lecture all of us knuckledragging dimwitted school children fan boys.
Maybe someone, one day, will be able to tell me how it is that Jason Heyward can be indefinitely benched for a career minor leaguer all the while Martin Prado continues to produce at the exact same level with nary a criticism.
DOB, most notably, treats any suggestion that Prado sit against righties as absolutely absurd. It’s as if the very idea is unthinkable–as if the notion that Prado should sit instead of Heyward* is beyond the bounds of his (and others’) ontological assumptions.
*taking for granted that they’re not going to sit Constanza for awhile.
To elaborate, Mac’s recap is a criticism of “Accepted Practice,” not Fredi in specific. Fredi did what most managers would do. And most managers are doing it wrong there.
Also, most everyone can agree with Chipper hitting for Heyward there. There is an obvious question there, though: Why can you hit for Heyward, when you didn’t hit for Boscan, Alex Gonzalez, or Diory Hernandez in high leverage situations earlier this year. Maybe Fredi is learning? I don’t know.
The call you will allow us, so kindly, to criticize (as long as we’re quiet about it, I presume;) of not going to Sherrill, who was warmed and ready, to face the lefty, who instead got an RBI single off a struggling Linebrink, you defend mildly by saying, basically, it would be LaRussian to go to the lefty for one batter, and that, while we’re at it, you don’t really like one batter appearances. Well whoopie! As long as we lose conveniently, we shouldn’t complain.
Further, I think everyone here agrees that the players lost this game. I’d go so far as to say you’re too kind to McCann there. The “nasty breaking ball” he wasn’t “able” to block didn’t cost anything. The FASTBALL in the dirt, that he didn’t TRY to block, but instead tried to catch on a short hop, that’s the one that cost us the run.
Anyway. There’s plenty of opportunities to criticize Fredi after games. This isn’t really one of them. So no one really is.
Likewise, there’ll be plenty more chances to hop up on that high horse of yours. So maybe spare us this once.
Basically, DOB is a dummy. Prado’s carrying a decent overall batting average, and DOB is only vaguely aware of secondary skills, so Prado is clearly having a much better season than Heyward.
Prado is a bona fide Fan Favorite, (fairly earned, but still) who will always be presumed to be playing well. See Bream, Sid, for another example.
That’s exactly what he does.
No one is really even full on arguing with him most of the time. He’s created this fictional mob of BravesJournalers that believe in the exact opposite of everything he stands for. And when he can’t bait people that way, he just resorts to being a dick. Either way, he’s able to feed his insatiable desire of internet arguing.
18: His blind spot is conflating grousing here and there by one or two people into the whole Braves Journal crowd.
@18: Clearly you just got here if you don’t realize this board is full of people who hate Fredi. Sometimes it’s justified, like when doesn’t get a starter fast enough, but most of the time its irrational.
Prado’s last at-bat looked like a Francoeur one. 3-1 pitch, seemed like he committed in his mind to swing before the pitcher started his windup. Then tried to bail, after it was too late, when it wasn’t a good pitch to be swinging on and produced a meek out.
I was specifically replying to Mac’s recap and his comments in the game thread that PHing for Heyward with Chipper means Fredi “hates Heyward.”
You can’t PH for everyone, but you most certainly PH for Heyward against the LH reliever in that situation. Chipper has the better chance to get on and tie the game.
As for the rest, Scott Linebrink has been as effective at his job this year as Jason Heyward has been at his. And again, unless you were apoplectic for Fredi to pull McCann and put Boscan in for defense in the sixth, you have no real case for complaining about that inning’s managerial decisions.
Unfortunately, it just looked like a Prado PA.
18 Ks and 4 errors and 4 run lead–This game sets a new low for the Braves on Sunday….
jjschiller @ 15:
To elaborate, Macâ€™s recap is a criticism of â€œAccepted Practice,â€ not Fredi in specific. Fredi did what most managers would do. And most managers are doing it wrong there.
Okay, let’s have this conversation. I’ll try not to be catty.
Can you think of any other team or manager in Major League Baseball who would have used your or Mac’s preferred strategy in the sixth inning of this game?
Linebrink has been pretty good the last two months. The only thing that might make it questionable in my mind is the fact that he just came off the DL today. But otherwise, he’s been good enough as of late to pitch with a 3-run lead.
And actually using the best pitchers when down by one seems a step in the right direction for Fredi. He may or may not have been perfect, but I saw no egregious mistakes on his part to justify putting this one on anyone but the players.
25: No, but expressing our discontent with it in real time as it regards our favorite team who we really want to win is called venting, ya big jerk.
And it also doesn’t make it right. We ought to be turning the heat up on managers for dumb bullpen usage like this. I know the Cult of the Closer will never go away, the Players Union is too invested on big dollar guys in the back of the bullpen. But the best middle reliever on your team should be used in the most high-leverage of situations no matter the inning. That meant EOF or Venters in the 6th…at least after Linebrink came in and started making a fool out of himself. Coming off 15 days of inactivity, he was permitted to give up hits to three batters! Yeesh!
25: No, but expressing our discontent with it in real time as it regards our favorite team who we really want to win is called venting, ya big jerk.
Full stop, if you don’t mind. Is there any reason, aside from “dumb bullpen usage” and the “Cult of the Closer” that you could think of that would lead to every major league manager and franchise behaving in the same way in this regard?
Sam, if every major league manager jumped off a cliff, would you too?
And not to open up this bag of worms again, but Linebrink’s relative success was unsustainable. His fielding-independent ERA (entering today) is 4.18. He gives up too many balls in play to be a successful reliever.
28: Yeah, I think it’s been discussed recently: lack of originality and/or courage on behalf of managers and organizations league wide. “The Book” regarding bullpen usage is mostly wrong. At least, that’s my opinion. (Your cue to now shout at me that I can’t have any pudding if I won’t eat any meat.)
Linebrink probably should have thrown an inning or so across town.
Thinking about driving from California to Atlanta for the playoffs. Do you guys think im crazy? I think I could get there in 4 days each way.
Since the Braves would probably be playing in SF or Phoenix for at least half the games, that seems like wasted effort to me.
Sam, if every major league manager jumped off a cliff, would you too?
The rates of success for current “book” management are somewhat higher than the rate of success for cliff jumping. Unless we account for base jumping with proper equipment, which seems reasonably successful, but would completely freak my fear-of-heights monkey out.
28: Yeah, I think itâ€™s been discussed recently: lack of originality and/or courage on behalf of managers and organizations league wide. â€œThe Bookâ€ regarding bullpen usage is mostly wrong. At least, thatâ€™s my opinion.
I had already gathered that this was your opinion. Now let’s see if it’s a rational opinion.
Do you believe there exists no personnel at any level in the major or minor leagues who have read the saber-literature on “proper” bullpen usage and understand it?
Oh! This is the slow-motion lecture.
Oooooh the suspense! I can’t wait for the part where we find out that “Experts know more than we do!”
Now JJ, this is a conversation. You’re welcome to join if you like. I obviously have points to make, but I’m specifically *not* lecturing.
@35 I don’t really want to get into this argument, but I think the point is that it’s hard to break managers of accepted practice. Fredi has it set in his mind that his three guys go in the 7th, 8th and 9th. The game still felt reasonably safe when they pulled Beachy. It’s a Sunday afternoon game, packed house, and the Cubs looked completely inept. So he puts in the guy fresh off the DL because he figures we’re good. I would guess that a lot of managers would have done the same thing. Probably even most managers.
It doesn’t make it smart, or right, but it does explain why he did it. Sometimes you have to look at the accepted norms in a particular environment and accept the shortcomings that come with it until you can make a change. Fredi is not the guy that’s going to rewrite the book on reliever usage. He seems like a “the world is flat” kind of guy.
36: It’s a conversation? Or an interrogation? No, Sam. I do not believe there exists no personnel at any level in the major or minor leagues who have read the saber-literature on “proper” bullpen usage and understand it.
But who cares if there are or there aren’t? Empirically speaking, it doesn’t matter. Venters’ “role” with the Braves now largely precludes him from being effective in high-leverage and very often more important situations after the starter leaves and before the 8th inning. I don’t care what they “know”, I care what they “do.”
@34, That managers may know of alternatives to the status quo and still don’t use them doesn’t prove anything one way or the other. If you think there’s a problem with the “saber-literature,” it’s better just to say it rather than talking around the point.
37: Bethany, Fredi said in the postgame interview that Linebrink looked “rusty.” Now, I’m not going to excoriate Fredi for bringing the guy in who hasn’t pitched in 15 days into a game with a three-run lead and a runner at first with only one out. Just because it was an overly risky move doesn’t mean it’s beyond the pale.
But since it was a reasonable expectation that Linebrink would be rusty, and then the final analysis of his performance is that he was indeed rusty, then at the very least a clear-headed manager would seek to pull said pitcher at the first indication of said rustiness. But no, we got one hit, then two, then a third before finally the rustiness just got too out of hand.
Yes, that’s totally excusable personnel management right there.
As far as bringing Linebrink in, I dunno. Right-hander Beachy’s been dazzling the Cubs all game and he gets tired and so as a response you bring in another right-hander that throws slower and straighter? After Beachy, I bet no matter how well Linebrink threw it was still gonna look like batting practice to those guys who’d been dealing with Beachy.
Because Linebrink doesn’t miss many bats, he shouldn’t be brought into the game with runners on base. If Fredi was going to send Beachy out for the sixth (and with a four-run lead, and Beachy needing to learn how to pitch deeper into games, I see no reason why he shouldn’t) then he needed a back-up plan in case Beachy got into trouble. Either let Beachy try to get out of his own mess, or bring in someone who misses bats. Either decision seems justifiable to me. Using Linebrink there isn’t. Managers are supposed to put their players in the best position to succeed, and using Linebrink in that spot doesn’t qualify.
Itâ€™s a conversation? Or an interrogation? No, Sam. I do not believe there exists no personnel at any level in the major or minor leagues who have read the saber-literature on â€œproperâ€ bullpen usage and understand it.
It is both. In an attempt to not *assume* your beliefs and motives, I am attempting to establish them. Thus, it is an interrogation of sorts.
I think that your belief that there exists no personnel in baseball who understand the literature is absurd on its face. Do you believe Bill James understands the literature?
42: You have misread my double negative. I’m sure there are people who understand sabermetrics in organized baseball. My point is, specific to the Braves, it doesn’t appear that it matters. I see little evidence that Fredi’s doing anything outside of “the Book” besides batting the pitcher 8th.
And anyway, why is bringing Linebrink in the 6th when you have superior alternatives a point about sabermetrics? It’s purely about firing the best and/or most appropriate bullet you’ve got for the situation. That meant minimizing the damage “Rusty” Linebrink could do to your chances of winning by either pulling him earlier or not using him at all in that situation. I don’t need Bill James to tell me that.
Okay, so if we both believe that there are people in the game who understand the literature, and we agree that there are no teams in the game that employ the methods pushed by the sabremetric literature, then the question of the day is “why do the teams that understand the literature not employ those strategies?”
The usage pattern of relievers, particularly the notion that you should use your “closer” in the high-leverage middle innings and not save him for the “save situation” is a cause celebre in sabre-friendly circles.
I’ll admit, we’ve been worrying about Venters’ arm falling off all season. If he enters in the 6th after Beachy and shuts the Cubs down, I’m in the camp who would have believed that any pitcher (outside of Proctor) could finish that inning and hold onto the lead more often than not. After that, maybe we pick up an insurance run or two, and all of a sudden, we’re then looking at another game where we don’t have to use all or parts of O’Ventbrel. Linebrink got dinked to death, and even then Vizcaino pitched well enough to salvage the lead had McCann handled his business behind the plate.
120 games into his first season, I’m not impressed with Fredi Gonzales and am not particularly looking forward to his managing “my” ballclub for years to come. But I just can’t find too much fault with his handling of the game today. I have certainly held him more responsible for other losses.
“Because Linebrink doesnâ€™t miss many bats, he shouldnâ€™t be brought into the game with runners on base.”
Bingo. Well, I’d add that because Linebrink doesn’t miss many bats and doesn’t induce many ground balls he shouldn’t have been brought into the game with guys on base. But Mac’s point is largely the right one: why bring in your worst reliever when you don’t have to and the game is still in doubt? I fail to see the counterargument there; only in baseball is there such resistance to such an argument.
But I’d add that the biggest mistake is the one that even Sam has conceded: allowing Linebrink to stay in the game against a lefty. Sherrill was ready. It’s his role. He’s basically on the roster to get guys like Colvin out. Putting him in the game at that point would not take the type of creativity that putting Venters in the game evidently would.
#45: If you are referring to me, you are assuming my beliefs if not my motives. Why do you feel entitled to do this?
John @ 48. I am having a conversation with you right now. If I assume something that isn’t true, correct it.
49: Ha! And I was trying to turn the “conversation” into an “interrogation” against you. I’ve been outsmarted once again.
I wouldn’t call myself a sabermetrician. I read all that Bill James stuff when I was a teenager in the ’80s but I’ve forgotten far more about it than I remember. Baseball now competes with real life stuff and other interests such that I don’t have time to delve any deeper than OPS and WHIP, which I get, and higher level stuff, which I don’t.
So your “conversation” full of leading questions about sabermetrics is, I would think, kinda beside the question, at least as far as I go. I’m not trying to make a sabermetric point or saying the Braves organization ought to be following whatever recommendations that have lately been enshrined by the Book of Bill James.
What I’m saying is that personnel management in the bullpen (including the vaunted “closer”) is out of whack with a team’s best interests in winning. I’m not stupid enough to try and say teams ought to abandon the notion of a closer. Ain’t gonna happen. There’s too many huge salaries on the line invested in silly stats like “saves.” For all I know if teams started moving away from having a standard closer they’d be sued by the Players Union for collusion.
But at the very least, the rest of the bullpen â€“Â from “Rusty” Linebrink all the way to Venters â€“Â should be used as appropriate through the game. If the opponent’s best three hitters are due up in the 6th and there are runners on, why not bring in someone like EOF? Keep that three run lead intact so ol’ Rusty can come in with the crappy hitters at the back end of the Cubs lineup and a 3-run lead.
It’s not sabermetrics, it’s common sense.
Well then, John. Let me cut to the chase.
Not to long ago the Boston Red Sox, under the sabremetric guidance of GM Theo Epstien, hired Bill James and Voros McCracken as consultants. They attempted to update the “old school” book of baseball to the obviously smarter and less “out of whack” ways of thinking.
One of the notable experiments in that time for Boston was to toss the “book” of bullpen usage out the window, thrown “closers” out altogether, manage “by committee” and leverage and handedness, etc. Basically, they tried to do what you guys are angry that the Braves don’t do.
They tried. And they failed. Miserably.
Turns out that human beings actually seem to perform better in defined roles rather than as random insertion roulette balls based on whatever the spreadsheet’s “leverage index” indicates.
There aren’t four, maybe five franchises in all of baseball who haven’t hired front office personnel to go through this new sabermetric usage “book” line item by line item. Maybe the Royals haven’t sorted the “new thinking” out top to bottom. Many of them have even toyed with managing to the new “book” that Tango and company think they’re so brilliant for “figuring out.”
And they failed. Miserably.
The Braves don’t manage to roles instead of leverage indices because they’re stupid, John. They manage to roles because the men who are called in to perform those roles *perform those roles better* when they know what they’re assigned roles and expectations are beforehand.
Bobby Cox knew this well. Fredi Gonzalez knows it too. As does every other team in baseball. Your secret knowledge isn’t secret, see. It’s just wrong.
You’re right, Sam. Bringing in “Rusty” Linebrink and watching him be “rusty” for three batters and get no outs while a superior arsenal of pitchers was in the bullpen was the right play. The only play! Jonny Venters, having been shocked and humiliated out of his “role” would have surely imploded just as bad, if not worse, than Linebrink in all his rustiness.
You may well be right, for all I know, about not sticking to a strict adherence to “roles” as being counter-productive, but I think that speaks far less to the strategic soundness of it as a winning baseball strategy as it does to the fact that the players of today need to be coddled emotionally. That’s too bad if that’s the case.
Pitchers should be ready to pitch when their manager damn well wants them and needs them to pitch.
I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I think Bobby Valentine is actually a really good commentator
53: I hate that I feel the same way. Hate it! I feel like I can no longer lay claim to my Lifetime Mets Hater Club card.
I see. If it can’t be stupid managers it must be weak, coddled modern players. Whatever, man.
“Turns out that human beings actually seem to perform better in defined roles rather than as random insertion roulette balls based on whatever the spreadsheetâ€™s â€œleverage indexâ€ indicates.”
Being humans, it shouldn’t be too hard to train them to get up and throw the damn ball whenever the phone rings in the bullpen.
I’m not saying that’s what it is, Sam. I don’t really know. But you’re non-responsive on the assertion that today’s players, as opposed to the players of even 20-25 years ago, are a bit less flexible in their attitudes, so I’m going to just assume there’s more to my point than you’ll want to admit.
Regardless, I don’t see why there should be established roles for the 6th, 7th and 8th innings guys. If you’ve got guys in the pen who are so unable to adjust their abilities to pitch due to situations, then I don’t know what to say. That’s just sad that it has to be that way. I don’t think pinch-hitters look at it the same way. Send ’em to John Smoltz’s red sweater shrink if they’re such shrinking violets. Maybe that’s the innovation we need to get past the “Book” that allows Fredi to sidestep responsibility for standing by a rusty right-hander with inferior stuff to Beachy. After all, the Book can’t be wrong!
Extra thought: One of my frustrations with Fredi has been his careless usage of the Lisp. That guy deserves a lot of respect for pitching well this year, especially those two games he pitched long and kept us in games (and with the bat, too!) But no, Fredi’s Book says the Lisp can’t possibly pitch in the 7th and 8th. You see, those innings are reserved for left-handers! Only left-handers can pitch in the 7th and 8th! What we need to do is send the Lisp down to the minors because we “don’t need a long reliever.” Again, more crap from “the Book” that doesn’t make sense. The Lisp can get outs whether short or long innings, whether in the 4th or the 8th. It’s just dumb how he’s been marginalized at the expense of Scott Proctor and “Rusty” Linebrink.
I am saying that managers of Major League Baseball teams, with MILLIONS and MILLIONS of dollars riding on the decisions, have decided that defined roles win ballgames.
I am saying that there is evidence to suggest that they are correct.
The notion here seems to be that the only reason teams don’t use “optimal relief strategies” is because managers are too stupid to read the literature. That’s absurd, and factually incorrect.
For what it’s worth, in 2010, the team entering the 9th inning with a lead won 95.5% of the time.
And in 1952, the team with the lead entering the 9th inning won 95.5% of the time.
Guys, it’s not the results that matter. It’s the soundness of the process.
Except when you’re choosing who’s going to play rightfield. Then it’s results that matter. The process is secondary.
Errm… THESE GUYS MAKE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, WHAT, DO YOU THINK THEY’RE STUPID?!
The notion here seems to be that the only reason teams donâ€™t use â€œoptimal relief strategiesâ€ is because managers are too stupid to read the literature. Thatâ€™s absurd, and factually incorrect.
That’s not what I think at all, thank you. It’s not that they’re too stupid to read this evidence you speak of (though some are) or even understand it (though some are). It’s that it seems to me this idea of “defined roles” is exaggerated. You can’t tell me it makes sense that the Braves ought to manage the 7th and 8th innings with a lead as if they are no man’s land for right-handers. That no matter the players the opposing team is sending up to the plate, no matter the run differential (assuming a save situation), that the Braves are better off with their “roles” than having the reasonable expectation that there are some games when it rightly should be the Lisp or even (gasp!) Linebrink in there instead of Venters or EOF.
Goodness gracious, what will happen to EOF or Venters’ ego when Moylan comes back? Are they going to sulk because he might start pitching where he’s accustomed to? No, I’d presume they’ll adapt because they primarily want to win. If EOF is now pitching the 6th, he’s not going to start sucking. His stuff isn’t going to just disappear, is it?
The only “role” of significance I see is that of closer, but that’s only because we’ve spent the last 25-30 years brainwashing management that it’s an existentially crucial role for a pitcher, and players have been paid accordingly enough for long enough that they’ll pitch a fit if they don’t have that role and think they deserve it.*
* I’m speaking in generalities here.
Sam/51: “Not too long ago” is vague. What season(s) or partial season(s) are you referring to in which the Red Sox threw out “the book” on bullpen management, apportioned appearances according to sabermetric principles, and, as a result of that management, and not as a result of the relievers’ own mediocrity, “failed miserably”?
#62: I just read up on this in Wikipedia (hardly the last or only word, of course). Seems like Grady Little was “uncomfortable” with the whole situation. And with the quality of talent he had on hand, I don’t necessarily blame him! But if we’re going to talk “human nature” here, as Sam would like us to, then it would seem that if the manager isn’t behind a strategy, it’s not like the players are going to be able to follow him effectively.
That’s why I mentioned earlier that it’s likely because managers lack the courage to play outside of the Book, rather than lacking the intellect, which is what Sam wants to accuse me of thinking. It does take balls to try something new.
FWIW, Alan Embree, a part of that experiment, was quoted as saying he thought it could have worked if not for the injuries sustained by the team.
So we have a small sample size, mediocre talent, a manager not in sync with the GM, and clubs with MILLIONS and MILLIONS of contract dollars that are inclined to risk aversion… No wonder they cut bait early without establishing the strategy’s merits.
Wow, guys. Good stuff. I know it tends to get catty and whatnot, but at least it’s good conversation about the Braves. I can tell you all CARE.
Valid points on both sides. Not that anyone cares, but i think the Braves did a good job. It’s a fine line between losing the series and winning it. Maybe it was that great play Barney made on the Uggla pop-up. He gets on, maybe we get something going.
Fredi is not too bad. Neither is his club! There are plenty of managers out there who we would probably hate more!
But more to the point – cubs, schlubs. This coming week is the one we really need to win both series. Our main competition for the wild card would do really well with a nice big beat-down or six.
William Beckwith with 3HRs tonight for the Danville Braves.
If you’re the reliever who comes into a game during the time of greatest threat to your lead — either because of runners on base or the best part of their lineup at bat — that sounds to me like a defined role. That’s what we’re all talking about here. We all understand the role some of us want Jonny Venters to play, otherwise we couldnt converse about it. So what’s (theoretically) stopping Jonny Venters from understanding or embracing it too?If roles are so important, why pretend you can only define roles by inning or handedness?
So just a thought experiment here, but wouldn’t a reasonable way to test the effectiveness of relievers in defined roles vs. unpredictable roles be to measure all reliever ERAs in games that end after 9 innings vs reliever performance in extra innings where things go kind of nuts? If there’s some empirical benefit to pitching in an inning of foreknown number, then it should show up there right? I had zero luck figuring that out at bref. Anyone know how to go about answering such a question short of plying some sort of mind-numbing SQL skills?
Though I suppose you’d just be introducing a lot of biases by comparing the two sorts of games – mainly that worse relievers would tend to be used in extra innings games. Oh well.
Also, it should go without saying that “there’s too much money at stake for old baseball wisdom to ever be wrong” deserves nothing but mockery and dismissal. The converse has proven to be true too many times for anyone to accept such a threadbare argument on its face.
The other thing about Venters, though, is that maybe we just don’t think the beginning of the eighth inning of a close game is a high-leverage situation because he has shut it down all damn year.
and i know you guys know this, but i’m just pointing it out so we dont take it for granted. Yes, he could have been brought in in the sixth, but we would have had linebrink and sherril in the eighth then. and yes, they might have done fine, but you just never know!
It’s all hypothetical anyway. But for my money, I’m totally happy that Venters is locking down all of the Braves’ defensive eighths, instead of say, the Phillies’.
And yes, Fredi used him and Kimbrel while we were down a run. that bodes well.
I’m not sure that’s a valid test or not, Pete, but it’s a pretty good first draft idea of how to test things at least. I don’t know what the results would show. I’d certainly be interested to find out.
And to the point, the “fireman” role that many here envision for Venters was in fact widely used prior to the more defined roles of bullpens of modern times. That was the model used in the 70s and early 80s, certainly.
My point is not to lecture (honest) nor to insult people. My point is the question the assumption that ML managers behave as they do out of stupidity or pure stubbornness. I don’t think that’s remotely the case. I think they behave as they do because the game has shown certain things to be successful in the real world, and the few times that I know of where that “book” was shaken up and more “leverage index” strategies used (notably in Boston) it was not successful.
But that’s an excellent first draft, at least, to framing a way to test the theories a little more. And at its best, coming up with new and interesting ways to ask the questions about baseball is what sabermetrics is supposed to be about. Not the rote repetition of WAR or wOBA or whatever Tango says is the proper thing to do in his new “Book.”
@69, I think there’s a movie coming out about that starring Brad Pitt. He’s so dreamy.
@65 – I’m irrationally excited about Beckwith and Drury. One of those two will be our backup LF behind Constanza in 2015.
My point is not to lecture (honest) nor to insult people.
But you’ll at least admit to browbeating, won’t you? Pretty please?
I don’t know about you guys, but I would prefer having Chipper in the two-spot and moving Prado down to sixth.
67: Pete, I’d think the whole “mindset” issue we’re trying to establish here about roles go out the window with extra innings. I think once you head into the 10th, players and managers know they’re dealing with a completely different type of game than the 9 inning model they had been playing. Players all of a sudden know they’re playing in a game of attrition and that they might be called on to do something out of the norm (relievers pitching longer than they’re accustomed to, relievers batting, starting pitchers entering the game as a reliever). Think Charlie Liebrandt in the WS (although in his case I don’t think it had to do with mindset but stuff).
That would certainly change things so much that I don’t think you could compare the data from the two sets.
When talking mindset, I’m just thinking it should be a concerted effort between organization and manager. It would take leadership and communication skills to explain to your non-closer relief corps that they’re going to be called on to live a little outside of whatever role perception they had in mind. For instance, it shouldn’t be a crazy concept for Fredi to explain to EOF and Venters that just because the Braves have a small lead doesn’t mean the 7th and 8th innings are forbidden to any of his right-handers.
@75 – I’m with you there. I was thinking the same thing earlier (before Prado’s 3-1 travesty.)
@71 – The problem I have is with the “They’re the ones with millions of dollars on the line. The choices they make are most likely the best,” argument. It’s just as easy as the “They’ve got so much money on the line, how can you expect them to try something that’s not already accepted practice?” argument. That can honestly go either way.
Also, another thing Posnanski notes in the article I referenced above:
“…the best (league wide) winning percentage for ninth-inning leads is .958. It has happened four times — 2008, 1988, 1972 and 1965. That pretty much covers the entire spectrum of bullpen use.”
The point is, from the Complete Game era, to the Fireman era, to the Defined Role era, “Basically, teams as a whole ALWAYS win between a touch less than 94% and a touch more than 95% of the time. This has been stunningly, almost mockingly, consistent. The game has grown, the leagues have expanded, the roles have changed, the pressure has turned up, but the numbers don’t change.”
Does anybody remember Eddie Murray playing for the 1995 Cleveland Indians? Because that hit me like a ton of bricks just now.
@79 Yes, and they also had Lofton, Vizquel, Baerga, Belle, Thome, Manny, and Sandy Alomar Jr. Amazing lineup. Too bad they had Dennis Martinez and Orel Hershiser as they top two starting pitchers instead of Colon, Sabathia, and Lee. Otherwise, that team would be unbeatable.
Charles Nagy finished 6th in Cy Young voting that year.
Of course, he had a 4.55 ERA (103 ERA+) to go along with that 16-6 record.
@77 Bingo. A manager does not simply have one interest. He’s interested in winning, but he’s also interested in keeping his job. Most of the time the two interests are aligned, but not always. If a situation arises where a manager can choose one of two strategies, where strategy A is accepted practice, but strategy B is the one he believes might actually be optimal, he still could choose strategy A for the simple reason that he will get less criticism if it doesn’t work. How risk-averse a particular manager might be in that regard could hinge on numerous factors, such as number of years as a manager, number of years with the current team, strength of that team, etc.
In Fredi’s case, he could feel there’s some leeway to experiment against the book because the team is good and likely to make it to the playoffs, but also might be hesitant because it’s his first year in Atlanta and wants to get the local media on his side.
All our stiff competition for playoff spots won tonight: Cardinals, Giants and Diamondbacks. Phils got rained out. Giants only 4 games back in the wild card. Would have been nice to have put this one away. But tomorrow is another day!
I think arguing about who should have come into the game the sixth innning misses the point. It’s a good team but it has some significant holes that go far beyond Fredi Gonzalez’s in-game strategy. The Braves starting pitching simply isn’t very good. Other than Hudson, no one is capable of going more than five or six innings. Beachy shows promise but falls apart in the middle innings. Hanson has “tendonitis.” Jurrgens is hurt. Lowe is Lowe. The bullpen is far from solid once you get beyond Venters and Kimbrel. The offense, while somewhat better, is still a black hole at the bottom of the order. Jason Heyward looks completely lost at the plate–whether or not Constanza should be taking time from him elides the issue that Heyward looks awful.
The pitching saved the Braves in the first half of the year but, right now, it’s not a rotation I would put much stock in for the playoffs.
True, but there’s time. If Hanson and Jurrjens are healthy and on good streaks come playoff time, the rotation looks a lot better. Let’s hope August is our big injury month this year instead of late september. Losing Chipper and Prado was the main cause of our first-round exit last year; i don’t think anyone would deny that. Let’s give everyone the rest they need, because apparently this team can win games at 80% strength.
It’s amazing that O’Flaherty has a 1.33 ERA and 4 losses.
The rotation might look a lot different in September. Even if they don’t put Teheran or Vizcaino in the rotation, those guys will hopefully get a lot of chances to eat innings normally given to Linebrink.
Meaningless stat of the day:
Ross: 26-12 (.684)
McCann: 44-39 (.530)
I agree but my point is the game shouldn’t have come down to whether or not Fredi brought in the right pitcher in the sixth inning. You would hope that wouldn’t be an issue then and you would also hope that the team could score more runs. I mean the Cubs tried everything they could to give the damn game away.
I’m not convinced that Hanson will be healthy. When teams say guys have “tendonitis” that raises warning flags to me.
I also agree with some comments about Prado. They aren’t getting much from the outfield (other than Bourn now) generally.
18 Strikeouts! That’s got to be a new team record, right? Not that it helps since the team lost, but I’d like to know if the Braves have ever struck out 18 batters in a 9 inning game before.
What you are doing is called “pseduo-psychological guessing.” Just for the record.
90: No, what he’s doing is laying out a perfectly reasonable hypothesis based on common sense, one that most here without a contrarian agenda would assume is actively in practice in at least one of the 30 clubhouses in MLB. Or maybe two or even three. Which ones? Who knows. I don’t think anybody has said that is precisely going on in the Braves clubhouse. But it is certainly a good possible explanation, don’t you think?
Big week of baseball. JJ returns, Delgado gets a start & we’ll see Cain & Lincecum at the end of this series.
A split keeps things at 4 GB & any kind of series win puts SF further in the rearview. Don’t want to consider the alternative, so seeing Hudson kick things off looks pretty good to me.
Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with @82. It’s not like Grst is making some boneheadedly bold assertion, just suggesting some possibilities. And really, the choices are pretty limited. A manager will follow convention in a certain decision or he won’t. If he does, then we can assume it’s because he really believes in them, because of external pressures, or some combination. If he doesn’t, then he doesn’t believe in them, there are external pressures, or both. Guessing isn’t required until you try to define external pressure, but I think we could come up with a list of 90% of the possibilities, and Grst picked a few really good candidates from the list.
Alabama Crimson Tide Preview Â« SEC Previews.
Still need lots of others, come on down.
What Pete said. There are plenty of people who think “The Book” is wrong, at least in certain situations (ie “The Book isn’t subtle enough) in baseball, football (See Romer’s studies on going for it on 4th down) and in every aspect of work life. Sam points out, quite reasonably, that people who want to go against The Book have the burden of explaining why people with largely aligned self-interest haven’t stumbled into the Anti-Book in all this time… and he points out that stupidity is a poor explanatory principle, no matter how much stupidity we see around us every day. On the other hand, no one has ever claimed that every strategy is optimal as employed, or that The Book doesn’t need updating as circumstances change. So there are almost surely times today when The Book is wrong, almost surely less than the Anti-Book advocates think, but there nonetheless. The problem is that there are lots of ways to go against The Book, and most of them wrong… that’s why The Book is The Book. We have a name for people who know when to go with The Book and when to ignore it…. geniuses. We have a name for people who don’t… unemployed. We also have a name for people who ignore The Book when they shouldn’t and win anyway… lucky. Finally, we have a name for people who ignore The Book when they should and lose anyway… unlucky.
Some of the best stuff over at talking chop is the fanposts (and yes, some are not so good). I thoroughly enjoyed this one by biggentleben.
@90 Actually, it’s nothing more than an attempted application of basic economic tools to the particular situation. Just for the record.
Feel free to actually agree or disagree with the reasoning, as others have done, as opposed to attempting to delegitimize it without addressing the merits, as you instead chose to do.
Ah yes, “basic economic tools.” Crush the heads until they fit your “basic economic model” buddy. Crush them like bugs!
The extended look we got of superb defensive catching was sure eye-opening after yesterday.
Gotta love BMac, but my God, he sucks defensively. Doesn’t seem to call a great game, either.
If Ross is playing yesterday, we probably win that game.
Maybe when the CBA gets renegotiated they will add the DH to the NL. Then McCann can move to DH while Ross catches everyday. Assuming Fredi can work that out. He’d probably hit the pitcher in the DH spot just because.
Not that I’m advocating the DH to the NL. Although I would enjoy knowing how much Chip would hate it. Maybe he would quit.
@97 and 98. Andrew Gelman had an interesting post (and a hundred comments) about what just apply “basic economic tools” means, which is exactly what this debate is about, as I said above. One meaning of “apply basic economic tools” is that economics teaches that the market outcome is probably pretty close to optimal because incentives are aligned. A second meaning, though, is “people makes tons of mistakes and economic tools can keep you from error.” And the problem is determining which situation falls into which camp. See http://andrewgelman.com/2011/07/one_of_the_easi/ if you’re really interested in this stuff
Mac, want an Ole Miss preview again this season?
It’ll probably be pretty short because I’m not very optimistic.
Short or not, sure.
I’ll get you something by the end of the week.
Sounds like Bama will play some low scoring games this year.
Bama will probably score plenty of points on October 15th.
“Gotta love BMac, but my God, he sucks defensively. Doesnâ€™t seem to call a great game, either.”
Sure, he’s not the best defensive catcher but how in the world can you argue against McCann’s game calling ability? He calls a great game.
McCann’s first game back from two weeks off probably isn’t the best time to assess his defense. I tend to think rustiness is a legitimate factor in degraded skills (*coughLinebrinkcough*).
Whole lotta “rusty” going on yesterday in a game we should have won.
We keep leaving money on the table and the Giants / D-Backs / Cards are going to keep this potentially special team home this Fall.