Tactics, Part II

I’ll be honest with y’all — during the game, I thought the decision on whether to walk Cedeno was a bigger question than the decision to bring in Encarnacion. Maybe I’m just conditioned to the L/R matchups when TLR is at the helm. Maybe it’s just that I have vivid memories of Duncan waving at sliders from LHP more than once or twice this year. For whatever reason, I did not anticipate that this would turn into such a huge deal.

At the time, my thought was, "Hm, that’s interesting." I’m still not sure which way I would have gone, if it had been my decision. But as for the discussion about it, I do have some thoughts.

First, I do not think it was a "disgrace" or the "stupidest" move or "ridiculous." Whether you would have left Duncan in, or you would have pinch-hit, it’s defensible either way. It’s not an easy call. I think Bernie’s column today hit it on the nose in terms of the number of elements that go into it. Encarnacion has been much better against LHP than Duncan — much. And Ohman has killed LHH this year. You may not have liked the move, but to act like there was no justification, I think that’s incorrect and unfair.

Other thoughts — I don’t think comparing it to pinch-hitting for David Ortiz or Albert Pujols is accurate or fair either. Chris Duncan has been hot; he’s having a fantastic couple of months. But he’s not David Ortiz or Albert Pujols.

Also, I believe somebody noted the issue of building confidence. And this is one case where I do think TLR has it dead on. The way he looks at it, the first 2-3 months of the season, that’s the time for leaving guys in, building their confidence, seeing what they can do. The end of the year is the time to play every advantage. Put another way, he’s much more likely to pinch-hit for a guy like Molina, say, in August than in May. And I think that’s a good way to go about it. You can’t worry too much about the messages you send to a guy when you’re trying to win a game in late August.

Finally, I think people are underestimating Encarnacion. It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of his, but he’s not a bum. It’s not as though they brought in a guy hitting 250/330/370. It’s not like they even went with Taguchi — not to suggest that Taguchi’s a bum. They brought in a guy who’s hitting .280 and slugging .450 this year, a guy who is at .310/.333/.503 vs LHP this year. I know he doesn’t have a lot of fans in Cardinal Nation, but however he may look out there, he’s not a bad hitter. He’s not a great hitter for a corner OF, by any means, but he’s not a bad guy to have swinging the bat there.

FWIW, here are TLR’s comments from our pre-game chat this morning.

"If Chris doesn’t produce in that situation, I’m mad at
myself. If Juan doesn’t produce in that situation, then I’m mad at Juan. There wasn’t
enough working there for Chris. The left-hander, never seen him. We had a lot
working with Juan."

 

(were you surprised by the reaction the move has gotten?) "**** no. Chris has done such a good
job. I can tell by how tough the decision was. I worked that one over for a
long time."

Anyway, I guess the underlying point is that it’s a really interesting point in the game, it’s absolutely worth discussing, but I’d ask that people try to see both sides.


-M.

10 Comments

Three comments here.

“If Chris doesn’t produce in that situation, I’m mad at myself. If Juan doesn’t produce in that situation, then I’m mad at Juan.” To me, this is one reason — of many — to stay with Duncan, not Encarnacion. A manager (in business as well as in baseball) who would rather push the onus for success onto an underling, rather than face the consequences (including his own anger at himself) of his decisions, isn’t much of a manager. This “justification” is pretty lame.

Second, sometimes a manager must make decisions for the long term that have short-term disadvantages. This actually is a reason why I *endorse* his decision to walk Cedeno to set up the DP with Nevin: he’s telling Izzy, “OK, I trust you not to walk in a run or do something stupid here, now go get the guy.” That’s the kind of pat on the back that will keep Izzy sharp as the season continues. But yanking the red-hot Duncan says “kid, I do NOT trust you in this situation, not over the mediocre veteran.” That too will have consequences.

Finally, back on the original question: realistically, a guy on third with 1 out will score more often than not, and you really need the double play there. I think it’s defensible to accept some risks to improve the chances of getting a DP. It’s a close call, and it backfired in this particular instance, but it’s certainly not crazy.

Summary: as in the previous thread, TLR really screwed up (IMO) on the Duncan move, but he generally has my approval on the later one. TLR occasionally costs his team by over-managing, and last night was a prime example. He’ll get it back on some other occasion.

You’re right, M. The decision is defensible,but it doesn’t make it the right move. In Buzz and Tony’s book, # Nights in August, Tony claims he takes pride in NOT strictly playing numbers and match-ups. He says he is one of few managers that takes into account other factors, such as a guy just being on.
Well, I have to say we as fans don’t see that at all.We see constant match-up scenarios that seem to work only a fraction of the time. All the numbers you quoted are the same ones I’d like to see ignored every once in a while and go with the hot bat.

You shouldn’t ALWAYS play the numbers,IMO.

Matthew, I know this is offtopic, but did you see Ozzie Guillen’s comments on Mark Mulder, the Cards, and the National League? Here’s the quote:

From the Chicago Sun-Times article:

The can was then open, as Guillen ripped Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan for his accusations, then ripped the entire National League Central.

”[Cardinals starter Mark] Mulder wouldn’t even make my team,” Guillen said. ”He couldn’t start for us, and he’s not better than [Neal] Cotts or [Matt] Thornton in our bullpen.

”When you play [expletive] [Johan] Santana, [Brad] Radke, [Francisco] Liriano, the guy from Cleveland … [C.C.] Sabathia, all the other guys … ah, [expletive]. If we played National League teams, the Central Division, we might win 150 games in that [expletive] league.

”They think I cheat? We faced two [expletive] good pitchers in the National League Central. Our division, they have to face [the Tigers’ starting staff], then you go to the White Sox and face all our guys? When you’re going to go to another team, you’re going to go, ‘Whew, where is Randy Johnson?’ The American League Central? That’s baseball right here. Go hard one after another.”

This guy may can manage a baseball team, but he sure can’t manage his mouth! What’s wrong with him? I honestly think he is bipolar or something.

Brady

In the Cards

http://inthecards.mlblogs.com

Guillen may be a decent manager, but he’s a piece of **** human being…enough said.

1.) Matt, I think the move to take out Duncan is defensible in light of career numbers; but the recent numbers say Duncan is tearing it up, leave him in! What is it now, 5 HR in 6 games, hitting over .500 over the last 10 games or so? Sometimes you look at who’s been hot, and you go with it, lose the big picture, and look at what the player is doing right now. That is why I think it was an absurd call. Still, I agree, “stupidest” was quite an exaggeration. My apologies.

2.) I cannot stand Ozzie Guillen. Here’s to the Sox missing the post-season for another 80-some years, let’em call it the “Curse of the ozzie-sox” or something.

I think it was a bad move, but solely because he judged Duncan for like 35 at bats against lefties this year. That won’t be able to tell you anything, and even in that small sample size he has a pretty good ISO, telling me he’s pretty likely to loft the ball. It’d be a lot easier to analyze this if I had gb/ld/fb numbers for splits.

Justified or not, taking out the hot bat for the notoriously unreliable Encarnacion is simply bad managing. Thank God Carpenter pitched a beautiful game Sunday, otherwise TLR’s move may have led to another Cardinal downturn.

bebp: I think you’re missing the point on your first comment. TLR wasn’t trying to dodge consequences. He was trying to put his players in the best possible position to win, and in his mind, the best percentage play was to put Encarnacion up there.

I also thought the move was bad at the time, but ultimately, even if you say you have faith that Duncan is going to produce a .400 average in those situations(VERY VERY generous, especially considering it was against a good lefty), then you’re saying Duncan will fail 60% of the time.

Just because TLR’s moves don’t always work don’t make them bad moves. It’s easy to second-guess things later.

BTW, Here’s a fun stat for you: The Cardinals, given their current pace and records against everyone across the board, are on the verge of only being the 2nd team win a division despite having a losing record in their division. Wanna read more about it? Here’s another shameless plug!

http://midwestsportsfan.blogspot.com

Unfortunately, most people are blaming the loss on “the move”. There were a lot of contributing factors to them losing, and ph for Duncan was not one of them. Someone over at Bernie’s made a great point in that no matter what La Russa did in that situation, he would’ve been villified, and he’s right.

I don’t know who Bernie is.I’ve never spent the weekend at his place. But I can tell you that I wouldn’t have been so upset with Tony if Dunc had stayed in and struck out. I would have been proud of him for not playing the numbers for once.

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