August 2006

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.

Rock and a hard place

I begin this post by noting that whichever decision the Cards made in the situation I’m discussing, they might well have lost the game. I just really enjoy discussing tactics, and today’s game featured many interesting tactical questions.

None greater, in my mind, than the decision to walk Ronny Cedeno with runners on first and third in the 10th, and then to pitch to Phil Nevin with the bases loaded.

Here is TLR’s comment:

"It gives you a chance to get two guys out on one swing. Otherwiseyou have to get two guys out. If you get the ball on the ground, we’ve got a
chance to double up Nevin. We were in a tough position, so you just make the
best."

I respectfully disagree with the decision. It’s certainly defensible, and I understand the logic. But I think there’s more to it.

There are a couple of additional considerations, mainly this one: Cedeno is much more likely to hit the ball on the ground than Nevin is. Nevin is much slower, but it’s not a great bet that he’ll hit a double-play ball so that it matters. Cedeno, on the other hand, is more likely to hit a grounder or something weak, even if you only get one out. They’re both excellent candidates for a strikeout, though Nevin Ks more often than Cedeno.

I just think the likelihood of Nevin doing
something to end the game — sac fly or base hit — is at least as high
as the likelihood of Cedeno poking a base hit or beating out a double
play.
And if Nevin hits exactly the same ball with two outs, of course, Spiezio probably is playing in a position where he catches it. Then again, if Angel Pagan is out on his bunt, Spiezio is also playing at normal depth. But that’s neither here nor there.

Again, just to clarify, the point of this whole exercise is not to say that the decision caused the Cardinals to lose. Rather, I’m just curious as to how y’all looked at the situation. Thoughts?

Currently playing on the iPod: Uncle Tupelo, Anodyne.

-M.

Nuts and bolts

As you’ve no doubt seen in the team’s release this morning, the Cardinals signed Preston Wilson, who had been released by the Astros.

Here are the nuts and bolts of where things stand today…

* Wilson is in the lineup, playing right field and batting sixth. Encarnacion is in center. TLR said he’s more comfortable with Encarnacion in CF than Wilson.

* To make roster room, Anthony Reyes was optioned to Memphis. That would seem to indicate strongly that Mulder’s next start will not be a rehab. I’d guess Weaver Tuesday, and maybe Mulder on Wednesday.

-M.

I'm ready for it! Come on, bring it!

I’ll go into more depth tomorrow, but for now, this…

Best. B Movie. Ever.

We howled with laughter. We were startled repeatedly. If you have any inclination at all to see Snakes on a Plane, then go see it. Great stuff. Incredibly entertaining. Great film? Of course not. Great summer movie? Absolutely. Worth the wait, worth the buzz, worth the money, worth going to a late-night Thursday showing the night before a road trip. I want to see it again, and soon.

-M.

Edmonds clarification

Just wanted to clarify something I was told — and that I wrote — yesterday.

As of this morning, the Cardinals are actually still waiting on the last round(s) of test results from Edmonds — the blood tests they took in order to determine if something like hypoglycemia or diabetes is at the root of what’s bothering him. What we were told yesterday was that "all the tests came back negative," but more specifically what that meant was that all the tests THAT HAD COME BACK AT THAT TIME were negative.

From all I can tell, and all everyone around here seems to think, it’s very unlikely that those tests will reveal anything new. The assumption and expectation is that Edmonds is dealing with post-concussion syndrome, which is a plenty serious issue. But I just wanted to make sure to clarify that as of this morning, not all the results have been received. I’ll of course update everyone when we have all the information.

-M.

I can see the venom in your eyes

Ladies and gentlemen, the day we’ve been waiting for has arrived. That’s right — tonight, at 10 pm local time all over America, Snakes on a Plane sees the light of day.

Still not real sure what this whole SoaP thing is about? Read this post, and if you still don’t get why I’m giddy today, you probably won’t get it at all. And that’s fine. Warning — contains language that we couldn’t use here at MLBlogs. The same goes for the Snakes on a Plane webcomic — very, very funny but not necessarily something you want mom or the boss to see you reading. In the meantime, you should be OK at Snakes on a Blog, the site that has led the SoaP revolution.

The bride and I, of course, are going to the opening showing tonight. In the meantime, say it with me:

I HAVE HAD IT WITH THESE *@%&*!^ SNAKES ON THIS *@%&*!^ PLANE!

Currently playing on the computer speakers: Snakes on a Plane: The Album. (of course!)

-M.

Just a thought

So I got another email today asking me when they’re going to dump Isringhausen as the closer. This one suggested going with Jorge Sosa. Sometimes they say Wainwright. Sometimes no one is suggested as an alternative. I’m simply amazed. There is not a better option on this team.

Over at Viva El Birdos, they recently did a longer-view assessment of Isringhausen that agrees exactly with what I’ve always thought. He’s not Mariano Rivera, but he’s plenty good. But I’m not looking at the long term today. I’m looking at the here and now. And for more than two months, Isringhausen has been very good. Good enough that he — and I — shouldn’t have to answer questions about his job security on the occasions he DOES stumble.

On June 6, he pretty clearly wasn’t right. He’d walked 23 batters in 23 innings, which was the big tipoff. TLR gave him a three-day mental health break, and during that time, Izzy had a very candid conversation with 3 or 4 of us reporters about what he needed to do. If I recall correctly, it was Derrick Goold, Joe Strauss and myself for the majority of the time. And in essence, No. 44 said this: "I’ve got to throw more strikes, pitch more aggressively, stop nibbling with the cutter and throw more fastballs." He acknowledged that his common plan of pitching around dangerous guys to get to other guys might have to go by the wayside for a while.

He clearly meant what he said. Since that break, here are his numbers:

26 2/3 innings, 17 hits, 7 runs, 7 earned runs, 10 walks, 26 strikeouts.

That’s a spiffy 2.36 ERA. That’s a strikeout per inning, basically right where he’s been his entire career as a reliever. It’s a walk rate right in line with what he’s done most of his career. It’s actually a better hit rate than he’s usually had.

Yet because of his early struggles, every time this guy has a rough game — and there have been very few in the past two months — people call for his head. Isringhausen is not the problem with this team, and there’s not a better option in the bullpen right now.

-M.

Edmonds update

As always, I’ll have more on this when my notes go up later this evening, but in the meantime, here’s the skinny on Jim Edmonds.

Per Barry Weinberg, the team is calling Edmonds’ condition post-concussion syndrome at this point. However, Jim underwent a fairly extensive series of tests this afternoon, in order to rule out all sorts of other possibilities ranging from some sort of infection to a nutritional issue to who knows what else.

Edmonds said he’s been feeling not-right for close to a week, but that it was much worse on Tuesday and not much better today. He’s considered day-to-day, but I’d have to figure they’ll be pretty cautious with it. They, and we, should know a lot more by the end of the day today or sometime tomorrow, once the remaining tests are evaluated.

In the meantime, Encarnacion is starting in center tonight with Timo Perez in right. Additionally, Bennett is catching in place of Molina and Aaron Miles is starting at second base.

-M.

My lucky seven

Here are my answers for the last Lucky Seven.

1. I’d say it’s the starting rotation. For two years, the rotation was rock-solid, quality starts expected. This year it’s a different animal. I know they’re having trouble scoring runs lately, but to my eye, the biggest difference is starting pitching.

2. I’ll say 8 starts, with an ERA between 4 and 4.50.

3. Viva El Birdos gets my vote, followed by Cardinals Diaspora.  But there are tons of good ones out there. 

4. I’ll go with the current five, bumping Weaver or Marquis (to the bullpen, not off the roster entirely) when Mulder comes back. I expect, however, that Reyes will be optioned for the few days until Sept. 1, then brought back to relieve. I think you can make good cases for several guys, though — Wainwright especially. I’d give Tankersley a start before Sosa.

5. I’ll say it’s the three teams currently in position — Yankees, Tigers, White Sox make it. Red Sox and Twins go home.

6. I’ve thought basically from the first revelation that he did. I don’t particularly care, because I’m of the opinion that LOTS of those guys use various illegal substances.

7. Metropolitan Grill, Seattle. Spectacular steak, perfect service. Runner-up were the old Friday night steak nights in Tallahassee with three great friends.

-M.

Timomania!

Greetings, all. I’m back from vacation. Saw a lot of movies, played a lot of video games, basically did a lot of sitting on my behind. It was splendid.

I’ve got a little news for you, nothing earth-shattering. Timo Perez has been recalled from Memphis, and Brad Thompson has been optioned back out to Memphis. They wanted to get back to 13 hitters and 12 pitchers, but couldn’t recall John Rodriguez because it hasn’t been 10 days since he was sent out. Skip Schumaker is going to play for Team USA, so he wasn’t really an option. So it’s Perez, at least for a few days. I expect Rodriguez will be back very soon.

-M.

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