The Short Leash (Still Trying To Keep It Rational)

Here’s one possible explanation: if the pitcher on the short leash  starts to look shaky, puts a few runners on, and allows a run or two, then you pull the pitcher and call in a relief pitcher.  Also the bullpen needs to be ready to perform this task.  As the Washington Post put it, the bullpen is put “on code red”.

So, let’s summarize.  When a pitcher is on a short leash and he’s not pitching well, the manager should remove the pitcher and call for the bullpen.  Brilliant!  It’s such a brilliant strategy, you’d think that teams would employ this strategy in every game, no matter who is pitching.

Oh, wait.  I looked it up.  Teams already do this.  They all have relief pitchers waiting in bullpens to come into games when starting pitchers falter.

Maybe there’s something more to the “short leash”.  Maybe a manager is supposed to pull the pitcher on a “short leash” earlier than he’d pull a pitcher who’s not on a “short leash”. … Click here to read the rest

Changing The Narrative

“Still Life”.  No, not the painting, the Yanks. And not still alive as in still technically in the series.  Still alive as in still able to win this series.  From Yahoo Sports: “The [Yankees] team is more than capable of a comeback.”  The ESPN recap: “A difficult comeback? Yes. Impossible? No.”  No?  Well, maybe. This is nothing more than a description of where things stand when a series stands at 3 games to 2, but just to remind you, this is a much different narrative than the one we were reading this morning.  For example, Steve Politi this morning at game 4 was “almost certainly the dramatic end to the 2010 season.”

The “Fighting Yanks”. From RAB: CC gave the Yanks “six hard-fought innings.” From Andrew Marchand at ESPN: “The Yankees live to fight another day. If they go out in the LCS, they aren’t going to go out lying down.”   The Philly Inquirer: the Yanks played “like 27-time world champions with their backs to the wall”.… Click here to read the rest

(Rationally) Rallying The Troops

It all starts with today’s game.  Win today, and the entire narrative changes.  Hope returns.  Fickle momentum starts to shift back in our direction.  You don’t believe me?  Watch what the mainstream media guys will write if the Yanks DO win today.  You’ll be able to Google “backs against the wall” and find half of the articles that will make it into print.  The Yankees will be made to appear as a veteran team that doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit”.

Just one win will turn the story around.

Are the odds against the Yankees?  Of course.  I’ve been trying to point this out in everything I’ve written so far about the post-season.  The Yankees will be an underdog against the field in every post-season under the modern playoff format.  At the moment, we’re a deeper underdog than usual.  So?  This is a problem that may be different in degree, but it’s not different in kind. If you don’t like being an underdog, then I suggest you find a nice deserted island where you can spend your Octobers. … Click here to read the rest

It’s Not About Girardi (A Respectful Rebuttal)

When the Yankees won the first four games of their post-season, Yankees manager Joe Girardi was praised to the limit.  ESPN’s Wallace Matthews (who has been highly critical of Girardi this season) proclaimed Girardi as the team’s Most Valuable Player.’s Steve Politi said that “no one deserves more credit” than Girardi for the Yanks’ advancing to the league championship series, and that it’s “time to stop doubting” Girardi.

Why all the love for Girardi?  Because the Yankees were winning.

Think that’s rational?  Well, the “time to stop doubting” ended with the Yankees’ four game post-season winning streak.  To illustrate, we’ll just focus on the doubting that’s focused on ALCS game 4.  RAB doubts Girardi’s decision to walk David Murphy and pitch to Bengie Molina.  Craig Calcaterra doubts Girardi’s decision to leave A.J. Burnett in the game through the sixth inning, and not to pinch-hit for Lance Berkman in the eighth inning.

Why all the doubting?  Because the Yankees are losing.… Click here to read the rest

Par (Keeping It Rational)

1. The playoffs are a crapshoot. Remember?  We’re in the post-season, where life is dominated by luck and the small sample size.  We said at the beginning that the Yankees were a 5-1 shot.  That’s just the way it is when you have to win three short series in a row to experience the tickertape.  No guarantees.  The good, rich, well-managed teams in baseball are organized around making the playoffs, at which point they hope for the best.  The Yankees could lose the ALCS and go home.  They could win the ALCS, lose the World Series and go home.  They could have lost the ALDS.  That is the fate of a 5-1 shot — we’re playing in an 8-team field where the field is and will always be a heavy favorite.   So relax.  No matter how it may feel after reading the tabloids, we’re underdogs.

2.  Here’s a new metaphor for you: the ALCS is like a golf course. … Click here to read the rest

The Tarnished “Shining Example” (A Rebuttal on the Future of the Rays)

Some Background

Let’s start by giving Brien and Mark their due.  The 2011 Rays will feature 2008 Rookie of the Year and 2010 MVP candidate Evan Longoria at third base.  Barring injury, the Rays’ opening day pitcher will be 2010 All Star and Cy Young candidate David Price.  The Rays’ number two starting pitcher might be Matt Garza, who threw the Rays’ first no-hitter in 2010.  The Rays feature a host of young, promising players (most of whom are discussed below).  Their farm system was recently ranked the best in baseball. What could be lacking in a team like this?

Well, the 2011 Rays will lack many of the players currently on the 2010 roster. This is the only way the Rays can cut $22 million from their payroll. The Rays players are mostly good, and mostly young, and good young players only become more expensive over time as they become eligible for arbitration and free agency. The only way to cut payroll is to trade or release more expensive players, and replace them with less expensive players.… Click here to read the rest

Will The Rays Lose Money This Post-Season? (Yet More on Revenue Sharing)

First, some background:

I have been very critical of the revenue sharing system.  I’ve argued here and here that baseball’s system of revenue sharing system does not work.  I’ve focused particular attention on the Tampa Bay Rays, because I believe that the Rays are a perfect example of what’s wrong with revenue sharing.  My argument is that the Rays did not need revenue sharing to build their current squad (the core of which is made up by top draft picks), but that revenue sharing is inadequate to help the Rays right now when they need it most, when the Rays’ local revenues cannot grow fast enough to meet the increased expense of keeping a winning team together.  I’ve estimated that the Rays lost money in 2009 and will lose money again this year.  The Rays have already announced that they’ll have to cut payroll in 2011 in order to make ends meet, and this payroll cut will require the team to trade or release some of their best players.… Click here to read the rest

The Strike Not Called

The f/x chart above shows balls and strikes on Berkman’s at bat in the seventh.  The chart shows the view of the strike zone from the catcher’s point of view, so pitches on the left side of the chart are outside pitches to a lefty like Berkman, and pitches on the right side are inside pitches.  Pitch 4 is circled above.  It was called a ball.  Obviously, pitch 4 was a strike (not exactly “down the middle”, Andrew Marchand, but a strike nevertheless).  Pitch 2 is also circled above.  It was called a strike.  Obviously, pitch 2 was a ball.

Even Steven, as we used to say.

The thing is, Wendlestedt called balls and strikes this way all game long.  Check out the f/x chart below.

Our second chart shows all of Wendlestedt’s called balls and strikes to left handed batters on both teams.  The squares are pitches thrown by Twins pitchers, and the triangles are pitches thrown by Yankee pitchers. … Click here to read the rest

Larry’s Rational Guide To The Post-Season

To help you relax and enjoy the baseball, here are Larry’s five guidelines for the post-season:

  1. The favorite is the field. We’re shooting dice here. The Yanks have as good a chance as any this post-season, with their 5-1 odds, but you wouldn’t bet the house on a 5-1 favorite. No matter who your team might be in this playoff, the odds are good that your team is going to lose. No matter your expertise, the odds are good that your playoff predictions are going to turn out wrong. So, don’t view this as a fight to the death. It’s more like a charity raffle. If your team loses, don’t kick yourself. If your team wins, credit will be due to luck as well as skill.
  2. You’re watching a small sample size. As you sit down to watch game 1, be prepared for the media to bombard you with meaningless statistics. By the sixth inning of the first game, you’ll probably already have heard that so-and-so is having a terrible series so far.
Click here to read the rest