Tony La Russa is probably one of the better managers in baseball history; you would have to be to win like 65,000 baseball games. Ron Washington on the other hand has a team full of great hitters in a great hitter’s park and gets in his team’s way more than helps. Last night both managers were awful.
First we will review the main goal of baseball: to score more runs than the other team. OK, now that we have that covered how do you score runs and how do you prevent runs?
To score runs you need to get players on base in some fashion. If the player cannot reach base safely he cannot score a run. Correct? This would mean allowing base runners is bad for an opposing pitcher. Correct?
With St. Louis already leading 2-0 Washington calls for a free pass of Albert Pujols in the third inning. (Matt Holiday promptly grounds into a double play.)
With St. Louis leading 2-1 in the fifth inning Washington loads the bases by issuing a free pass to Pujols. (Holliday quietly grounds out to the pitcher.)
In the top of the seventh, with the game tied and two outs in the inning, bases clear and a 1-1 count on Pujols Washington gives the sign for three additional balls to give Pujols another free base. (This time Holiday singles moving Pujols to third.)
In the same inning, the seventh, now with runners on second and third Washington intentionally walks Lance Berkman to load the bases in a tie baseball game. (David Freese hits a fly ball to center field and Washington lucks out again. If Freese’s ball had found grass – truly a chance play – at least two runs would have scored.)
La Russa would not let Washington have all of the fun; in the eighth inning La Russa intentionally walked Nelson Cruz with the game tied, one out and a runner on second. (Cruz eventually scored the fourth run of the night.)
La Russa did not learn and in the same inning, now with his team now trailing thanks in part to his intentional walk to Cruz about 15 minutes prior, La Russa issues a free pass to Ian Kinsler. (La Russa’s gaffe in bullpen management – please, I don’t believe any of the BS about the mistaken phone call conversations between himself and the bullpen, he is old and old people say the darndest things – finally Motte is in the game and Motte strikes out Elvis Andrus and no more damage is done.)
That is SIX intentional walks in the game. The point of the game is to not allow base runners and these managers gave SIX free base runners to the other team. I don’t care how great someone is (Pujols) he still only reaches safely about 42% of the time throughout his career (only…). If you issue him a free pass that jumps to 100%. I understand he had a night for the ages on Saturday evening, but it was just that; a once in a lifetime occasion. Pujols might be great but he doesn’t hit a HR every at-bat (less than 1% of Pujols plate appearances in his career have resulted in a home run) and more often than not he makes an out. Everybody makes an out more often than they get on base. In fact, over his career Pujols gets an extra base hit only about 12% of the time when he comes to the plate. And this is Pujols we are talking about, what about Berkman, Cruz and Kinsler? Why walk them?
Now that we have beaten that topic a bit let’s look at the other side of the coin: giving up free outs. If the object of the game is to score runs and get players on base then wouldn’t it be against all common sense to give up a free out? A team has 27 to work with every game and why would you eliminate any of those outs for free? There are occasions in which a sacrifice bunt with a pitcher is better than the pitcher striking out but for the most part many regular players do not strike out all THAT often to make a sac bunt a good play. Moving a runner from first to second and losing an out does not increase a team’s chance to score greatly, either.
Last night free outs were given.
Top three and the Cardinals are leading 2-0 and Allen Craig sacrificed to move Rafael Furcal to third base. (This is the inning in which Pujols was walked and Holliday grounded into a DP.)
In the top of the fifth inning with St. Louis leading 2-1 Furcal laid down a sac bunt to advance the runners from first and second to second and third. (The Cardinals did not score any runs after the bunt.)
In the top of the eighth with the game tied Ryan Theriot sacrificed to move Yadier Molina to second (and it is debatable if this even puts Molina into scoring position as he is notoriously slow. If La Russa thought this DID put Molina into scoring position he should have sent in a pinch runner to replace Molina). (Two batters later the Cardinals did not score.)
La Russa effectively gave away the ninth inning (or seventh or third or whatever inning you choose – it was an innings worth of outs) in the game last night. You think if someone asked La Russa after the game if he would have liked one more inning to try to score two runs against the Rangers what his response would have been? My guess is he would gladly accept a 10th inning to try to score and tie the game.
These two managers are managing like their pitchers are facing Babe Ruth every at-bat and conversely managing the game as if every pitcher their batters face is Nolan Ryan at his best or Kerry Wood a la 1998 versus the Houston Astros (the best game ever pitched according to Bill James’ game score statistic).
And Washington is not free and clear of the sacrifice bunt tactical error as he has done so a few times this series. He will be exposed even greater in the National League rule abiding St. Louis ballpark tomorrow night and on Wednesday if a game seven is needed.
And to finish off and few choice tweets from last night:
SI_JonHeyman Jon Heyman
ron washington has had terrific game. 4 INT walks, all worked. rhh napoli up vs lhp scrabble w/ game on line. #washball
pedrogomezESPN Pedro Gomez
For those who know Ron Washington, the man may be rough around the edges, but he’s got a heart of gold and is a Baseball PhD. #WorldSeries
I guess it would be safe to say that both Pedro Gomez and Jon Heyman would also believe that if Molina continually called for curve balls from Chris Carpenter last night and Carp threw all fastballs right down the middle of the plate instead of curve balls and the Rangers couldn’t get any hits off of those fastballs that Carpenter would have been utterly dominant and the best pitcher in baseball last night? I am guessing they would have also been lauding Craig last night had he successfully stolen either base he attempted to swipe. Instead they, especially Heyman, criticized the move on twitter. They are both looking at the results instead of the process. Sometimes the process leads to unknowing results and that was the case for the crap that was passed as managing last night.
Now for a few tweets from some guys who “get it”:
joe_sheehan Joe Sheehan
The focus will be on Rzep/Murphy, but it was the IBB to Cruz — an awful move — that blew up the game.
Back-to-back from Jonah Keri:
…also excellent IBB by Washington with nobody on. This inning is a factory of lulz.
@amandarykoff @Dwade Ron Washington’s entire managerial career is a prime example of “Bad Process, Good Results.” FTFY
And then this one from Keith Law which sums up the game pretty well:
On tomorrow’s podcast, Eric and I won’t analyze the game. We’ll just read the play-by-play with a laugh track.
And all of this is just for the sacrifice bunts and intentional walks. This has nothing to do with La Russa leaving in Marc Rzepczynski (I hope Google spelled that correctly because I can’t) to face Mike Napoli or La Russa’s bonehead-blame-it-on-the-phone mistake with bringing in Lynn for one batter – AN INTENTIONAL WALK. I haven’t talked about the stupid base stealing attempts by Craig twice with Pujols at the plate. So many laughable managing mistakes in last night’s game the blogosphere is full of juicy content for everyone to write today.
I cannot wait for game 6 tomorrow night. And hopefully a game 7 on Wednesday. It has been one of the best World Series that I can remember both for the play on the field and the writing about the bad management after.