Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Where have you gone Connie Mack?

I don't really follow baseball that much. Way back in grad school we used to go to Cardinal games in St. Louis during the summer where bleacher seats were a couple bucks and the Cards were dominant and that was fun. This year, just for the soap opera-ness of it all, I'd like to see a Dodgers - Red Sox series with Manny hitting around 10 dingers to win it.

One thing I do know about baseball though is that managers are dumb. Take Terry Francona last night. His starter pitches 7 stellar shutout innings but he takes him out to start the 8th to bring in a guy that is just not as good (but is left-handed). This guy (Okajima?) gives up a 2 out walk and then in comes a skinny guy with weird socks who gives up another walk, a wild pitch, and then a 2 out game tying single. This kid had pitched 3 1/3 innings in this series and given up 4 hits and 2 walks up to this point.

Lucky for the Sox that the Angels manager helped bail them out with a "suicide squeeze" play later in the game. Hey Mike Scioscia, why do you think they call it what they call it?

People, what exactly is the externality / market failure that lets baseball managers be so very very bad?


Unknown said...

francona is actually one of the best in-game managers in the game. your example doesn't really tell the whole story, which was that Lester had thrown a lot of pitches to that point, and it's not clear sending lester out to pitch what would have ended up being over 120 pitches was the better option than sending out what is at worst his 2nd or 3rd best reliever. his closer had pitched two innings the previous night and he was quite prudently being cautious about bringing him in. francona has consistently received good marks on his bullpen management from the analytical baseball community.

when there are so many examples of baseball managers doing something stupid, why would you come up with such a piss poor example that betrays your own ignorance?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sean M. on this one. Weak example.

Rather than pick on Francona, take any number of bonehead decisions by, say, Dusty Baker. You could have a field day.

Angus said...

"why would you come up with such a piss poor example that betrays your own ignorance"?

Gee I guess so I could be berated by a true expert such as yourself.

Taking a guy working on a 4 hit shutout out of a game of that importance because he'd thrown 109 pitches and then putting the game in hands of that freaky kid with the sock fetish who had been getting hit pretty good by the Angels (esp. Vlade who he had to face) was dumb. Terry Francona seems like a heckuva nice guy but that was dumb.

Anonymous said...

Back in my (papa's) day, Sandy Kaufax and Don Drysdale pitched nine innings, and dominated them all*.

I thought the whole point of a pitch count was to keep the pitchers fresh throughout the entire season. But this is the playoffs, win this game first. Even if your up by a few games, you get more days off to rest your pitchers before the next series.

*According to his memory.

Anonymous said...

Easterbrook covers this idea for football coaches in his weekly TMQ (Tuesday Morning Quaterback) articles at ESPN.com. The basic premise is that they follow "conventional wisdom" (which is often wrong) and play not to look stupid, in order to protect their jobs. In Francona's case, recall his predecessor got fired and many people pointed to his decision to leave Pedro Martinez in a playoff game too long. So, from Francona's pov, it's better to go to the bullpen too early than leave a starter in too long.

Anonymous said...


That's similar to the reasoning for Oakland's "moneyball" and GMU's basketball success. Find players that are good, but don't fit the conventional mold, and get them on the cheap. The only problem is that this is an uphill battle, as you uncover looked over talent, the Yankees and Red Soxs start picking them off you.

Unknown said...


the conventional wisdom is to keep your ace in the game for the 8th. it's only been recently that most teams have started being responsible about pitch count issues, which are based not just on health concerns but on performance issues. francona was doing the play that the numbers guys suggest. lester had pitched over 119 pitches only once this year. if he came out for the 8th it would have been a situation where he very likely would be crossing 125, which is very risky territory performance wise, especially for a pitcher who never pitches that much. okajima was the right call. you may disagree with that, but you should realize that francona is almost universally considered one of the managers that most uses quantitative analysis in his decision-making process. and the red sox have the most expansive quantitative research group in the game (more than oakland because they're richer). there are good examples of managers being dumb, relying on bad conventional wisdom, but this is not one of those instances.

Anonymous said...

Regular season n=162
Divisional Series n<=5