Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Around the Game in Eighty Sentences, Half-Length Version

I must confess that I'm not too interested in who wins the Manager of the Year award in each league, and I really don't have much of an opinion about who should win it. That having been said, there's a lot of popular discourse proclaiming the invincibility of Buck Showalter's candidacy and I thought it would be interesting to examine his case.

Showalter has avoided wasting outs pretty well. His team has only had 23 sacrifices, and only Toronto and Boston have used fewer. The Rangers have probably attempted too many stolen bases this year, as their 36 times caught stealing rank tied for 15th in the major leagues. The Rangers also haven't given up too many opportunities to get outs defensively as they've issued only 29 intentional walks, only five more than league-leading St. Louis.

It's quite unclear how much credit should go to Showalter for the improvement of the pitching staff's performance, and I'd be willing to bet that Orel Hersheiser is probably more deserving of it than Showalter. Similarly, the maintained level of offense despite trading A-Rod for Soriano probably doesn't have much to do with Showalter. If there's a nit to be picked here, it's probably that the Rangers don't take a lot of walks. They've drawn only 483 which is only 23rd best in baseball. Obviously, the personnel the Rangers have has something to do with it; nobody's going to get Alfonso Soriano to walk like Kevin Youkilis. But this is one of those managerial grey areas where a manager might have a significant effect on performance. In Showalter's nine years as a manager, his team has never had an Isolated Discipline (OBP - BA) more than .015 better than league average and half of his teams have had an IsoD lower than league average. Considering the talent he's presided over, that could (just could, nothing more) be a warning sign of sorts.

The most obvious way a manager affects a team is through lineup construction. Showalter gets a mixed review here. One thing that he does well is not giving up outs at the #2 spot. He's been hitting Hank Blalock there almost all season long, a very wise move considering that many managers think there's some constitutional requirement to trot out a weak-hitting middle-infielder there. He's also typically played his better on-base folk in the leadoff spot-- typically Michael Young but occasionally the elder Young, though that should underscore the team's underwhelming overall on-base percentage. His decisions at the 3 and 4 spots in the lineup, however, have been more questionable. Alfonso Soriano has hit #3 all season long while Brad Fullmer hit cleanup while he was still around. That Fullmer hit .233/.310/.442 this year and remained in front of Mark Texeira in the lineup for three months is pretty inexcusable, as Teixeira leads the Rangers in slugging and trails only Eric Young in OBP. It's true that Texas has a fair share of left-handed hitters which means that LOOGY issues should come into play in lineup construction, but Showalter's solution is sub-optimal. Showalter probably should have gone with this as his regular lineup once it became clear that Teixeira had improved his game:

vs. RHP
M. Young, .313/.355/.482
Blalock, .272/.353/.502
Teixeira, .273/.365/.555
Mench, .275/.325/.531
Dellucci, .241/.339/.442
Soriano, .280/.324/.484
Fullmer/Matthews, .233/.310/.433 and .275/.350/.461
Barajas, .248/.275/.451
Nix, .249/.295/.434

vs. LHP
E. Young, .294/.384/.382
Blalock, .272/.353/.502
Teixeira, .273/.365/.555
M. Young, .313/.355/.482
Mench, .275/.325/.531
Soriano, .280/.324/.484
Matthews, .275/.350/.461
Jordan, .227/.280/.372
Barajas, .248/.275/.451

(note: all figures are full season, not pitcher splits; I'm getting lazy on you)

Over his career, Showalter has had issues with lineup construction. He wasted a lot of Paul O'Neill's productivity by having him hit #5 for most of his time in New York, hitting relative out-machine Don Mattingly at #2 or #3 much of that time. As his current use of Blalock would indicate, he's typically not put poor hitters in the #2 spot, and except for 2000 and 1992 he's normally had one of his best 2 or 3 hitters hit second. However, Showalter's been guilty of a tragic case of Womackphilia, with known symptoms including getting an out from one's leadoff hitter 78% of the time over a two-year period. He's also had pretty terrible OBP's from his leadoff men in 1992, 1993, and 2003, so his claim to managerial genius is pretty poor in my book. I gathered a lot of data and made a few charts about all this Showalter lineup construction business, but they're too boring for me to post here; e-mail me if you want them.

***

I know I covered part of this earlier, but this is getting absurd. The Dodgers took two out of three in a series a week and a half ago in which they trailed all three games by five or more runs. Now, they've taken the first two games of this series in which they trailed in the eighth inning and won in the bottom of the ninth, including five in the ninth to win 5-4 tonight. I couldn't see the game on TV, so I'm weary about what the deal with Milton Bradley was. I'm wondering if my objectivity is strained vis-a-vis Bradley. When Ross Porter was saying what was happening, my reaction was one of outrage at the fans, even before Porter said that someone threw a beer bottle at Bradley. Bradley's playing a position he's not used to playing and got handcuffed by a tough play. Why would any Dodgers fan want to boo him? He didn't try to commit the error. I vaguely understand booing a player who came into the season with a .300/.400/.500 line who's hitting .200/.240/.260 in August, but why boo a player who couldn't handle the ball on a weird play, especially if that player has a history of reacting poorly to negative reinforcement? I know, I know, this is kind of an ivory tower complaint, but this booing business just doesn't make sense to me.

Song of the Day: "Place To Be," Nick Drake

Comments:
Not a beer bottle, an empty plastic soda bottle. Bradley crumpled it and threw it into the floor of the stands, earning an ejection only when he mouthed off to the umpire.
 
Yeah, I was listening on Gameday and Ross Porter said it was a beer bottle. Joe Sheehan's column cleared everything up.
 
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?