at baseball prospectus yesterday, joe sheehan deconstructed the disastrous top of the 8th from wednesday night's game:
Neither of these matchups are attractive, especially when the righty warming up is Jason Isringhausen. What factors other than platoon splits could be considered? Well, there's the double-play possibility. Perez is an egregiously slow right-handed hitter and a strong DP threat. Hafner doesn't run well either, but bats from the left side and doesn't hit as many groundballs as Perez does. There's also something to be said for not letting the opponent use his best weapon in a high-leverage situation.
All in all, I think La Russa lowered the Cards' chances of getting out of the inning by going to Isringhausen. . . . . with neither matchup favorable to the Cards, they would have been better off with the stronger double-play possibility.
rewind all the way to the start of the inning, and you tell me where la russa screwed up. the left-handed-hitting sizemore led it off; la russa matched him up with flores, who over the last season and a half has held lefties to a .200 average. sizemore, meanwhile, is hitting .215 vs left-handers this season and .226 for his career, with a .287 on-base pct. anybody gonna tell me that la russa erred in his selection of pitchers? right decision, wrong result; sizemore singled.
tony took the ball from flores and gave it to looper for the next two hitters, both right-handers. loop has held righties to a .216 average in 2005-06, and .229 over his entire career; belliard and peralta are both ~.260 hitters vs right-handers with very little power. in addition, the double-play was in order; looper is a groundball machine. again, can somebody explain where la russa erred here? he played it right, but the pitcher didn't perform; looper gave up a double and plunged the cardinals into a here-we-go-again situation.
la russa's next maneuver held the key to the inning, and was his niftiest bit of managing. rather than leave looper in to face the switch-hitting victor martinez, tony went to tyler johnson. seemed premature on the face of it; the logical man for johnson to face, ben broussard (a left-handed platoon player), was still a hitter away, and the man at the plate, martinez, doesn't have a pronounced left-right split, so the cardinals didn't gain anything by turning him around. but they also didn't lose anything -- and what they did gain was the leverage to dictate the matchup one hitter later, when broussard was due up. consider the alternative: if the cardinals leave looper in to face martinez, then -- however that at-bat resolves -- when broussard comes up la russa has the following choices:
- leave looper in to face the left-handed broussard, a matchup that favors the indians
- call in ty johnson to face broussard, who will then be replaced by eduardo perez --- a matchup that also favors the indians
- bring in isringhausen to face broussard or (very likely) hafner, should the indians choose to pinch-hit
so la russa ended up with the best matchup he could have hoped for -- but he managed to scratch two good hitters (broussard and perez) from the game in the process, at the cost of tyler johnson. that's a huge advantage to the cardinals in a tight game, which might have proved important had the contest gone into extra innings (a high likelihood, as things stood at that point). is'hausen pitched around hafner, the only debatable tactic in the whole inning -- the unintentional-intentional pushed the lead run into scoring position, which in my opinion is always the wrong thing to do. but that maneuver did have the benefit of sidestepping hafner, meaning that la russa's use of johnson effectively eliminated three big bats -- broussard, perez, and hafner -- from the inning, leaving the hollandsworths and boones to decide cleveland's fate. it was deftly achieved, and izzy completed the job by inducing a weak pop-up. . . . . you know the rest.
that inning showcased la russa at his best -- he got the right guys into the right situations, which is all a manager can do. his pitchers and fielders didn't execute, which left him open to 2d-guessing. you all well know that i'm not one to cut la russa a whole lot of slack -- but i don't think he erred in his play-calling there. i think he was brilliant.
to the farms:
top draft choice adam ottavino made his 2d start at state college and was impressive -- 4 and 1/3 innings, 2 hits, 0 earned, 1 bb, 4 strikeouts. he was backed by two dingers from 2d-round sandwich pick mark hamilton, who now has 5 home runs in his first 34 professional at-bats; nice transition to the wooden sticks, boyo.
colby rasmus homered again -- that's, what, 6 this month? he's slugging nearly .700 in june; they're not gonna be able to keep him at quad cities much longer. the outfield at springfield is overburdened already, but there are openings at palm beach. . . . .
speaking of hot months, check out memphis reliever josh kinney: he faced 5 guys last night and whiffed 3, bringing his total to 25 ks for the month in only 17.2 innings. let's put this into context: there have been 56 official at-bats against kinney this month; nearly half -- 25 -- ended in a strikeout. for the season kinney has a 1.69 era, a .190 average average against, and more than a strikeout an inning. oh, and he just got named to the pcl all-star team. . . . . his bullpenmate brian falkenborg got the save last night for memphis, lowering his season's era to 2.70 and his opp average to .179. falk'borg has fanned 29 men in 26 innings, vs only 8 walks and 1 hr allowed.
the way the cardinal bullpen has struggled, it's time to give at least one of these guys a(nother) chance.
Update [2006-6-30 10:7:46 by lboros]: the cards signed two high-round draft picks, john jay and chris perez, who had been playing in the cws. they'll both skip short-season a ball and head straight to quad cities. that team's outfield is getting awfully crowded, with two new additions (jay and shane robinson) from the draft . . . . rasmus' departure for bigger-better seems that much more likely.