whatever else may be said about last night's game, i believe the two following things should be noted:
a) we won, preventing an embarrassing cession of first place; and
b) the win was a very familiar kind of win.
familiar in so many ways, yet in ways not seen much in the last month: runs scored on dingers; ryan franklin entering the game, allowing enough baserunners to make my dining room feel crowded, yet somehow managing to pull out a save; tony la russa pulling off crazy pinch-hitter and reliever selections. what a relief from a month of heretofore unknown weirdness -- yadi stealing bases like an extremely ungainly michael bourn, runs scored exclusively on singles and sac flies, etc.
i was reflecting on tony's now notorious choice to allow mitchell boggs (lifetime OBP .045) to hit - or at least bunt - for himself, to pinch-hit joe mather for colby rasmus, and then to pull boggs for ryan franklin in the next inning. like some of the posters in last night's thread, i thought up various explanations about matchups and weird scenarios in the dugout, speculative trick play ideas canned at the last minute. then i came up with an even better explanation: tony does deliberately crazy things to keep people off their guard.
conventional wisdom is useful, but just that: conventional. conventional wisdom is that on your first day in prison, you should beat the crap out of the biggest guy in the joint; then no one will give you trouble. the problems with this conventional wisdom are many. a few of them: this presupposes your ability to beat up the guy who has been bench pressing a broom handle with six mop buckets full of water hung from it for the last 15 years; and it ignores the possibility that, even if you succeed, you may become the biggest, baddest guy in the place that all the new guys will sucker punch with a lunch tray and slice with a sharpened toothbrush to prove how tough they are.
tony instead is like the guy who drives a fork through the palm of his own hand in the lunch line and then uses the still-stuck-in-his-hand fork* to try to stab the biggest, baddest guy in the lunch room. the logic behind this tactic being that, regardless of whether he is successful, he will develop the rep of being completely insane and unpredictable. tell me that dusty baker doesn't sit in the dugout and wonder "what do i do if he sends jason larue in to pinch hit next inning. . . but batting left-handed? he could do it; after all, he is tony la russa. maybe i better save my loogy and let the right-hander pitch to rasmus."
* i do not recommend this tactic if incarcerated. for one, prison utensils have for many years been plastic, ever since freddy "the fork" malone laid waste to 5 louisiana correctional facilities. for another, freddy the fork died of sepsis after particles from otherwise inedible corned beef hash came off his fork and entered his bloodstream at the sixth institution. think on that, tony.
i wanted to touch on one issue that had arisen earlier in the week. a useful stat to keep in mind - the league-wide average LOB for pitchers is 71.7%.
logically, in a large sample size, you would expect an offense to strand about the same number of runners. now, presume that situational hitting is not a skill - maybe a big assumption for a lot of people. how about, situational hitting is much more a question of luck than skill?
i like to sit down after a game, especially when we are complaining about runners left on base. we should be scoring a little less than one of three base runners. we've had a lot of bad luck in terms of situational hitting in recent games. in our 4-1 loss to bud norris, we got 7 baserunners, but only scored one. in the 6-3 loss with penny pitching, we managed 14 baserunners, but scored 3. conversely, the astros got nine hits and no walks, and scored 6 runs.obviously, this is a shamefully oversimplified system. it doesn't account for power or the non-random situational aspects of getting on base. but in sitting down to look at a game after it finishes and really try to decipher what happened, i like to use that as a very rough benchmark.
LOB has another impact on this week's post.
i share some of the internet population's discomfort with kyle lohse's performance so far. looking at his peripherals hasn't been totally reassuring, but it's worth doing. i want to start with this one - 53.9%. that's the percentage of baserunners lohse strands on the basepaths in the course of a game. last year's most preposterously unlucky victim of bad LOB over the whole season was ricky nolasco at 61.0%. it's a pretty big leap to carl pavano at second place with 66.1%. so there's one big factor that is practically certain to regress to a more normal level. by comparison, todd wellemeyer pitched like todd wellemeyer last year with a 68.3% LOB.
his peripherals are sure worse than they were. his k/9 is running at 4.74, almost a full strikeout per nine innings below his career average. also, his bb rate is at 3.32, almost a half a walk per nine above his career numbers. most concerning, he's been benefiting from a very low hr/fb rate - about 3.8%, while he enjoys a 10% lifetime hr/fb. his xIP is 5.08.
so, while lob regression will give, hr/fb regression will take away.
in other areas, his gb rate remains pretty steady - he's lost a little bit of groundball skill. he's generating more contact (on about 85% of his pitches) than the league average (80%). if he's not striking anybody out and he's not getting the contact to turn into groundballs, he's not going to have great success.
well, at least not as a pitcher. he does have a +152 UZR/150 in left field . . . (no, there's no decimal missing).