Notes From A Delightful Comeback

May 18, 2010

At one point tonight, the score was 9-7 Red Sox following back-to-back home runs allowed by Yankee reliever Chan Ho Park. It felt like fate that I would end up blogging angrily but hopelessly about how poorly current managers use their bullpens. But then, because God is good and evidently a Yankee fan, Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames hit homers in the bottom of the ninth inning, thereby neutering my frustration and rendering me incapable of arguing with the fervor that I originally possessed. Instead, before I go to bed and while I fight this bug I’ve picked up, here are seven notes of varying lengths and importance:

  • Try as I might, I can’t totally ignore the fact that this game featured yet another prime example of all that’s wrong with modern bullpen management. With the Yankees up 7-6 entering the top of the seventh inning, Joe Girardi chose Chan Ho Park to relieve Boone Logan. No problems so far, since the Red Sox were sending solid but not spectacular Darnell McDonald, Marco Scutaro, and Dustin Pedroia trio to the plate that inning. Park, who had just come off the disabled list, managed to retire the side with little difficulty. The top of the eighth inning rolled around, and the Yankees still led 7-6. Of course, now the Yankees had to face the heart of the Red Sox order – J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, and Victor Martinez. I then tweeted the following: “Leaving Park in here to face the middle of the Red Sox order would be a huge mistake, in my opinion. Let’s see what Girardi does.” Girardi left Park in, and one single and two home runs later, the score was 9-7 in favor of the Red Sox, and Park was walking off the mound to a chorus of boos. I will keep my point fairly brief. One day, a manager will look at this situation and decide to bring in his “closer” because he will realize that this situation – a one run game against the heart of the order – is when the game needs “saving,” not simply when the number in the innings column or box or whatever says “9.”  A manager will deploy his team’s Mariano Rivera or Joe Nathan or whomever he deems to be the team’s best reliever and say to him “this is the game right here, go get ’em, and we’ll use [second-best reliever] against the bottom of the order in the 9th.” And more often than not, that move will be the correct one.
  • Marcus Thames has been an absolute abomination in the field this season, so bad that I become uncontrollably nervous even when he settles underneath the laziest of fly balls looking into the clearest of skies on the stillest of nights. But provided he never sees the field again once Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher are both fully healthy, he’s been quite an addition to the team. For a whopping $900,000, Thames has hit .414/.514/.621 against lefties and .263/.348/.263 against righties. Even when the former set declines, it will be hard to say that he wasn’t worth the money. $900,000 isn’t a lot of money to any team in baseball, much less the Yankees, and he’s been worth half a win so far this season. Money well spent, I’d say.
  • Going into tonight’s game, Alex Rodriguez’s career line in “close and late” situations was .279/.380/.540. His overall career line is .304/.389/.574. Clutch God Derek Jeter’s career line in “close and late” situations was .293/.388/.422. His overall career line is .316/.387/.458. We can all agree to never again say that Rodriguez is an un-clutch choker, right? Right.
  • Javier Vazquez throw four pitches in the game, striking out Kevin Youkilis with runners on first and third in the top of the ninth inning. He got the win. What a meaningful statistic.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka entered the game with a 6.35 ERA. After allowing seven runs in 4.2 innings, his ERA is now 7.89. Is it too early to say that his signing has been an enormous bust for the Red Sox? The hype surrounding this guy was unbelievable in 2007. He was supposed to be a rubber-armed, ultra-competitive, flame-throwing ace. He purportedly threw at least 16 types of pitches, some of which could – separately, of course – cure cancer, defy gravity, clean up oil spills, and figure out what to do with the other arm while spooning. Teams went nuts bidding for this guy, but none more so than the Red Sox, who shelled out $51 million to negotiate with him. Now he’s owed $8 million this season, and $10 million in each of the next two, bringing the total amount invested in him to $103 million. Going into tonight’s awful start, he’s been worth eight wins since his debut. That’s $12,875,000 per win. There’s still time to make the contract acceptable, but it’s hard to say that the trend is encouraging.
  • The older I’ve gotten, the harder it’s been for me to muster up those youthful feelings of contempt for or ill will towards members of the Red Sox. But if there’s anyone who can bring that version of me out of retirement, it’s Jonathan Papelbon (especially when he’s blowing a save in spectacular fashion). That I got to see Kevin Youkilis fall on his keester and Dustin Pedroia impudently complain about a bang-bang play at first was the icing on the cake.

Archimedes, Descartes, Pythagoras… Papelbon?

August 21, 2009
The face of genius

The face of genius

At the risk of generalizing about professional athletes (too late, already happened), this is why sports networks should employ them for their knowledge of a game’s mechanics, and not for their analytical skills:

“We’re 8-4 against them this season,” [Jonathan Papelbon] said about the Bombers, who begin a three-game set at Fenway Park tonight. “We beat them half the time.”


The National Sports Media Can Feel Free To Recognize That Jonathan Papelbon Is Kind Of A Jerk

May 25, 2009



My suspicions of national anti-Yankees media bias have mellowed with age, but with the reporting of this small but telling story, I do wonder why we never hear the talking heads blast Jonathan Papelbon for this sort of stuff. Perhaps it’s because the Red Sox were anointed the label of “playing the game the right way” several years ago, and as we know, these perceptions die hard. Still, it took but one fist pump for the national media to come down on Joba Chamberlain’s histrionics. Papelbon acts like a five-year-old each and every time he “saves” a game, yet he escapes consternation. 

I think I’ve generally been pretty clear about my total indifference towards celebrations. As long as they’re in good taste, I don’t care. But I really like consistency, and it would be wonderful if someone outside the New York City area would get on Papelbon’s case for regularly behaving like a total dope.

Okay, Fine. I’ll Bite.

May 13, 2008

I’ve tried to stay out of this whole debate about Joba Chamberlain’s celebrations. This is primarily because it is a stupid discussion and I don’t care. I wish he’d calm down a little, but ultimately this is not that big of a deal. But because the sports media seems intent on shoving this down our throats, and crotchety old curmudgeons keep saying essentially “this never would have happened back in my day!”, I am going to issue a friendly reminder to these curmudgeons who probably don’t even know what the internet is so why am I even doing this. Reminder starts…now:

In conclusion, get off Chamberlain’s back or start getting on others’.

Let The Games Begin

February 27, 2008

I mean that literally and figuratively. On the literal side, Vanderbilt baseball has its home opener today, which I will be attending in about an hour. So that’s good. Figuratively, it’s about time that I fulfill my obligation as a Yankees fan and commence some (rational) smack-talk towards those who get carried away about the Red Sox. This post shall be brief, but I would just like to comment on one thing from this article.

“The way [the Yankees] score runs, you know they’re going to be in the race down to the end,” said Kevin Youkilis.


That’s smart media coaching. But who’s kidding whom? A less filtered sentiment came from closer Jonathan Papelbon, who, when asked to assess the Yankees’ chances, said, “Dude, I don’t even know who’s on their roster this year.”

Oh my God. I really, really hope that in October, we’re talking about this quote like we talked about Tom Brady’s “we’re only going to score 14?” quote. Except that quote was somewhat warranted, since the Patriots’ offense was insanely good. Brady was somewhat justified. Papelbon is a moron.

Arguably worse, I think, is Mr. Klapisch’s “who’s kidding whom?” interjection. The implication – at the very minimum – is that the Yankees are clearly an inferior team. I would just like to remind the general public that the Yankees finished 2 games out of first place in the AL East last year. That is including 38 starts from Kei Igawa, Darrell Rasner, Tyler Clippard, Matt DeSalvo, Jeff Karstens, Carl Pavano, Chase Wright, and Sean Henn.

Also of note, I think, is that Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA system has the Yankees going 97-65 this season, and the Red Sox going 91-71. This is the same system that correctly predicted – much to the intense surprise and even anger of many baseball people – that the Chicago White Sox would go 72-90 last year. That’s worth something. Not everything, but something.

Let the games begin.

Now THIS Is How You Use A Bullpen (I’m Looking At You Joe Torre)

June 27, 2007

Last night, I witnessed easily the most infuriating loss of the Yankees’ dismal season. I mean, this was epically infuriating. Mere days after Torre cost the Yankees the game against the Giants by refusing to pitch Mariano Rivera in a tie game, Torre did the exact same thing against the Orioles.

It was 2-2 in the 9th, thus creating the dreaded scenario in which Torre manages a tie game on the road. Invariably in these games, Torre will resort to mediocre reliever after mediocre reliever in order to preserve the tie, so that the Yankees can score a run, so that Rivera can get a save. This, of course, means that the greatest reliever in baseball history is picking splinters out of his butt on the bench while inferior pitchers give up game-winning runs. Torre never seems to get that – in these situations – the game ends if the other team scores. But that’s cool with Torre. Scott Proctor, Luis Vizcaino, Kyle Farnsworth, and Mike Myers are all clearly better options than that Rivera guy.

Anyway, my beef is that Torre never puts his best reliever (Rivera) in tie games on the road, because he wants to save him for the save situation that may or may not come. Instead of using his best reliever in the most important of situations, he continually turns to worse options and Rivera rarely gets into the game. Also, the Yankees usually lose.

Why am I writing all this? Well, the Red Sox are playing the Mariners tonight in Seattle. It was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 9th. Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima opened the inning by allowing a single, a sacrifice bunt, and then another single. Therefore, there were runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out. Did Terry Francona leave Okajima in, even while knowing that if the Mariners score, the game ends? Nope. He brought in Jonathan Papelbon, his best reliever. Papelbon induced two flyballs, thus ending the inning. Papelbon then proceeded to pitch a perfect 10th inning. He was eventually replaced by Joel Piniero, who gave up a run and lost the game.

The moral of the story is this: it is okay and even preferable to bring in your closer in a tie game on the road. It is the smart tactical move. In this example, Papelbon pitched 1.2 perfect innings, which gave his team a chance to win. In the Torre situation, mediocre relievers pitch imperfect innings, which gives their team less of a chance to win.

Well played, Boston. Well played.