Fire Gardy

Mismanaging games since 2002

Archive for August, 2008

Heartbreaking Loss, but There’s a Silver Lining: Fire Gardy Stat Grabber!

Last night Nathan blew another save, and got the loss when he threw a ball past Harris and allowed the tying and winning runs to score, turning a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 walkoff loss.

That’s two walkoff losses in the last three games. Unacceptable.

And it wasted another great start by Liriano, who had yet another chance to pitch us back into first. (By the way, does it seem to anyone else that every time he pitches, we’re 1/2 game out?)

But I don’t want to talk about that today. If you look to the right side of the page, you should see something new: Nick Punto’s stats are displayed in the sidebar.

That’s part of a new program we’ve added to Fire Gardy, called (creatively) the “Fire Gardy Stat Grabber.” It reaches out to Baseball-Reference.com and downloads the stats for a player and displays them on any Wordpress blog. So if you want to put someone’s stats on your own blog, head over to the Fire Gardy Stat Grabber page and download it.

More importantly … I don’t know if we want to just display Punto’s stats. When we opened the doors here at Fire Gardy, my co-founder FunBobby came up with the idea of showing Punto’s stats on the site as a tribute to his still getting playing time despite a lack of ability. The thing is … he’s producing about as well as could be hoped. As you can see, he’s currently got a 100 OPS+, which is more than adequate from a utility infielder.

So! We should probably display some other players on here. Who should go on there? (Major limitation: Hitters only for now.)

Delmon Young? Adam Everett? Denard Span? Carlos Gomez? Torii Hunter?

I’ll take any suggestions and decide who gets the honor of having their stats displayed on the sidebar. And we can have any number of players over there, there’s no limit.

And now, hopefully we can score some runs today and save a split against the lowly A’s.

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The Human Element

As I’m sure everybody knows by now, Instant Replay is now a part of baseball. After the umpires managed to repeatedly find themselves unable to determine whether a ball went over the fence or not (really?), the outcry got loud enough that everyone (except the umpires) wanted to do something to make sure the calls get made correctly. So the umpires grudgingly obliged, and will now go through a ridiculously convoluted and mysterious process to review calls. I have a few problems with Instant Replay as it was implemented.

  • The replay will not be shown at the stadium, meaning that the fans, players, and managers will be completely in the dark as to what the umpire may or may not have seen to overturn the call. If there’s a questionable home run call and you’re sitting around for a few minutes wondering what happened, does it fill you with confidence when the umpire appears from behind the curtain and says “Yes, it was a home run after all. Trust me. Oh yeah, game over, you lose.” If you’d seen the video, there’s at least the chance that you could be non-homerish and see that the call was right (or that the umpire is still wrong).
  • Replay will be used only at the umpire’s discretion. Managers cannot “challenge” plays (much to the amusing chagrin of Lou Piniella), they can only “request” a review, and the umpires are free to deny this request. Basically, if the umpires think they got the call right, it won’t be reviewed — and the umpires always think they’re right. Is anyone confident now?
  • Questioning the decision of the umpire results in summary ejection. Normally I wouldn’t have a problem with this rule — arguing with the results of the review should result in ejection, because it’s pointless and delays the game and they’re obviously not going to review it again and re-reverse a call. But consider it in the context of the previous two bullets: The managers and players haven’t seen the replays, so they don’t know what happened; if questioning the umpires results in summary dismissal, then I’d expect it to happen often when a call goes against a manager and he doesn’t know why. Secondly, the managers can’t “demand” a review, they can only “request;” if they are too forceful, they can be ejected. This is going to be pretty farcical.
  • The system relies on its enemies to carry out the plan competently and effectively; the umpires don’t want replay, and it was forced on them. All they have to do to make it a “failure” is to do a bad job: refuse to review questionable calls, refuse to overturn calls that they thought were right on the field, offer no visibility into their decisions, eject players and managers for “arguing” about replay, et cetera. If the umpires don’t buy into the system, there needs to be an authoritative person/committee above them to administer replays and override the dubious authority of the umpires.
Obviously, there are going to be some problems with Instant Replay, and I really hope they’re not too bad, because an anti-Replay backlash could go a long way toward preventing a fix to the true problem: Instant Replay doesn’t go far enough.

When Ryan Howard beats out a grounder with two outs late in a tie game, scoring a run to take the lead — oh wait! The umpire incorrectly called him out so the runner doesn’t score and the Phillies lose. This has clear and immediate implications on the playoffs in the NL East and Wildcard.

AJ Pierzynski stupidly runs from second to third on a grounder to short — after a brief rundown he turns his head, reaches out to slap a defender, and falls over as if he’d been tackled. The umpire calls “obstruction” and awards him third base. Men on first and third with one out is a whole lot different than a man on first with two out — the White Sox won two batters later, which has clear and immediate implications on the playoffs in the AL Central, East and Wildcard.

But the AJ Obstruction Scandal gets even more delicious. The umpire in question was Doug Eddings, who as a general rule does nothing but get calls wrong. (If he’s umpiring, you can be sure that both teams are going to get screwed regularly; the guy just never seems to know what he’s doing.) After the game, Eddings was shown a replay of the play, and he immediately thought he’d made a mistake:

Mike Port, MLB’s vice president of umpiring, told the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday that it was “a missed call” and that in making the split-second decision, Eddings thought he saw runner A.J. Pierzynski “impeded more than he was” by Aybar, the Rays’ third baseman.

“Looking back at that occurrence, for the first and last time, it was a missed call,” Port said. “And it was not because Doug Eddings, an umpire with 10 years’ experience and 10 before that in the minor leagues, didn’t know the application of the rule, but just that in the moment in applying the rule, he saw something he thought was more than it turned out to be.”

If only there was something we could do to get calls like that right, so the winners of games — and perhaps the teams in the playoffs — are decided by the play on the field rather than the umpires. Perhaps Instant Replay should apply to more than just boundary calls, but to questionable mistakes made by umpires?

Most of the commentary I’ve heard about this question goes back to “The Human Element.” On Fox’s “Crappy Hour Before the Game Starts” segment on Saturday afternoon, that irritating woman who sits next to Mark Grace said “I’m old fashioned, and I’m all about the Human Element. Why do we need replay at all?” What is the Human Element, and why do people think it’s a good thing?

Umpires make the wrong call, unfairly benefiting one player or team over his opponent, and this is accepted because … ? Status quo? To err is human? Mistakes are acceptable? Since when is minimizing the importance of the players and their feats on the field in favor of decrees by masked bureaucrats an American Tradition?

Bud Selig insists that Instant Replay will never be more than boundary calls, adding that he hates technology and just got a computer last year. Congratulations, Bud, but you’re supposed to be the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, a $7 billion company, not the Commissioner of The Association for Troglodytic Luddite Baseball Fans. Don’t brag about the fact that you’re trying to run the show while being unable to figure out your email program — especially when Eric Hosmer might lose his contract because the Commissioner’s Office was communicating with the Pirates … and apparently are incapable of receiving two phone calls (or emails) at once. Selig doesn’t need to pander to his base of technology-fearing old people — he should probably be trying to popularize the game among a younger demographic that is comfortable with technology and has plenty of disposable income. But I digress — I shouldn’t let Bud Selig’s deliberate and malicious incompetence distract me. This is about baseball. About the integrity of the game. And about the umpires ruining that integrity by consistently making the wrong call.

The calls should be right. Umpires have an increasingly difficult job — parks get bigger, smaller, more unique; players get bigger and faster, they hit and throw harder than ever. An umpire can’t reasonably be expected to have 100% accuracy on a call determined by milliseconds and fractions of an inch — especially when he’s looking at it from hundreds of feet away. If there were some technology that would aid the umpires in making correct calls such that the players determine who wins, how can that possibly be worse than allowing the umpires to stubbornly stick with what has “always worked?”

The Human Element. Stubbornness. Caring more about job security than competence. Why idolize this stupid behavior.

Fix Instant Replay: Make it separate from and above the umpires, and use it for everything.

The Human Element? The players are already human.

(Now someone please print this out so Bud Selig and the rest of The Association for Troglodytic Luddite Baseball Fans — more commonly known as Major League Baseball — can figure out how to “read” it.)

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Sweepless in Seattle

I’m 100% sure I stole that headline from somewhere, but in my defense I haven’t read any of the papers this morning.

That was as close to a must win game as we’ve had all year.  The white sox were playing a terrible team, so you can’t assume they will lose.  Perkins didn’t look great, but he was effective and kept us in the ballgame.  We got some great timely hitting late in the game, which is what has carried this team all year. 

As much as I hate to say it, Gardy did a good job managing towards the end of the game. Granted, most of the moves were fairly obvious, but they all worked out. The two pinch hitters and the two pinch runners.  Also, if one of those moves wasn’t made and you had Kubel in right in the 8th, that throw doesn’t get made, and the game is tied or worse.

The white sox did end up getting pounded, leaving us 1 game back in the AL central (2.5 in the WC) with 28 games to go.  This is an exciting time of year to be a baseball fan. Lets stick it to the A’s this weekend.

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Seattle Rains on Ruiz’s Parade

It was supposed to be a happy day for Randy Ruiz.

Ruiz was named the International League Rookie of the Year for his stellar performance at AAA this year, batting .320/.366/.536 with 17 HR, 33 2B, 68 RBI and 58 R in 111 games played. Pretty good numbers … though the concept of a 30 year old winning Rookie of the Year tickles me more than a little.

After finding this out, Ruiz went on to hit his first major league home run, an opposite field line drive. He soaked in the moment while rounding the bases, not showing too much emotion after the home run. (My thought: he was disappointed it was only a solo shot, after Morneau drove in a non-RBI with a double play with men on first and third right before Ruiz batted.)

But Ruiz didn’t get to celebrate much, because the Twins lost again, extending their ill-timed losing streak to four games, and assuring a series loss to the lowly Mariners. Baker claimed he had the best stuff he’s had in a while, though from where I sat it didn’t look like he had much command and the Mariners were belting line drives all over the field. Poor defense and a complete lack of hitting combined to waste Baker’s quality start, and the Twins fell, 3-2, to put a sour taste into the mouth of Ruiz and all of us fans.

I don’t know what to say about this, really. We’ve been barely managing to squeak out victories against the Mariners (when we do even manage to beat them), and when the Mariners go try to play the White Sox the game is over in the second after a 19 home run inning. Every game. Or so. The point is that good teams are supposed to absolutely clobber teams like the Mariners, and the White Sox have been doing a much better job of that than we have.

The Twins are going to have to pull themselves together if they want to avoid falling further than 2 games out of first. This is not the time for a slide.

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Communication Breakdown & Clubhouse Leadership

In the past, I’ve talked about Gardy’s apparent problems in communicating with his players — Liriano and Casilla, in particular, have been the victims of this.

But recently a couple of stories have come to my attention that indicate this could be more of a widespread problem — and not just Gardy’s problem, but a clubhouse problem that could stem from a lack of true leadership.

A store about Mike Lamb:

“The energy level wasn’t what we expected,” Gardenhire said of Lamb. “He’s a veteran, a laid-back guy and we play at a different level. We like to run and do all those kinds of things. … We were just looking for a little different thing. That’s probably why it didn’t work out here.” As for the notion that it was his laid-back attitude that prevented him from sticking with the Twins, Lamb said he was never aware it was an issue. “I mean, if it was a problem, I wish someone would have told me,” Lamb said. “I would have thrown stuff if I needed to.”
Now I’m not a big Lamb Fan. And I think Gardy’s probably right in his assessment — Lamb doesn’t seem to fit on this team, personality- or talent-wise. And I doubt he could have “changed” his energy level if that truly were the only issue. But I don’t see why he’d lie about not being told about it.

Secondly, I recently heard a story about Matt Garza’s arrival in Tampa Bay. Troy Percival came up to him and the conversation went thusly:

Percival: So, are you going to be as much of a jerk here as you were in Minnesota? Garza: I was a jerk in Minnesota? Percival: Um, yeah, everybody knows that! Garza: I had no idea that was my reputation. I wish someone had told me.
This season, Garza has certainly seemed to be a better clubhouse citizen (aside from one altercation with his catcher), but the thing that strikes me most is that both players said the same thing: “I wish someone had told me.”

I don’t know if it’s really Gardy’s responsibility to go up to Lamb and tell him to act like Gomez and stop being such an old guy, and I don’t know how much if would have helped if he’d told Garza to stop being such an asshole (especially given how much of an asshole Garza was). But it’s telling that it wasn’t Joe Maddon that talked to Garza, it was Troy Percival, a veteran player who had taken on the role of clubhouse leader.

Are Mauer and Morneau failing in their duty to back up Gardy with player-leadership? I’d have to say it’s their responsibility to keep the players in line with this sort of thing, at least to the point where the players in question are aware their attitude is a problem. (And Torii Hunter isn’t the missing leader — he was here when Garza was, and Torii’s method of leadership was to call out Joe Mauer for being less than a man for only playing hurt sometimes, rather than point out actual problems, and talked to the media rather than directly to the player. That’s bad leadership, as opposed to the non-leadership exhibited by the M&M boys.)

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Gardy is Not a “Blog Guy”

Recently, Pat Neshek posted on his blog that he’s on the Really Really Slow plan and won’t make it back this season. Gardy was approached about this, and asked his opinion.

“I’m not a blog guy,” he said. “I’ll let the trainers and doctors tell me, rather than the blog guys.”
I can only presume he went on to say: “After all, whoever wrote that lives in his mom’s basement and isn’t good at anything.” He became even more confused when informed that Neshek actually wrote it, and that anyone is allowed to have one. Even, perhaps, trainers and doctors.

In all seriousness, though, his stance makes sense. Neshek isn’t an expert, and he actually did go on to mention that Casilla also thought he’d be out for the season when he went down, and quickly changed his tune when things started to go well. The point isn’t that Neshek will be back in two weeks like Casilla was — rather, that statements like “I can’t make it back this year” are almost always made at the depths of despair and pain, and are not objective. Trusting the opinions of the trainers and doctors (and Neshek’s arm, not his head) is obviously what the manager should do.

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A Creative Solution to the Bullpen Problems

The recent problems with the Twins’ bullpen have been well documented, and we have our own opinions about what should be done about it. Apparently, though, the Twins have different ideas.

What’s the solution to an overworked bullpen?

A smaller bullpen!

That’s right. In order to make room for Casilla, the Twins passed over the obvious move (DL/DFA Everett) and chose another much-needed move — Brian Bass has been outrighted to Rochester. (Shockingly, he cleared waivers!)

What this means is that we’ll be going with an 11 man pitching staff for a while — and that the starters are going to need to pick up their game and start getting deeper into games, and that the offense is going to have to start scoring and giving us more blowouts.

Now, perhaps this is just step one, the second step being: DL/DFA Everett and call up Korecky (this would have to happen before 8/31, because I can’t imagine the Twins plan to set their playoff roster with an undermanned bullpen). And Gardy did say that another pitcher is “just a phone call away.”

But the fact that Gardy took the time to point out how well Randy Ruiz has been swinging the bat sends an ominous message. We’re not going to get bullpen help until/unless Ruiz stops hitting, and we’re going to have to live through more Adam Everett and the Amazing Shrinking Arm (and Bat, and Glove … Ouch).

I don’t know. Part of me is happy — no more Brian Bass. Another part of me is confused — I thought we had an overworked bullpen … this doesn’t seem to solve that. We’ll see how this works out.

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Roster Moves and Road Trip

With Casilla due back later this week, Gardy will have some interesting decisions to make when constructing his lineups for the rest of the season.  I’m assuming Casilla will become the everyday second baseman, and Gardy has said “Nicky will be in the mix at short”. Great, we will be rotating between Adam Everett and Nick Punto as our starting SS. That is just terrible. At least with Casilla coming back we won’t have a black hole in the number 2 spot anymore.  It looks like Harris will be the odd man out, and only get playing time at third base against lefties. This makes Mike Lamb even more of the odd man out because he will probably never play.

In order to clear a spot for Casilla on the roster who will get sent down? My money is on Ruiz because I feel that Gardy uses “last in first out” logic when sending people down.  Do we have any outfielders on the bench. Assuming Kubel is the DH, the answer is no. Will Nick Punto see time in the OF if one of Span-Gomez-Young gets hurt, ejected, (or killed, remember we are going to oakland)?  Or will Gardy revert to his fear of losing the DH and keep Kubel on the bench to have a spare outfielder?  I guess this is only a problem for a few weeks because rosters expand on Sept 1.  However, playoff rosters are locked in on Aug 31 I believe. So if we make the playoffs (knock on wood) will we do it with only three oufielders, with the 4th being our starting DH?  This all also assumes Cuddyer will not come back from his foot injury, or if he does he won’t be effective.  If he does come back and is useful, there won’t be a real problem. 

This road trip coming will really show if we are a real contender. If we play the LA like we did seattle, we will lose.  We basically need our starters to go 7-8 innings because outside of Nathan, I don’t trust anyone in the bullpen.  Is the front office going to try to get to the roster expansion date without making any moves (and by moves I mean call up Bobby Korecky)?  I think that would be a mistake. I say when Casilla comes back, cut Bass loose and bring up Korecky.  I don’t think there is anyway we don’t send down Ruiz to clear a spot for Casilla, I don’t agree with it but I’m sure that is the move they are going to make.  I for one would like to get rid of Lamb, but the twins seem to live by the policy “If we are paying him, he stays on the team. Not matter how terrible he is”. 

What moves does everyone think need to be made to sruvive the last month and a half of this season?

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The Limestone Monster, and More Dopiness from Gardy

Wrigley has the ivy covered brick walls, Fenway has the green monster, and the Metrodome has the unsightly baggy. Well, the new Twins stadium will have a distinctive feature on the outfield wall as well — the Limestone Monster.

The wall will apparently be in right field, and will jut out over the field. Get ready for some amusing bounces, and some significant home field advantage as our left handed (non-Mauer) players bang balls off that thing and opposing right fielders chase the ball around the field.

Personally, I think the best thing about this idea is its distinctiveness. A lot of new stadiums are either too bland or try too hard to be distinctive … US Cellular Field, for example, is an atrocious blend of a baseball stadium and a county fair. The limestone wall in right, mined from within Minnesota, is the right kind of distinctive.

And it’ll be fun to hear Gardy talk about it, after both wins and losses. “Cuddy is used to the baggy, so he’s been able to adapt to the rock pretty well.” “That was an unusual bounce, and it didn’t go well for our boys tonight.” “There are some angles out there that are tough if you haven’t seen ‘em before.” Et cetera. Should be a good source of boilerplate dopiness.

Speaking of which … you didn’t think I’d make a post without passing along a bit of Gardy’s dopiness, did you? Randy Ruiz has done an admirable job of filling Monroe’s (admittedly small) shoes, despite a lack of extra base hits or walks in the majors yet. He’s batting .333/.333/.333, in a very small sample size. What does Gardy think?

“We needed someone to hit a lefty, he’s done that. … I like having him around, because he will swing. He’s not afraid to swing,” Gardenhire said.
Oh yes. The one thing this team has been lacking is another free swinger. Too much Mauer, not enough Delmon and Gomez, that’s what I always say! He’s not afraid to swing? Since when did the Twins have a problem with swing-fear? Gomez and Young have topped the list of “swinging at the first pitch” and “swinging at pitches out of the zone” all season … if anything, the Twins need another hitter who’s willing to take pitches, work the count, draw walks, and make the pitcher actually put a ball over the plate. More Mauers and Spans.

Oh well. I’m still rooting for Ruiz (and I wish he’d smack a homer sooner or later). And I really appreciate the dopiness. Keep it coming Gardy!

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Bullpen Woes — And What to DO

An interesting stat just popped up in my daily email from Baseball Prospectus:

Top 5 Most Helpful AL Relievers, by Inherited Runs Prevented

Player, Team, Inh Runs Prevented

Grant Balfour, TBA, 5.1 James Johnson, BAL, 3.6 Jonathan Papelbon, BOS, 3.5 Bobby Korecky, MIN, 3.2 Joel Peralta, KCA, 3.2

Wow. Korecky really got the job done in his brief time in the majors. That’s an impressive stat considering he only pitched 10.1 innings in 9 games.

Maybe … just maybe … he’d be a better fit for the club than Boof or Bass. (By the way, considering the fact that Boof never plays anyway, would we really lose much if someone took him on waivers? And it’s his fault that Crain and Guerrier are about to die — they can’t pitch in every game, Gardy!) Also Breslow. Why isn’t Breslow pitching? Because he’s left handed?

Why are left handed starters valuable but left handed relievers can only face one batter before hitting the showers? Especially since Breslow is better against righties than lefties. Consider …

vs righties: .185/.313/.204 in 64 PA vs lefties: .238/.273/.310 in 44 PA

So … why does he face one guy per week? Those are Neshek numbers. We’re lacking a certain Neshek. Why not let this guy try to get people out, rather than sending Crain and Guerrier out to try to keep their arms connected to their shoulders or Bass to try and keep the other team from scoring 10 runs in an inning?

The bullpen is a big weakness right now, and it seems to me that there are a couple of clear upgrades: Korecky and Breslow instead of Boof and Bass, which in turn eases the pressure on Guerrier and Crain. Solves the following problems:

  • Brian Bass is on our team and has pitched more than any other reliever in the league.
  • Breslow pitches once per week despite his good numbers and performances.
  • Korecky escapes from Rochester back to the big club where he can save inherited runs (left on the bases for him by Reyes).
  • Crain and Guerrier are getting overworked because they’re the only non-horrible relievers Gardy is willing to use.
  • Boof … continues to take up space in the pen without doing any actual pitching. Oh well.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had quite enough of these bullpen woes.

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