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October 11, 2002

Prospectus Roundtable

Bonds Bombs, Tomahawk Chops, and Suspect Management

by Baseball Prospectus

[Sunday night]

Rany Jazayerli: Some evidence of poetic justice here.

  1. He who lives by the one-run game dies by it. The A's were 32-14 in one-run games during the regular season, one of the best records ever.
  2. It's hard to blame Howe for going to Koch in the ninth; if anything, he should be applauded for being willing to use his closer in a non-save situation. As for Bradford, I'm his biggest fan, but the fact is that he was rocked (18 H, 4 BB, 2 K in 9 IP) in September.

The problem isn't the thinking that you go to your closer in a non-save situation. The problem is that the A's have believed their own press clippings about Koch. Lost in all the hulabaloo about Koch's 11 wins and 44 saves is that he didn't pitch all that great, with a 3.27 ERA. He was bailed out time and again by the A's offense this year, and you can only play with matches so many times before you get burned.

I can't say that going to Koch was a mistake, because only Bradford had a better ERA in the pen, and his ERA was 3.11. (Rincon had a 3.10 ERA with the A's, but 4.18 overall). Bringing in Koch wasn't the mistake. If anything, trading for Koch in the first place was the mistake.

Chris Kahrl: Maybe it's me, but who uses reliever ERA? Bradford's ARP was worse, but a significant component of that would be his performance with men on base, which (again) left something to be desired. I would have let Bradford face Mohr, with Rincon ready for Pierzynski (Hocking, cough) and Jones due up. If Bradford puts Mohr on, go to Rincon. If you force Pierzynski out of the game, nifty.

No, what Art Howe did was the usual garbage: he managed in a way that abdicates responsibility and keeps his postgame slate clean of any serious second-guessing from the Fourth Estate. That's in keeping with his peers, one of the most lackluster generations of managerial talent the game has ever seen. As has been said before, if Art Howe wants a multi-year contract, he should be free to go get one.

RJ: But that's exactly my point. I'm not saying that Howe made the right move; I'm only saying that he did nothing that his managerial peers wouldn't have done as well. Ironically, someone like Scioscia probably would have stuck with Bradford, but not because he rationally weighed the pros and cons of sticking with Bradford vs. going with Koch - he would have stuck with Bradford because you don't use your closer when you're losing, period.

Derek Zumsteg: T-Long and Ramon, both of who were given long-term deals... and then there was the Politburo-style purge of Giambi elements... is the shine coming off of Beane, or was this just a down year? Can he get fired in time to take over the Mariners?

How long does it take Disney to turn out a Rally Monkey movie? How long before the second one?

CK:I suppose it depends on Christopher Lloyd's availability to be cast as the monkey.

DZ: He'd be the monkey's owner.

[Raul Mondesi announces that he'll retire after 2003]

CK: Shouldn't he demand to go out a Met? I thought that was the final port of call for the used-up these days...

RJ: Hmmm...

"I want to go home young. I don't want to stay all of my life in baseball. At like 37 years old, you feel old. Sore knee and back, ankle."

How would Mondesi know what it's like to feel "37 years old"? According to his listed age, he's 31.

Jonah Keri: Tracks real well with his numbers, not just offensively, but also defensively and on the bases.

I still think Pujols may have the biggest gap between actual and reported age in the majors.

Joe Sheehan: No, it's Craig Counsell.

CK: My guess was around 13 back in 1997, so that makes him... what, just shy of 19?

[Bonds hits his big home run]

JK: Too bad Bonds isn't a clutch performer. That ball might have gone 600 feet.

CK: There really are only two ways to look at it: Bonds didn't get eight bases in two plate appearances, or Jeff Kent is clutch because he makes outs that let Barry lead off the next inning, which forces the opposing pitcher to pitch to him. I mean, what other explanations could there be?

Keith Scherer: Until I heard that damn tomahawk chant I had forgotten just how annoying Braves fans are. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Go Giants.

CK: Yep, I don't know what I'd prefer, pegging the series right (Braves in 5) or anticipating all of those emails from Braves fans telling me that I was wrong about that, too.

[On removing Kevin Millwood early]

JS: Is it that bad? Millwood's throwing on short rest, the Braves have a deep, effective bullpen, and doesn't Cox have to try anything to get runners on for his two good hitters? I don't think it's a bad idea.

I think playing the wrong Franco--repeatedly--is much worse.

CK: Agreed--the passionate avoidance of Matt Franco borders on mania.

Jeff Hildebrand: I think I'm with Joe on this one. Millwood was already at 79 pitches, and on short rest, so I'm not convinced that the bullpen is any more likely to give up runs.

JS: Anybody else get the sense that we could play 30 or 40 innings and the Braves wouldn't score?

Dave Schoenfield: hmm, quick hook on Ortiz ... Dusty's postseason bullpen moves never seem to work; we'll see how this one does ...

CK: I'm just shocked that Fultz was put on a postseason roster, let alone that he's pitching in a tight game. Not even the Fox turkey Goebblers can summon up a kind word...

DS: 1997, Giants vs. Marlins

Game 1 .. tied 1-1, Julian Tavarez and Roberto Hernandez give up winning run in bottom of 9th Game 2 ... tied 1-1 in bottom of ninth, Hernandez faces 4 batters, gets no outs, takes the loss.

2000, Giants vs. Mets Game 2 ... F-Rod gives up 2 runs top of 9th (Giants tie it), F-Rod gives up another run in 10th Game 3 .. Mets tie it with run in bottom of 8th (Doug Henry gave up run), Aaron Fultz takes loss in 13th.

Game 4 ... Down 2-0 in top of 5th, leaves Mark Gardner in to hit with bases loaded and two outs (Gardner then allows two more runs in bottom of 5th, season over).

2002: Manny Aybar?

JS: Along these lines, is it that crazy to wonder where John Smoltz is? Five of the next six hitters should be RHBs, and he eats them alive. A third run could be devastating to the Braves, and Smoltz can go two innings if need be (he'd only come up in the seventh if the Braves take the lead).

I'm not saying it's black and white, and Remlinger is a damn good pitcher, but I have to wonder if the Braves are basically never going to use the "MVP" in an important situation in this series.

DS: Is it me, or has this postseason been characterized by two things?

1) Bad managing.
2) Bad baseball.

JH: I think you forgot:

3) Bad umpiring.

JK: What constitutes bad managing, though? Managers refuse to bring in their closers/best relievers in the 6th in the regular season when the game hangs in the balance. Of all the times to against the Book, are they really going to do it in post-season? You almost need a true blue maverick to buck tradition, given how rigid the rules of engagement have become, or maybe how they've always been.

RJ: To my mind, the key decision in this game might be Cox's decision to burn Marcus Giles, then pinch-hit for him with Franco without letting him bat. The announcers rambled on about how Franco's the Braves' best pinch-hitter, and how it was a key situation, but that misses the point: if Franco's PH #1, then Giles is PH #2 (or DeRosa is). Now, you've burned your top three pinch-hitters, you've got Wes Helms and two backup catchers who couldn't slug .400 in the Texas League left, and you're guaranteed to see the pitcher come up again at least once in this game.

One all-time great is shedding his reputation for post-season failures today. One all-time great isn't.

DS: I think there's a big difference between regular season and postseason. If you manage every regular-season game as a "must win this inning/game" and don't plan ahead, you're going to burn out your bullpen; thus, it is probably important to assign roles so you can regulate usage.

In the postseason, you can't afford to worry about tomorrow; you have to win today. And I sure don't want to lose with Manny Aybar or Aaron Fultz on the mound.

RJ: Wes Helms = Francisco Cabrera?

Just a thought... Smoltz bats 6th in the bottom of the ninth, which could lead to a bases-loaded, two-out situation.

At least Bobby Cox isn't Don Baylor. Otherwise he'd have to pinch-hit with Lance Painter.

JK: Oh you're definitely preaching to the choir, David. I just don't give most (any?) managers credit for being nearly as astute as you are in this case.

Opens Book... What did I do all year in the 6th? Fultz, yeah that's it. Picks up phone...

JS: I'd add that Bobby Cox is someone who's recognized this in the past, using everyone but Glavine out of the bullpen at one time or another.

On another note, does any team have worse plate discipline, on a granular level, than the Braves? Yesterday, Bragg swung at a 2-0 pitch with first and second and no one out, killing a rally with a GIDP. Tonight, there's Lockhart and Bragg and now Henry Blanco, who just swung at balls three and four on his way to a strikeout.

At what point does John Scheurholz actually get called out for his complete inability to assemble a 14- or 15-man position-player squad? This is a trend going back a decade!

JK: It's all good either way.

Bonds shuts a few people up and moves on. Actually, all four series produced an enjoyable outcome for me, given I'd have been happy seeing either Twins or A's advance, for different reasons.

I dunno, maybe it's just me, but I'm thoroughly enjoying this year's post-season.

DZ: Jonah likes the wild card, Jonah likes the wild card.

I loved hearing Kevin Kennedy, of all people, just now proclaim that the Wild Card was "good for baseball". Uh huh.

Related Content:  Playoffs,  Roundtable

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