October 26, 2004
Weather or Not
So, it turns out that the bunt that launched a thousand words wasn't called from the bench. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tony Womack's second-inning bunt in Game One was his idea, and not a play put on by manager Tony La Russa. That doesn't make it a good idea, but it certainly shifts the blame from La Russa to the player.
As recently as last week, I wrote about the bunt Derek Jeter laid down in the eighth inning of Game Five of the ALCS. As I was writing that column, I was trying to find out whether Jeter had sacrificed on his own--something he does--or whether Torre had called the bunt.
The informed-outsider position that we've staked out at Baseball Prospectus is a valuable one, not least because it makes us less prone to misinformation coming from teams. However, one weakness of it, as opposed to that of a beat writer, is that it's sometimes unclear who made a particular decision, or why. While I tend to think that most of the interactions that take place in the clubhouse or the manager's office produce little useful information, that doesn't mean that the access is always useless.
I'm comfortable doing what I do, but it's a moment like this when I can see the value of access, rather than how it corrupts.
Tonight's Game Three has a very good chance of being tomorrow's Game Three, as rain is forecast for the St. Louis area throughout the evening up to about 9 p.m. Central. A rainout would be a slight benefit to the Cardinals, who could skip the struggling Jason Marquis and bring back Woody Williams and Matt Morris on full rest for Games Four and Five. Given that neither pitcher went deep into his first World Series start, La Russa might do this anyway.
Whenever the next pitches are thrown, the Cards will face a big challenge. Not only are they down 2-0 in games, they'll be up against Pedro Martinez. As Jim Baker points out, Martinez is one of the best pitchers to ever take the mound with his team up 2-0 in the World Series.
It's even worse than that for the Cards, as Martinez will be pitching on long rest (greater than four days). In addition to having the world's most famous split--his performance before and after 100 pitches--Martinez has pitched much better when getting an extra day or two between starts. On four days' rest this year, he had a 4.77 ERA in 111 1/3 innings. When getting more than that, threw 99 2/3 innings with a 2.98 ERA. That's the difference between Pedro Martinez and Pedro Feliciano.
One thing to watch is how the weather impacts the course of the game. For the Red Sox, the worst case would be a game that starts and then is subject to an extended delay. Anything that messes with Martinez is a bad thing, and it's almost pro forma now for a starting pitcher to not come back out after a delay of an hour or more. The Sox would be much better off with a rainout or a delay of the game's start than an in-game delay.
Were it not Game Three, I might suggest they hold back Martinez and start Derek Lowe in his stead, just because of the chance that rain will create havoc. However, doing this would make it almost impossible for Martinez to come back for a potential Game Seven.
The rain won't be the only element that Martinez contends with. He'll have to bat in this game, which will be played without a DH. It hasn't seemed to affect him; since joining the Sox in 1998, Martinez has made seven starts under NL rules, throwing 49 2/3 innings with a 3.26 ERA. He allowed four runs in six innings at SBC Park in his only 2004 start under NL rules.
As is usually the case, the use of AL or NL rules in the appopriate park is a bigger benefit for the NL team than the AL one. The Cardinals wasted the extra at-bats the DH afforded them in Boston on So Taguchi and Marlon Anderson. Not having those players in the lineup isn't quite the same for them as the Sox having to do without Kevin Millar.
Watch to see if Terry Francona modifies his lineup to account for the lack of a DH. Mark Bellhorn has had a great run in the #9 slot, but simply moving him up to #8 might not be the best move. As valuable as OBP, and the walks that drive it, are, having a selective hitter batting in front of Martinez might not be the best move. It's situational, really; a Bellhorn walk with no one out gives Martinez something to do. A Bellhorn walk with two outs and a runner on second does little more than turn over the lineup for the next inning.
All things considered, I'd move Bellhorn back to the #2 slot and bat Orlando Cabrera eighth. Cabrera's willingness to swing at more pitches actually has a bit more value in a situation where a walk doesn't help much.
One other note about the Sox: they had a huge home/road split this season, 100 points of OPS, a bit more than half a run a game. They are a different team away from Fenway, hitting many fewer singles and doubles, driving down both their OBP and slugging.
While the Cardinals' home/road split in the playoffs has been the subject of much coverage, they were essentially the same team at and away from Busch Stadium this year. That's more meaningful than the information gleaned from 13 games in October.