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October 29, 2010

World Series Prospectus

Game Two Analysis

by Christina Kahrl

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Mama said there'll be days like this
There'll be days like this, my Mama said
Mama said, Mama said
—The Shirelles

There are so many reasons why Rangers fans deserve your sympathy today, but let's stick with the bullet points, because so many of them defy easy explanation, and last night's choices put the Rangers behind the eight ball much more than Ron Washington's missteps in the first game of the ALCS did. So, going backward, from the worst to the merely frustrating.

  • Last night, Mark Lowe was pitching in a 3-0 ballgame in the World Series. Not in the 20th inning, not in the 12th, but in the eighth, with his team down, and already down a game.

Think on that, and what it means. Mark Lowe, three-run deficit, and everything, everything that you spend a full eight months in a multi-billion dollar industry doing, well heck, that just happens to be at stake. Mark Lowe, the guy who, at the best of times, can't get lefties out, having let them hit .305/.386/.517 on his career, most of it spent pitching in Safeco's wide-open spaces, and someone who happens to be coming back from what was deemed season-ending back surgery four months ago. Mark Lowe, the guy you really shouldn't have on the roster in the first place, because he's your third-string ROOGY at best, in a pen that flat-out lacks a mop-up guy. Put it this way: down by three, last-chance sweepstakes coming up in the ninth, and you use a guy who isn't even your actual 11th-best pitcher? Is there any ballclub this makes sense on? With the bases loaded?

This is the sort of thing you deserve to lose for. The subsequent embarrassment of the balance of the eighth inning was created entirely because Washington didn't want to risk letting Darren O'Day pitch to Nate Schierholtz—and think about that right there, because that's a matchup of his second-best reliever, facing a defensive replacement with modest pop—with two outs and a man on. Really?

  • The monumentally stupid risk involved almost—almost—dwarfs what Matt Cain achieved, but to be fair, Cain merely delivered what the two more famous people starting in Game One for each ballclub could not.

Through the first four innings, Cain allowed just one batter beyond mere perfection. That's amusing enough, given the amount of stathead bandwidth burned on how he's supposed to get worse any year now. He did run into trouble in both the fifth and sixth innings, allowing a leadoff double in the fifth, and a pair of one-out singles in the sixth. None of it amounted to anything. And he didn't do it by merely overpowering people, but via the sort of stuff that ends up leaving SIERA unimpressed and the scoreboard indifferent about qualitative distinctions on what's supposed to constitute dominance—fly outs, popouts, out-y outs. By the time he was hooked in the eighth inning, up 2-0 and with Josh Hamilton due up with two outs and a man on, you had to simply concede he'd been merely excellent.

  • Lineup selection reflected something less than conviction that the Rangers knew what they were doing.

Beyond repeating Washington's capacity to totally screw up a defensive inning by running through too many pitchers until he'd stumbled across all of the guys who didn't have it over the massive, deterministic one or two batters, this was another element where Washington contributed to losing this game before it even started. After punting the courage of his Game One convictions with his full-season cleanup hitter, Vladimir Guerrero, in right field, Wash ran out a lineup that was Vladi-free and had Matt Treanor batting seventh. In a National League ballpark. Against the 12th-best starting pitcher in the majors this season. As much as taking an offensive hit by benching Vladi might be defensible after Game One's indefensible eighth inning, does exacerbating that issue by pushing forward a feeble batter when you already have to carry the pitcher's bat make any sense?

Now, I know, sabermetric orthodoxy suggests lineup order is not such a big deal over huge sample sizes. I'm less confident that sort of reductionism adds up over the course of an individual ballgame. Why not just get Mitch Moreland higher up in the order already? Why handicap your tactical options two or three times through the order before getting to a point at which you might have the nerve to hook that day's starting catcher?

Having had the first-game win he'd earned in the ALCS taken from him because of Washington's elective decision-making in the tragic eighth inning of Game One, you have to feel for the thoughtful southpaw having to take a loss as tough as last night's. He pitched well enough to win, having allowed just four baserunners through six, but beyond his giving Edgar Renteria something jerk-worthy in the fifth, there was nothing to regret about his evening. However long it takes for him to let these kinds of games go, it's worth remembering that he pitched more than well enough to win, but in last night's clash of the less-famous dudes, he came out second best.

  • Does this make Edgar Renteria a money player, or just an amply compensated one?

Sometimes, a formerly great player serves notice that, however much has been lost to injury or age, there's still something there. Maybe this is Renteria's series to do so, because between some fine plays afield, a good game at the plate in Game One, and turning around on a Wilson fastball, it isn't hard to see how he could still be considered valuable in a world that moves Miguel Tejada to short as a contention move, and one that still counts on Orlando Cabrera. While Renteria is sure to be bought out for just $500,000 and become a free agent after the action is over, you can expect he'll get another spin somewhere.

---

Which leaves us where? Not too far off the anticipated program, in that I still like the Rangers' chances in Games Three and Five, and with Game Four, I'd already been willing to see how Tommy Hunter might have a few surprises in him against the Giants. But that's in the broad-stroke picture, and it has become only too clear that Washington's capacity to turn a tough situation into a disaster is a handicap the Rangers can ill afford in what was, is, and should still be, a close affair. The advantage of getting the DH back and having both David Murphy (or Jeff Francoeur) and Guerrero in the same lineup should afford the Rangers some sort of advantage, queueing up the Texas attack to go after Jonathan Sanchez and—ideally—take Washington out of the picture. Down 2-0, the Rangers must execute on the remaining chances they have, but that's going to have to involve a lot less elective decision-making—and no Mark Lowe sightings whatsoever—and a lot more of their top talents coming to the fore. Without that, we're at risk of witnessing an upset in a World Series matchup that was already an upset.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

Related Content:  The Clash,  The Who,  Washington

25 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

jsherman
(139)

How does Feliz not pitch to Ross with 2 on and no runs in?

Oct 29, 2010 04:51 AM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

Manager's ignorance.

Oct 29, 2010 11:54 AM
rating: 0
 
doncoffin
(422)

I'm with jsherman...where was Perez? Holland, who was death to lefties (in a *very* small sample( this year (362 OPS) was heaven for righties (818). (Actually, I would have had Perez in for Schierholtz.) But Washington has the "He's my closer, and that means the 9th inning" mindset. But you gotta get to the ninth.

Oct 29, 2010 07:05 AM
rating: 0
 
Todd S.

You mean Feliz? Yes, that point was discussed in detail in the stands last night as well, and certainly would have made sense.

Oct 29, 2010 07:12 AM
rating: 2
 
Todd S.

Hear hear Christina, echoing my thoughts from the ballpark last night perfectly. Pulling O'Day fearing Schierholtz was simply asking for trouble. When I saw Mark Lowe marching out of the bullpen, I figured it was some sort of elaborate seppuku ritual. After having touched Wilson the night before, the discussion in the Rangers section of the outfield revolved around the possibilities with Cruz-Kinsler-Murphy-Vlad (PH) against Wilson in the ninth. How ridiculous that sounds now.

Oct 29, 2010 07:11 AM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

I was watching the move and wondering if anyone had let the Rangers know that this was still a winnable ballgame. But I'm still perplexed that Lowe is here at all, because while not having Frank Francisco around was a significant setback, keeping a guy with little in the way of useful work this season, in this or any uniform, still has me set at 'boggled.' At least the Giants seem to understand what Mota is for: holding forfeit-sized leads, and that's about it.

Oct 29, 2010 08:19 AM
 
tduren

Bringing in Lowe was the dumbest thing I have ever seen. Unless Hunter, Feliz, and Ogando all had food poisioning there was no reason to bring in the last man in the bullpen in a 3 to 0 world series game with a day off following. Just unbelievably stupid pen management.

Oct 29, 2010 08:06 AM
rating: 4
 
aronf77

"After punting the courage of his Game One convictions with his full-season cleanup hitter, Vladimir Guerrero, in right field, Wash ran out a lineup that was Vladi-free and had Matt Treanor batting seventh. In a National League ballpark. Against the 12th-best starting pitcher in the majors this season."

So is your concern that Murphy rather than Vlad was starting against a righty in the outfield in AT&T Park, or that Benjie Molina was left on the bench?

"Which leaves us where? Not too far off the anticipated program . . . ."

Anticipated by whom? How could the series be any further off from the anticipated program at this point?

Oct 29, 2010 08:32 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

With the lineup, if you're going to bat your worst slot--catcher--seventh, in front of the automatic IBB possibilities of putting Moreland in the eighth slot, then you needed to be a lot more aggressive about pinch-hitting *and* double-switching the catcher's slot to make it come up less frequently.

Take the fifth inning--is Treanor really the guy who should be up with one out and a man on second? At least if Moreland's batting seventh, Moreland gets to bat in that inning, and then Treanor probably does as well, because his "mostly harmless" status might spare him from the IBB.

(Spiel this out a bit, and I know, this goes towards arguing for a third catcher on the roster, a gambit I'm usually against, except when you don't really have one good catcher.)

As for the second point, I'm self-referencing, in that while I thought the Giants would win the first game (but obviously not the way they did), I figured Wilson could shut them down in light of the problems San Fran (indeed both teams) have against lefties, referred to in the preview. And we did have another narrow game, at least until another Ron Washington eighth-inning special provided us with another Rangers Lowe-light.

Oct 29, 2010 08:54 AM
 
nateetan

Not starting Vlad was at least one correct decision that Washington made. Both Torres's and Huff's drives would have been easy RBI triples with him in RF instead of Cruz.

Oct 29, 2010 09:02 AM
rating: 2
 
ScottyB

Having Ron Washington as you manager in a 7 game series essentially means you have to "win" 5 of the 7 games to actually win 4, because he is going to blow one.

Against the Yanks, it came out OK because girardi was just as bad. But something tells me Bochy won't be as generous.

Oct 29, 2010 09:35 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

A good point; when you get a shutdown start from each of your big three, as the Rangers did in the LCS, but still lose one, you've got a lot of management to make up for.

Oct 29, 2010 12:09 PM
 
tweicheld

Though we can point the finger at Washington, and the painful-to-watch debacle of Holland and Lowe, the Giants are playing with an unbelievable level of confidence right now. I think clinching on the last day of the season, and then taking out the Braves and Phillies has them feeling mighty good about things. With Cody Ross and now Renteria and Uribe morphing into the latest of unlikely postseason heroes, I don't think the series goes back to SF. Unless, of course, American League superiority kicks in over the weekend. Oh wait, let me check the Secret Sauce to see if that overrides AL superiority.

Oct 29, 2010 09:46 AM
rating: 0
 
Ray Whatley
(267)

Nolan Ryan's "punishment" for Ron Washington should be: Go to the blackboard and write 100 times--"The more relief pitchers you bring in, the greater the chance that one (or more)of them will just not have it."

Oct 29, 2010 12:14 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

The quandary is that if you're only looking at them for a batter or two, you're barely even giving yourself the time to find out who does. Using Holland there bugged me as well, in that I'd rather he reserved Holland for full innings, not transition situations; they seem to prefer using Ogando that way already. In the end, I just didn't like the decision to make any replacement for O'Day. If he unsuccessfully baits Schierholtz on bad balls with an unintentional intentional walk, you still get O'Day against a right-hander with two on. Which isn't so very terrible.

Oct 29, 2010 12:47 PM
 
chriscaroy

i know the game was inherently over, so this is obviously a very minor issue, but was anyone else annoyed that in the 9th washington PH for treanor with francouer? presumably, you're still TRYING to win, right? not sure why he didn't use vlad there, who's obviously MUCH better than frenchy at not getting out.

Oct 29, 2010 14:05 PM
rating: 0
 
Brock Dahlke

because he may have wanted vlad later in the inning in the case of an insane comeback.

Oct 29, 2010 14:50 PM
rating: 0
 
juiced

Christina I think your breakdown of Washington's tactical mistakes is excellent, but your ultimate conclusion that these two games have been close is ludicrous. You're giving far little credit to the Giants for absolutely kicking ass and blaming the losses on Washington. His errors aside, and they are legion, the Giants have won both games on the merits and they havent been close.

Can the rest of the series tighten? Sure. Can it run away from the Rangers downhill even faster? Sure.

Nobody is respecting what the Giants have accomplished. Nobody.

Oct 29, 2010 15:56 PM
rating: 3
 
thegeneral13

This article reads as if the Rangers are the team that held the 2-0 lead heading into the 8th and squandered it due to Wash's mismanagement. Let's keep in mind that the Giants' win expectancy was already 95% when they came to the plate in the bottom of the 8th, and was 98% by the time Wash brought in Lowe. Did he make some dumb decisions? Yes. Is that a bad sign re: the remaining games? Well, it's not good. But are those decisions the reason the Giants won this game? No. Matt Cain is. A great game for him and the Giants.

Oct 29, 2010 16:24 PM
rating: 4
 
R.A.Wagman

I managed to catch Cain in person twice this year. In Toronto, and at home to the Dodgers. Neither time was he overwhelming. But both times he was more than solid, keeping the Giants in the game. Looking at his game logs this season, he has had three bad starts - I think two qualify as disasters. This is a very good to excellent pitcher, perpetually overshadowed by his freakier teammate, Lincecum. Cain looks like a workhorse and acts like one, so he goes relatively unnoticed. As I predicted on twitter before Game 1, I think he can take the WS MVP. Maybe then, people will notice the greatness of Matt Cain.

Oct 30, 2010 13:14 PM
rating: 1
 
Dodger300

I realize that all of the analysts have to write something to justify their salaries, but this critique of Wahington is pretty meaningless.

Reliever selection means very little when your team is already behind and can only muster three singles and a double, regardless of who is batting seventh.

Anyone have a breakdown of all the teams records when they only get four hits? My guess is they lose aroound 90% of the time.

An even more telling statistic is that they lose 100% when they score zero runs.

Oct 29, 2010 23:57 PM
rating: -1
 
BurrRutledge

What's that, we're down by two runs in the eighth? Guess there's no reason to play for the win, so we should just call it a night.

Oct 30, 2010 13:54 PM
rating: 2
 
Dodger300

The point is it did NOT affect the outcome of the game, so the criticism is just howling at the moon. Beat up the hitters if you must, but quit beating up Washington, because the Rangers lost regardless of who he put in to pitch in the eigth.

Oct 31, 2010 08:34 AM
rating: 0
 
Jason Wojciechowski

http://www.freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Logical_Fallacies_by_Todangst#Fallacy_of_the_Pre-Determined_Outcome

Oct 31, 2010 21:55 PM
rating: 0
 
Dodger300

The article cited says, in part: "In fact, aliens from outer space, who had placed wagers on the Yankee's opponents, may have chosen that instant to attack and annihilate Yankee stadium."

I can't refute the soundness of the logic that if Washington had only put in a different reliever, aliens may have somehow changed the outcome of the game. But seeing how well the Rangers hit over the course of the entire series, I rather doubt it would have helped.

Unless, of course, the aliens were on Texas' 25 man roster and could pinch hit...

Nov 04, 2010 09:29 AM
rating: 0
 
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