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The most automatic managerial decision in today’s game is to bring the closer in to pitch the ninth inning with a lead of three runs or less. That is certainly the strategy Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Angels manager Mike Scioscia will employ in the American League Championship Series and what Dodgers manager Joe Torre will do against the Phillies in the National League Championship Series. When there is a save situation in the ninth inning, they will signal for their closers.

Girardi and Torre certainly can’t be faulted for thinking that way. Girardi can summon Mariano Rivera, whose 6.149 WXRL led the major leagues this season. Torre has Jonathan Broxton, who was fifth at 5.032. You might question whether Scioscia should automatically go to Brian Fuentes, as the lefty was just 37th with 2.449 WXRL. Fuentes is second in WXRL among Angels left-handed relievers, as Darren Oliver had a 2.679 mark. However, Scioscia showed in the regular season that he is not afraid to call on Kevin Jepsen in the ninth if the situation dictates the use of a right-hander, although Scioscia only used Fuentes in save situations during the Angels’ sweep of the Red Sox in the American League Division Series.

When the Phillies have a lead of three runs or less in the ninth, the decision is not so easy for Charlie Manuel. While Brad Lidge got the save in the final two victories of their win over the Rockies in the National League Division Series, Manuel showed he is willing to consider different options. Left-hander Scott Eyre got the final two outs of the ninth inning in the decisive Game Four before Lidge struck out Troy Tulowitzki to close out the 5-4 victory. Manuel also showed during the regular season that he won’t necessarily bring in Lidge in save opportunities. In a 5-3 victory over the Nationals on September 8 at Nationals Park, Manuel pulled Lidge with one out in the ninth, the bases loaded, and the Phillies clinging to a two-run lead. Ryan Madson closed that game out and was the closest thing the Phillies had to a closer for the rest of the season.

Manuel is admittedly not a numbers guy and the Phillies have the only front office that does not employ a statistical analysis. However, you don’t have to be Nate Silver to know Lidge has had a horrible year. The conventional statistics say that, as his 11 blown saves in the regular season led the major leagues. BP’s advanced metrics confirm, as Lidge’s -3.257 was easily the worst in the majors, more than doubling the second-least-effective reliever on the list, the RoyalsKyle Farnsworth (-1.562). Madson’s 2.354 WXRL led the Phillies in the regular season. However, he blew both save opportunities against the Rockies and Manuel decided to go back to Lidge, hoping he was on the verge of recapturing his 2008 magic. Lidge was a combined 44-for-44 in save opportunities between the regular season and postseason as the Phillies won the World Series and also led the majors with 7.612 WXRL.

Manuel figures to go to Lidge as he closer in the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers that begins Thursday night, primarily because the manager feels the right-hander has the hot hand following some self-introspection. “Actually, about the last three times he’s been out there, I think he’s been good,” Manuel said. “Also, sometime when you have a decent outing and then you take a break, I think that can be good for you and it has been for him. It gave him time to sit there and think. He is his best coach. I used to tell my hitters that all the time [when he was the Indians‘ hitting coach]: ‘You’re your best hitting instructor. You’ve got to learn yourself and know thyself.’ It’s the same for a pitcher. You have to study everything about yourself, what you’ve got and how you get people out. Lidge has been more relaxed and it’s just a matter of time until he gets his confidence back. His stuff is still there. He’s been a tremendous pitcher. Believe me, he’ll still be as good as he ever was.”

Lidge has had ups and downs throughout his career, dating back to his days with the Astros when he had a rocky postseason in 2005 and was then removed from the closer’s role the next season. That is why Manuel has been extra careful in the way he has handled Lidge from a psychological standpoint, even when he removed him from the closer’s job last month. “I’ve always stuck with him,” Manuel said. “Actually, I started answering questions when he blew his first save. People would say, ‘Who is your closer, closer, closer?’ I kept saying, ‘Lidge, Lidge, Lidge.’ Finally, one night in Washington, I was sitting there and it hit me we weren’t going to win the game, and I thought he was not going to do it. I had to do something, and I took him out.

“We ended up winning that game but it was hard for me to do that because I am a loyal person. At the same time, I’m a manager today because I don’t let my heart overweigh the importance of the game. When I talk to my team, every time I talk to them, I tell them the most important thing, our first priority, is to win the game, and I never let that my heart overrule that. I think there came a time where I had to give him a break and sit him. At the same time, I never once gave up on him, because I’ve always known that he could get back to where he was at.”

Rockies manager Jim Tracy didn’t have his best series against the Phillies, making numerous questionable decisions that were topped by allowing tired closer Huston Street to face Ryan Howard with the game on the line in the ninth inning of Game Four rather than bring in left-hander Joe Beimel. Howard hit a game-tying two-run double, and Jayson Werth followed with the game-winning single.

Keeping in mind that the ballots had to be cast before the postseason started, Tracy will certainly be the runaway winner for NL Manager of the Year. He guided the Rockies to a 74-42 finish after being promoted from bench coach on May 29 when Clint Hurdle was fired; the Rockies were 18-28 under Hurdle.

The contracts of both Tracy and general manager Dan O’Dowd expire at the end of the month. The Rockies are expected to sign O’Dowd to an extension in the coming days, and then work to bring Tracy back. However, Tracy followed his season-long pattern of not talking about his future when asked after his team’s elimination by the Phillies: “When I told Danny on about the 29th of May that I would do this, I said I wanted no discussion whatsoever as far as the future was concerned,” Tracy said. “I think there’s plenty of time to sit down and talk about something like that and deal with that situation. But I wanted no conversation, I wanted no involvement whatsoever, to distort the focus from where it should have been, and that is on these players and their accomplishments over the course of this season.”

The Rockies made it to the postseason for the second time in the last three years after getting to the playoffs just once in their first 15 seasons. The Rockies got to the World Series for the only time in their history in 2007, and Tracy believes they have what it takes to break through and win it all in the near future, stressing that to his players in a brief team meeting following the NLDS loss. “I talked to them about was the fact of the door of opportunity that’s in front of you,” Tracy said. “We knocked on it. We stuck our head in there. But the idea of being able to get all the way through it and play that last game of the year and win, you have to keep pounding on that door. You can’t go away. You can’t show up three or four years later and have it be real new to you again. You have to continue to push the envelope. Move forward and try to give yourself the opportunity to go back year after year after year, as many times as you can, until you go all the way through there and play that last game of the year and win.”

It seems the Yankees are the bane of every mid-market and small-market team in baseball. Whenever the Yankees have success, it seems people associated with those clubs and fans in those cities discredit it because of payroll issues. That was the case again in some circles when the Yankees swept the Twins in the ALDS. Much was made about the payroll disparities, as the Yankees started off the season at a major league-high $201 million, while the Twins were at $65 million, which ranked 24th among the 30 teams, though they made a number of late-season moves in adding shortstop Orlando Cabrera, right-hander Carl Pavano, right-hander reliever Jon Rauch, and left-handed reliever Ron Mahay.

Thus, it was refreshing to hear Twins manager Ron Gardenhire not use money as an excuse for his team getting TKO’d in the first round of the playoffs after their amazing late-season run to overtake the Tigers for the AL Central title. Counting the ALDS, the Yankees went 10-0 against the Twins this year. “They are professionals and they are baseball players,” Gardenhire said of the Yankees and particularly their longtime stalwarts such as Rivera, left-hander Andy Pettitte, catcher Jorge Posada, and shortstop Derek Jeter.

“I know a lot of things get said about their payroll and all that stuff, but the bottom line is, they are just great baseball players. Aside from all the other stuff, they are very, very talented. That’s why they make a lot of money, because they deserve it, because they have played the game for a long time, they know how to get it done and they play with class. I tip my hat to them. We had our chances. We played on the same field with those guys and had our chances a lot this year and they got us every time. It’s just because they got a few more at-bats than we do in big situations and they know how to finish people off just a little bit better than we do.”

The most interesting name on the Astros’ list of 10 candidates they plan to interview for their manager’s job is Phil Garner. That’s because the Astros fired Garner in 2007, less than two years after he managed the franchise to its lone World Series appearance of their 48-year history, and replaced him with bench coach Cecil Cooper. Now the Astros are interested in Garner replacing Cooper.

What makes the whole story really strange is that Garner called Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith to recommend Bob Melvin, his former bench coach with the Tigers, for the job. Smith saw Garner’s name appear on his caller ID and asked if he were calling about becoming a candidate. “I decided to throw my hat in the ring, and they decided to take it,” Garner said. “There are no special favors. I’m going through the vetting process like everyone else.”

Garner lives in the Houston suburbs and is a popular figure in that city. Those around the Astros believe he has a legitimate chance to be rehired, though he is up against a strong field of candidates that includes six others who have at least some major league managerial experience in Manny Acta, Dave Clark, Pete Mackanin, Melvin, Al Pedrique, and Ned Yost. Rounding out the field are Red Sox coaches Tim Bogar and Brad Mills and Padres hitting coach Randy Ready.

“We’re excited about the entire field of candidates,” Astros GM Ed Wade told the Houston Chronicle‘s Jose de Jesus Ortiz. “All 10 candidates have a great deal of experience and are held in high regard throughout Major League Baseball.”

Mills could wind up being a leading candidate for the manager’s job with the Indians, as they have also received permission to talk with him. ESPN analyst and former big-league manager Bobby Valentine is expected to get an interview with the Tribe, but it seems the only way he would get the job is if president Paul Dolan orders GM Mark Shapiro to hire him in what would be a public relations move.

The Nationals have been extremely quiet about their managerial search. While there is some sentiment to retain interim manager Jim Riggleman, Melvin could emerge as a strong candidate, as he has the respect of GM Mike Rizzo from their days working together with the Diamondbacks.


MLB Rumors and Rumblings:
While left fielder Jason Bay is saying he wants to re-sign with the Red Sox as a free agent, his admitting that he wants to test the market is taken by some as an indication he would really prefer to sign with a West Coast team in order to be closer to his Seattle home. … The Cardinals will make a serious attempt to re-sign left fielder Matt Holliday as a free agent, but won’t stay in the bidding if it surpasses $100 million. … Twins insiders are optimistic the club will work out a long-term contract extension with catcher Joe Mauer in advance of the opening of Target Field in April. … Friends of Red Sox left-handed reliever Billy Wagner expect that he will play in 2010 despite his comments to contrary, believing he will get the itch to continue his career during the winter months. … The Tigers will only re-sign second baseman Placido Polanco if he is willing to take a steep pay cut. … The Rockies are expected to trade right fielder Brad Hawpe, who was completely marginalized in the NLDS loss to the Phillies, in an attempt to balance their lineup with a right-handed power hitter. … Bryan Price, who resigned from the Diamondbacks as their pitching coach when Melvin was fired as manager in May, will get interviews with both the Reds and Brewers for their pitching coach openings.

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pfrduke
10/14
Minor quibble re Fuentes. In game 2, Jepsen started the 9th to throw to Martinez and Youkilis. After the latter doubled, Fuentes was called on for Ortiz (a natural switch at that moment that probably would have been made regardless of Youkilis' hit), Bay, and Lowell.
dsc250
10/14
John, you write "the Phillies have the only front office that does not employ a statistical analysis." Is that a typo? They surely employ some statistical analysis, if only of the kind such as that Ryan Howard as their starting first baseman would hit more HR and drive in more runs than Miguel Cairo. Did you mean, rather, that they don't employ "a statistical analyst"?
tradeatape
10/14
Aren't the Royals, and their manager Dayton Moore, notorious for eschewing statistical analysts/analysis?
3n2sports
10/14
That's rather nit-picky. I can watch both players in your example take 10 swings in BP and pick the better starter and I'm no scout. What he means is rather clear, they do nothing to leverage analytics.
Richie
10/14
Be a bit more careful here, John. As pfrduke notes above, Scioscia didn't make the knee-jerk closer move in game 2. And Torre also has used Broxton 'setup' and then Sherrill 'closing' twice that I know of. Actually, I'm surprised the editor let that slip by, too.
bldxyz123
10/14
Right. To expand on your quotes around "setup": Torre brought in Broxton to an appropriate match-up situation, rather than reserve him for a save. Thrice, Torre brought in Broxton in the 8th to face Albert Pujols (two of those times, it was with two outs and Broxton pitched the 9th, one of those times, it was to start the 8th and Sherril pitched the 9th).
mhmosher
10/14
Whether or not Yankees fans and most BP writers want to admit it or not, the Yankees do have a tremendous advantage over the other teams. I realize they reinvest whereas many teams do not, but they still enjoy a national following, a regional network and an unlimited payroll. I know BP is pro-player and anti-cap, but there needs to be a cap and a floor in place. The Yankees are buying the World Series.
eighteen
10/14
The Yankees haven't won a WS since 2000. 2001: Lost WS to AZ 2002: Lost LDS to ANA 2003: Lost WS to FL 2004: Lost ALCS to BOS 2005: Lost LDS to ANA 2006: Lost LDS to DET 2007: Lost LDS to CLE 2008: Missed Playoffs entirely. With the exception of BOS, all these losses are to small- or mid-market teams. Buying high-priced mercenaries certainly helps making the playoffs, but it's a very risky strategy. Here are the teams that have won more WS titles than the Yankees since 2000, without paying $1,578,299,197 in player salaries: FL, AZ, ANA, CHW, SL, PH, BOS Tell me again how payroll determines playoff success.
mhmosher
10/14
Tell me how it doesn't. The Yankees have made the postseason 14 of 15 years, having the highest or close to the highest payroll every year during that span. Am I supposed to be impressed by the 2009 Yankees the way their fans and BP are? Sorry....1996 and 1998 were impressive. They bought and paid for 2/3 of this team.
eighteen
10/15
My 8-year-old nephew has better reading comprehension skills than you do.
mhmosher
10/15
Whatever dumbass. No one said payroll equalled postseason success - you did. I just said it gives a tremendous advantage. Fuck you and your nephew.
eighteen
10/15
No, you did: "The Yankees are buying the World Series." I'm not surprised a nitwit like you wouldn't equate winning the World Series with playoff success.
mhmosher
10/15
Another internet tough guy. Love to see you try and say that to my face. That would be hilarious.
irablum
10/15
While the Yankees have a high payroll, they certainly haven't "bought" anything. only Mark Teixeira and Johnny Damon among their position players were signed as free agents, and only A-Rod and Nick Swisher were acquired in trades. The rest, (Posada, Melky Cabrera, Jeter, Cano, and Matsui) were all "developed" by the Yankees (unless you call Matsui a FA since he signed out of Japan. and that was a seriously questioned move at that). Looking at their pitching staff, there are some mercenaries there, like Sabathia and Pettitte, (though Pettitte was basically lured out of retirement). But Joba and Chin Ming Wang and practically the entire bullpen are home grown. What the Yankees money allowed them to do was to resign their own free agents for top dollar, trade for overpaid contracts, paper over their mistakes, and most importantly, sign prospects with reckless abandon. As long as they remain smart about their use of money, they will continue to be "in contention". The problem with a cap (or a floor) is that it forces teams to do things for non-baseball reasons artificially. It means that no matter how much money signing a certain guy might make for you, you might not be able to do it.
bldxyz123
10/14
Simple: you have a better chance of winning in the playoffs if you buy your way in than if you don't get there at all. The Tigers and White Sox have no chance this year. Not to mention a handful of teams with teeny tiny payrolls that haven't been in the playoffs 8 out of the last 9 years.
aquavator44
10/14
Sort of off topic, but why are the Angels considered even a mid-market team? I realize they technically play in Anaheim and not the city of Los Angeles, but that's still a huge market.
juiced
10/14
They get to the postseason every year. Hence payroll equals success.
irablum
10/15
your statement is patently untrue. The markets of the teams listed below, only Arizona and Cleveland are what I would call middle market. None are small market. Detroit has 5 million people living there. so does south Florida. Anaheim splits the second largest market in the US after only new york. Half of over 17 million people is still a HUGE chunk. How can you call Anaheim a "middle market" team? Unless you define large market as "the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, because I said so"
juiced
10/14
"It seems the Yankees are the bane of every mid-market and small-market team in baseball. Whenever the Yankees have success, it seems people associated with those clubs and fans in those cities discredit it because of payroll issues." I love baseballprospectus but to a man/woman you are Yankee apologists. EVERY year they have a payroll that more than doubles the MLB average and the gap between them and the next highest team usually equals a small to medium market paryoll for an entire team. Try starting a fantasy baseball league with that kind of payroll disparity and see how many takers you get. Frankly the Yanks should be winning rings more often than they do given their inherent structural advantages. And its getting worse not better with only one small market team sneaking into the playoffs on day #163 and the rest being large market teams. Honestly, it is a measure of how far sabermetric analysis has come in influencing front office decisions throughout baseball that money, rather than analysis, separates winners from losers. Until meaningful revenue sharing is imposed dont expect things to change either; geniuses like Beane will constantly be behind the 8 ball.
mhmosher
10/14
Clap...clap...clap. You'd swear sometimes that BP is a member of the player's union.
TGisriel
10/14
Some thoughts on the Yankees' revenue advantage 1. It is often said that we have many examples of teams making poor decisions while spending a lot of money. The Yankees make good decisions with their spending. But The Yankees' poor decisions are simply ignored or papered over because they (unlike most other teams)can simply write off a bad investment. They are more willing to recognize sunk costs because they have the revenue to be able to afford it. Also How difficult is it to identify the best player in free agency every year, and simply pay the most for him. Was there anyone out there who didn't know that Teixera and Sabbathia were good? Soon after they inexplicably did not sign the best free agent at a position where they had a need (Beltran) they missed the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. 2. It is often said that the Yankees (unlike some teams) are willing to invest in their payroll rather than put the money in their pocket. I believe they have sufficient revenue to do both. 3. It is often said that the Yankees are adept at generating revenue. Actually, I think their revenue on the per capita basis for the population in their market is unremarkable. Their market often has 10 times or more population than the teams against which they are competing. They are not making 10 times more revenues. I still think that rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the lions against the Christians in the Roman Coliseum.
mhmosher
10/14
Like I've said, I will not give them an ounce of credit if they win it all this year. I'll give them credit for the 90's and 2000. Not this time. Not with Aroid, Tex, CC, AJ, Damon, Matsui....sorry.
juiced
10/14
I love how BP and Yankee apologists act like the Yankee's making the postseason EVERY year but one for about two decades has nothing to do with their massive payroll/revenue advantage.
3n2sports
10/15
Might the Rockies look to acquire Dan Uggla from the Marlins? Uggla is rather Hawpe-like from the right side. A third team could be brought in or else 2 separate moves made. Uggla represents a much greater gain over Barmes than any affordable options in the OF over Smith, Fowler, or CarGo. And Barmes would make a fine defensive half of a platoon with the stone handed Uggla.
mhmosher
10/15
Thing is.....how many writers at BP are Yankees fans? Joe and Will immediately come to mind. It's natural to be a little biased, even though I don't think those two are bad at all. But BP is a huge Yankees apologist. I've been here six years and there are constants. Prospectus is anti-owner and pro-player, anti-salary cap, pro-union and very much pro-Yankees. They certainly do ignore payroll when it comes to the success of the Yankees.
mhmosher
10/15
There needs to be a cap. Right now, everyone is subjected to Hank and Hal Steinbrenner showing everyone how big their porkswords are every winter.
3n2sports
10/15
But if you instate a cap you kill revenues, player compensation, league competitiveness, etc. The current system is far better than a cap, even if we have to see the Yankees in October every year.
3n2sports
10/15
I know the 'league competitiveness' thing is going to raise eyebrows. Suffice it to say that a salary cap creates very perverse incentives without the proper rules in place.
LukeKasdan
10/15
What does "Pro Player/Anti Owner" mean? Are you starting a grass roots movement to protect the multi-billionaire owners from having to share too great a percentage of revenues with the workers that generate them?
mhmosher
10/15
Yes. Yes I am.
juiced
10/15
Nobody is talking about a salary cap as a solution to the Yankee problem. I'm suggesting true revenue sharing is the solution without the perverse incentives. Honestly, would any of the Yankees reveneue be possible without other teams to play. They have a right to demand more from NY or let them play with themselves, a solution no less than Bill James suggested 25 years ago.
irablum
10/15
the problem is always in the execution. When people start talking about small market/ large market team disparaty, they always make the mistake of equating payroll with market size. Here is the list of markets from largest to smallest in the US. (with multi team markets split.) 1) NY Yankees/Mets, 11.1 million 3) LA Dodgers/Angels, 8.9 million 5) Boston Red Sox, 7.5 million 6) Texas Rangers, 6.7 million 7) Philadelphia Phillies, 6.4 million 8) Houston Astros, 5.8 million 9) Atlanta Braves, 5.7 million 10) Florida Marlins, 5.4 million 11) Detroit Tigers, 5.3 million 12) Toronto Blue Jays, 5.1 million 13) Chicago Cubs/White Sox, 4.9 million 15) Arizona Diamondbacks, 4.3 million 16) Washington Nats/Baltimore Orioles, 4.1 million 18) Seattle Mariners, 4.1 million 19) SF Giants/Oakland A's, 3.7 million 21) Minnesota Twins, 3.6 million 22) Colorado Rockies, 3.0 million 23) San Diego Padres, 3.0 million 24) Cleveland Indians, 2.9 million 25) St Louis Cardinals, 2.9 million 26) Tampa Bay Rays, 2.7 million 27) Pittsburgh Pirates, 2.4 million 28) Cincinnati Reds, 2.2 million 29) Kansas City Royals, 2.1 million 30) Milwaukee Brewers, 1.7 million Instead of just breaking it into thirds, lets break it up as follows: >5 million: NY, LA, Boston, Texas, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta, Florida, Detroit, and Toronto. 3-5 million: Chicago, Arizona, Washington/Baltimore, Seattle, SF/Oakland, and Minnesota >3 million: Colorado, San Diego, Cleveland, St Louis, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Milwaukee. Since the free agent era opened (1976) the breakdown in championships has been (noting that team populations have changed drastically since 1976 and some teams didn't exist that long): >5 million: 20 world series champs 3-5 million: 6 world series champs <3 million: 5 world series champs so, there ya go. Just wishing that my large market Rangers would get off their but and add to the total. Note that the following cities have more population than Milwaukee: Orlando, 2.7 million (larger than Pittsburgh) Sacremento, 2.4 million Charlotte, 2.3 million Portland, 2.2 million (larger than cincinnati & KC) Indianapolis, 2.0 million San Antonio, 2.0 million Columbus, 2.0 million Las Vegas, 1.9 million note the existence of Austin at 1.7 million near to San Antonio makes a South Texas team that much more viable. And growth of both areas since 2000 helps too (3.6 million vs 2.9 million in 2000) I could defenitely get behind a move of any of the small (<3 million) teams to San Antonio. Except that they have all recently gotten new stadiums. But a move of the A's there would benefit both the A's and the Giants, creating another large market team (as the Giants get all of the Bay Area's nearly 7.5 million people and the A's get to pull from San Antonio (2.0), Austin (1.7), McAllen (0.7), Corpus Christi (0.4), Brownsville (0.4), and Laredo (0.2) with the only losers being Houston, who really doesn't pull that much in San Antonio anyway (having lived there).
LukeKasdan
10/16
Is there a way to determine a rough figure of a market's revenue potential with population and cost of living figures or are the variables too great?
juiced
10/15
And what I'm referring to is large market team to small market team revenue sharing as opposed to player/owner splits which is a different issue entirely.
irablum
10/15
As long as you acknowledge that Florida is a LARGE market team with a low payroll and that St Louis is a SMALL market team.