March 25, 2007

Tito And Papelbon's Usage

Sean McAdam writes that it is:
unknown what restrictions will be placed on Papelbon's usage. How often can he pitch back-to-back games? How available will he be in a day game following a night game? How often can the Sox responsibly ask him to get more than three outs? ... Part of Papelbon's appeal last year was that he could be used in tie games, in extra innings and to work out of jams before the ninth. Should he be unable to duplicate that workload — and all evidence suggests he cannot fully — then the tradeoff [from starter to reliever] is even more complicated.
I understand that the team doesn't want to lay out explicitly how Papelbon will be used -- even their honest assessment could change -- but I'm concerned Terry Francona will not maxmize Papelbon's innings and will use him "by the book" -- strictly as a 9th inning closer.

Let's say Boston has a 4-3 lead in the 8th, and the opposing team has two guys on base, no one out and some big bats coming up. If everyone in the pen is available, who should Francona call? The proper answer would be Papelbon.

We are at the likely turning point of the game. Therefore, Tito should go with his best pitcher. He should not consider saving Papelbon for the 9th inning -- worry about the threat in front of you. In 2004, down 0-3 to the MFY, Francona wisely did not manage with the idea of who to use for a clinching Game 7. He worried only about getting through Game 4, because losing that game meant there would be no Game 7.

If Tito brings in Donnelly or Pineiro or whoever into our imagined jam, and the other team takes the lead, Papelbon's opportunity for a save has gone poof. It's smart baseball (and common sense) to use Pap to get out of the jam, then have the 2nd-best arm begin the 9th inning. (Psst: This is what the "committee" idea was all about. Making the best use of your resources. (Real nutty idea, huh?))

Ideally, Papelbon's save total should be meaningless. The goal should be to make sure he works in the most important late-inning situations. Don't waste him by having him start the 9th with a two-run lead.

Will it happen? Francona:
The hard thing for me is when you commit to a guy in the eighth inning, even with one out or no outs, getting through the eighth isn't always the problem. Say the guy's thrown 20-25 pitches, now you're committed to that guy in the ninth and you're looking at a 40-50 pitch outing. That's almost like a start.
Now you're committed to that guy in the ninth ... No, Tito, No! Jesus! Either Francona is playing dumb (a strong possibility, actually) or I'd better clear a spot on the table beside my TV chair on which to bang my head.

Coco Crisp's left shoulder is much better. He played for the first time since March 14. ... Hideki Okajima could be more than a LOOGY. He has thrown his changeup effectively to both righthanded and lefthanded hitters. ... Matt Clement believes he can pitch this season.

Curt Schilling on his April 2 start: "I don't want to be on a pitch count. I know I'm 40, but I don't think the ace of the staff should be on a pitch count." ... Whatever you say, Grady.

Earlier this week, Manny Ramirez chatted with MLB.com's Maureen Mullen. Then "he picked up a bat with one hand and gave his interviewer a hug with his other arm, seemingly ending the conversation. He spritzed himself with cologne and headed out to the batting cages."

!!!

25 comments:

L-girl said...

Could you please put a pillow down before the head-banging begins? It's painful to watch.

L-girl said...

Will it happen?

I agree that it should happen, but I'm reasonably sure it won't.

"he picked up a bat with one hand and gave his interviewer a hug with his other arm, seemingly ending the conversation. He spritzed himself with cologne and headed out to the batting cages."

I'm jealous! But thank goodness he "spritzed" after the hug and not before. Yuck.

Devine said...

I know! If the 3-4-5 are coming up with a man on second and nobody out in the 8th, why not go to your closer then and let your second best handle the 6-7-8 or 7-8-9 guys in the 9th if the closer is overworked?

It's stupid.

redsock said...

why not go to your closer then

braack! bullpen by committee! bullpen by committee! new-age! braack! pointy head! spreadsheet! braack! protractor! 9th inning only! closer! braack!

Woti-woti said...

In addition to cement-head managers and irrational knee-jerk recoils to 'bullpen-by-committee', a lot of bullpen guys seem to require some kind of commitment as to what 'their role is going to be'. How about "warm up when I tell you, then go in and throw strikes."

I hope Tito is prepared for 161 pre-game media scrums where the first question is not "any line-up changes" but "is Papelbon available today."

L-girl said...

In addition to cement-head managers and irrational knee-jerk recoils to 'bullpen-by-committee', a lot of bullpen guys seem to require some kind of commitment as to what 'their role is going to be'.

As much as I agree about the cementheads and jerky knees, I think we have to respect an athlete's needs when it comes to their own work.

I have certain preferences as a writer, and I like editors to deal with me accordingly, and if they do, I'll produce higher quality work. Someone might say, just sit down and write, but my working conditions do effect my output. Many athletes are the same way.

Woti-woti said...

I respect work needs too, but I'm talking about middle/late relief here, not a closer, which has taken on a life of its own. Now we have designated set-up guys. Then we have guys that are 'uncomfortable' in certain roles (and I don't mean closing). I'm not trying to be King Canute turning back the waves here, I'm just saying some people are making middle/late relief far too complicated. Besides, very few games go according to plan and the bullpen arms (heads?) have to be flexible.

El Guapo's Ghost said...

In theory, I agree with the post, but in practice I'm not sure. Jim Corsi says that relievers feel much more comfortable knowing their roles so that they can mentally be prepared. Can Paps mentally handle pitching only the eighth and whomever the ninth? After years of primarily pitching only during certain innings and/or situations, I'm not sure these guys can handle it. Given their histories, I do think that Timlin and Paps can reverse roles without having a breakdown.

redsock said...

But these guys -- Donnelly, Pineiro, Timlin, Sexy Lips -- have done a variety of jobs. Starting, set-up, close, etc.

How hard is it to sit them down before a series, talk about the hitters/lineup, and say if this happens, you'll be in the 8th or if that happens, it'll be the 9th.

Or you'll most likely face the RH at the bottom of the order, it might be the 7th or 8th.

Whatever the roles are, they evolve. The 8th inning guy might be in the 7th or the 9th, or after pitching the night before, he might have to pitch the 12th the next night. They seem to be able to handle that alright.

Maybe I'm missing something.

L-girl said...

I'm just saying some people are making middle/late relief far too complicated. Besides, very few games go according to plan and the bullpen arms (heads?) have to be flexible.

Yes, I agree. Too much specialization, which leads to too much rigid thinking.

L-girl said...

Maybe I'm missing something.

I think you are, to some extent, missing the human factor.

But in the case of Sexy Lips, he's the one with something missing.

9casey said...

I think baseball has lost some of that human factor , especially with managers, they no longer go on gut feelings, they look at numbers and situation and then form some sort of an educated quess on who they should call on.....

Tito is and always will be with sox a manger whose descions are based on what his laptop says....

Then when he is second guessed he can always say that guy had better numbers......

I would love to see Paps pitch 8-9 every night but that would not be right......

This bullpen on paper right now looks better than the last 2 years..

Jim Corsi,we are listening to him now, 7 career saves.It's easy to know your role when you look up and say , shit the game is tight ,no way I'm going in.....

Beth said...

i love how we're second-guessing tito before the season has already started.

redsock said...

I think baseball has lost some of that human factor , especially with managers, they no longer go on gut feelings, they look at numbers and situation and then form some sort of an educated quess on who they should call on.....

We have no way of knowing if this is true. Most teams use statistical analysis to such a huge degree that most of us would be completely shocked.

John McGraw was using splits and platoons in the 1910s. It ain't new. But every so often some moronic sportswriters feel obligated to call basic strategy some silly names as though it hasn't been a integral part of baseball for 100 years or more.

When it comes to gut/education, well, I'm gonna put my faith in the guy using facts rather than guessing. If I wanted a guy who went with his gut, I would have been fine with keeping Gump forever.

Tito is and always will be with sox a manger whose descions are based on what his laptop says....

To put it nicely, I disagree. I've been yelling and screaming and calling him Francoma for 3 years. Why? Because he so often goes against basic statisical analysis, against things that make the most sense, against what I have to assume the FO tells him.

Then when he is second guessed he can always say that guy had better numbers......

Only if the guy DOES have better numbers. And just because his number are better, doesn't mean he won't fail. No one successed or fails 100% of the time.

When a manager makes traditional choices -- goes By The Book -- and fails, all he has to say is he did what you are "supposed" to do -- saving his closer for the 9th -- and it just didn't work out -- shitty pitcher blew the game in the 7th or 8th. It is a safe, built-in excuse that no one in the mainstream bother to question.

But trying something out of the mainstream and failing, well, then you are in big trouble. Tito does not do much of that. He is not progressive enough as a manager.

redsock said...

In August 1954, Branch Rickey wrote an article for LIFE magazine.

The title: "Goodby To Some Old Baseball Ideas"

Subtitle: "'The Brain' of the game unveils formula that statistically disproves cherished myths and demonstrates what really wins"

Rickey's first sentence: "Baseball people generally are allergic to new ideas."

The basic ideas of running a baseball team that Rickey laid out (with the help of Dodgers stat man Allan Roth) more than half a century ago would still get him called a geek by a majority of players, coaches, managers, sportswriters and fans.

Along the way he calls RBI "a misleading figure", says the importance of batting average should be reexamined, calls fielding averages "utterly worthless" and "deceiving". he sounds like those new-age guys Murray Chass is giving himself a strike over.

Rickey closes: "It is the hardest thing in the world to get big league baseball to change anything ... But they will accept this new interpretation of baseball statistics eventually. They are bound to."

52 years later, baseball still has a long way to go.

L-girl said...

I think baseball has lost some of that human factor , especially with managers, they no longer go on gut feelings

If only! I don't want most manager's gut feelings. I'd like some brains and sense behind their decisions. Save the guts for what you want to have for dinner.

Woti-woti said...

Branch Rickey? Didn't he have something to do with that Jackie Robinson guy? And drafting Roberto Clemente from some foreign country? Was he some kind of commie or radical or something? Jeez.

BTW, I trust that all the good folks enjoying this lively discussion are still casting their JoS votes on the SI poll.

9casey said...

Redsock : I just read that article and wouldn't you say that Branch and Beane are on the same page.........

Something else he said that still holds true today .....pitch good and you win...

Redsock said:But trying something out of the mainstream and failing, well, then you are in big trouble. Tito does not do much of that. He is not progressive enough as a manager.

Without sounding ignorant....what does that mean?

redsock said...

I just read that article and wouldn't you say that Branch and Beane are on the same page

You did? The one in LIFE? Very cool. It's amazing to think he was writing about this in the mid-50s (actually, other people were writing the same things 50 years before Rickey). Yes, I would say they have a lot of the same ideas.

Redsock said:But trying something out of the mainstream and failing, well, then you are in big trouble. Tito does not do much of that. He is not progressive enough as a manager.

Without sounding ignorant....what does that mean?


If Tito brings in his closer when he is "supposed to", when every other manager in the game would agree is the right time, and the closer doesn't do his job, it isn't Tito's fault. The media will not blame him for managing by the Book -- it simply didn't work out that night. You can't win 'em all and we'll get 'em tomorrow. Right?

Now if Tito does something with the pen that is a little non-traditional. Say he brings Papelbot into a game against the Yankees to put out a big fire in the 7th. Pap does his job, but another pitcher loses the game in the 9th.

Bringing in his best pitcher in the 7th -- when the Sox's lead was in the greatest danger of being lost -- was probably the right thing to do, but it did not work. And because it is not something that most managers would do -- use your closer in the 7th? are you insane? -- and most media and fans wouldn't understand it, Tito will get roasted in the media because (allegedly) HE lost the game because of his "poor managing".

Thus, Tito and most managers will not go against the grain of traditional managing in this era. They will not go too far outside the lines of what a manager is "supposed" to do. It's safe and you won't get too much shit for it.

I think that kind of thinking is too rigid. And I wish Tito was more progressive in his thinking and managing.

Jere said...

About this proposed situation: If you'd said two outs, I'd say bring in Pap for the last out, and then keep him in for the ninth, shoulder be damned.

But with no outs--hmmm. I see what you mean, but only because we haven't had a dependable eighth inning guy in a while. If one of the young'ns pulls a Pap'06, then I'd say bring that guy in for the three outs in the eighth.

You might say, 'Why not go with Pap and let the guy who's suddenly lights out anyway go the ninth? Shouldn't be a problem for him if he's so good." But in that case, if they're both good enough to get three late inning outs, why not just leave Pap in the ninth, and the other guy in the eighth, since those are the roles they're prepared for? Just like you wouldn't move Ortiz up in the order if you're facing a pitcher who consistently gives a HR to the leadoff batter, or something like that. Okay, weird example. But I'm just saying, certain roles do exist whether they're justified or not.

And I do think there's something to be said about saving the best for last. It's one thing to focus on one GAME at a time, since you get to start fresh the next day. You can't do the same thing an INNING at a time, because once a player leaves a game, he can't come back.

L-girl said...

But I'm just saying, certain roles do exist whether they're justified or not.

Not sure what you mean here. The role exists outside of its justification? So we use the person in that role regardless of what's needed? Or something else, I'm not getting it.

And I do think there's something to be said about saving the best for last.

But you gave to get to the last. If you have a situation in the 7th or 8th that calls for your best, and you send someone else out there because it's supposedly not the right time for the closer - the inning supposedly dictates that you must bring in someone else - and that somebody else blows the game (because that's what he does, he's not capable of pitching under that kind of pressure), what good does saving the best for last do?

Jere said...

In a situation where every other reliever is shitting the bed, yes, just bring him in and take your chances. But there is a world, Sox fans, in which you actually have a guy you trust to get big outs in the eighth. I'm hoping our pen gets good enough so that we don't always have to think "Pap or bust." And again, I said "there's something to be said for" saving the best for last. Meaning there are two ways to look at it. It's like, when do you use that free spin in Wheel of Fortune? Not everyone plays it the same way.

And about roles: I just mean, and I've said this before here, that I agree with the concept of "closer by committee." But there is, in the game today, the "closer" role. How do you tell your guy, "Well, we know you're good enough to be in this role that every other team has, where you get to come out in the ninth to the cheering crowd, but we're gonna do it differently"? I mean, that's gonna mess with a guy's head. If we take the first step to revolutionizing the game in the long run, and we win some championships before everyone else cacthes on, that'd be great, but I don't think it's that easy.

9casey said...

L-girl said:and that somebody else blows the game (because that's what he does, he's not capable of pitching under that kind of pressure), what good does saving the best for last do?

Sounds like dessert......I actually agree with you ( let me know when you are done stroking out) Yankee fans have screamed for years to bring Rivera in earlier.it just never happens.

Jere said...

They bring in Mo early quite a bit, lately anyway--I know because whenever they do I comment how Joe is panicking, and it always makes me giddy.

Jere said...

But yeah, gimme dessert first, middle, and last.