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Archive for the ‘Gardenhire’ Category

More on Gardenhire’s Questionable Thought

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I already despaired over Gardehnire’s bullpen usage. Here, I despair over his thinking over lineup construction, specifically, who to put in the second spot in the batting order. He is such a victim of the “old school” conventional wisdom.

Aaron Gleeman, who writes a lot about the Twins, wrote a post about this in which he pointed out:

Gardenhire has used middle infielders in the second spot regardless of on-base skills and overall hitting ability, and not surprisingly the results haven’t been good. None of the seven players with at least 75 starts in the No. 2 spot had a .350 on-base percentage there and only Revere, Jason Bartlett, and Orlando Hudson were above .330. Cristian Guzman, who started most often in the No. 2 spot, had a terrible .283 OBP there, and Luis Rivas was even worse at .276.

The stupidity of Gardenhire’s approach lies in its acceptance of making outs at the top of the order. Sacrifice bunts, after all, are intended to trade outs for advancing a baserunner one base. In certain situations they are good plays, such as, say, in the late innings of a tight game in which one run can either tie the game or put your team ahead. But, as a general rule, unless you know one run is all you will need, playing for one run is not a great strategic decision.

However, the really, truly stupid part of his approach is his past reliance on low-on base percentage players as second-place-in-the-batting-order hitters. On-base percentage measures the proportion of times a hitter reaches base out of all his plate appearances. It is, in short, “not-make-an-out” percentage. After all, 1 – OBP=the percentage of times an out is made. Thus, putting low-OBP guys into the second spot of the batting order amounts to putting out-makers at the top of the lineup. Why, oh why, would one do that?!?

During the dead ball era, when extra-base hits were rare, errors were common, and run production was low, it made sense to put a guy who could “handle the bat” into that slot of the lineup, as advancing runners without basehits was a skill upon which managers put a premium. But the reason that skill was important was that it wasn’t easy to get a hit because baseballs just didn’t travel that far. They were kept in play until they were practically mush, discolored and all scuffed to hell. Now, however, when balls leave play after hitting the dirt, the batter always has a brand new baseball to hit.

The fact that lots of errors were made is important too, for if there is a decent chance the fielders will make an error, bunting does not amount to an automatic out. But as equipment and fielding skill has improved over time, sacrifice bunts almost always result in outs.

But, putting the bunting aside, the use of low-OBP middle infielders in the second spot is just plain perverse in a game where (a) making outs helps the team in the field, (b) teams have limited numbers of outs to work with in a game, (c) you only win by scoring runs and scoring runs requires producing baserunners.

Gardenhire just appears to be living in another century when it comes to thinking about the game of baseball. Sure, there were plenty of sacrifice bunts in the World Baseball Classic, but that doesn’t make it the smart play, particularly at the Major-League level.

Intentionally making outs should never be encouraged.

And it is nice to see Mauer in the 2-spot in the lineup, even nicer to think that the Twins’ resident stat-head may actually be getting through to Gardenhire. Now if he could just sell Gardy on optimal relief pitcher usage. Of course, Gardy is hardly alone in using his bullpen suboptimally, as Jim Leyland showed us this past week. Hell, the entire sport uses bullpens suboptimally.

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Written by jjvedamuthu

April 7, 2013 at 16:41

Two Injuries, Two Instances of Questionable Thinking

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I have mentioned before that I thought the Brewers might prove to be enormously entertaining this season. The exciting mix would be a potent offense with some problems with run prevention. While the starting pitching looks pretty generally competent, the Brew Crew’s run prevention woes center more on some defensive issues and some serious questions regarding their bullpen’s ability to (1) keep runners from reaching base, (2) prevent batters from making good contact, (3) ensuring that batters don’t hit the balls with which they make contact beyond the outfield fences. Despite these problems, however, I thought the Brewers’ offense would provide a nice balance resulting in high-scoring and thus “entertaining” ballgames.

Well, the interesting nature of Brewers baseball took a hit last night, with both Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez missing either the whole ballgame or a significant portion of it due to injury. In Braun’s case, it was neck spasms that kept him out of the lineup and the entire ballgame. Though it is not regarded as serious, what few glimpses we caught of Braun during the game broadcast revealed he had to turn his torso to look from side to side, and he never turned his neck once. Ramirez, however, will be absent from run-producing activity for some time, for he was placed on the Disabled List today. With Corey Hart’s absence, this makes for at least two key offensive pieces missing at least the next two weeks of play. And given how tricky neck/back issues, when can Braun be counted on to be, well, Ryan Freakin’ Braun, masher of baseballs and run-producing madman?

And the bullpen issues I anticipated have manifested themselves. The club itself appears concerned enough about bullpen quality to have made the decision to carry 13 pitchers on their current roster, leaving them an extremely thin bench. Now, with both the starting first baseman and third baseman out of ht lineup, the Brewers may have to do something they resisted in the spring, promoting Hunter Morris. But they want him to succeed at Triple-A. But these injuries will likely leave the Brewers trapped in a dilemma between the conflicting interests of major-league competitiveness and player development.

On another injury-related note, Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey will be returning to the Disabled List. While making his first start since returning from missing all of 2012 following Tommy John surgery, Lackey left in the fifth inning, suffering a strained right bicep. The only good news was that it was the bicep rather than the elbow.

In much funnier news, I read that the Phillies are finding their corner outfield defense to be a concern. Heck, Delmon Young hasn’t even played an inning in the field for them! Just wait until they get a load of that travesty. (As a Twins fan, I feel well-qualified to note that Delmon Young might as well be using a frying pan when attempting to field his position.) This again points out how foolish it is for the Phillies to continue eschewing the use of advanced statistical metrics, particularly newer fielding metrics like FRAA or UZR; old-school notions like fielding percentage are easily fooled by terrible-glove guys like Dominic Brown and Delmon Young since a guy can’t make an error that would reduce his fielding percentage if he never gets to the batted ball in the first place. Brown didn’t make an error yesterday, after all, he just played a single into a triple.

Hilariously, we also have the instance of Twins manager Ron Gardenhire blaming a reliever for what happened in the Twins’ loss to Baltimore. Yes, the guy did serve up a grand slam, but Gardenhire himself made at least two bad decisions at the end of that game. First of all, Gardenhire ordered an intentional walk which loaded the bases before bringing in the lefty to face the monstrously hot Chris “The Krusher” Davis. When he brought in said left-handed relief pitcher, he didn’t bring his best lefty to face The Krusher, Glenn Perkins, but rather brought in the marginal guy out of the bullpen, Tyler Robertson. He didn’t use Perkins because it wasn’t the ninth inning. Perkins is, after all, the Twins’ “closer,” and conventional wisdom holds that a manager must use his closer in the ninth inning when he can get the “save.” In this way a statistic of dubious value, the save, determined Gardenhire’s bullpen usage. Which is about the most idiotic thing conceivable. Bases loaded in the eight with the game on the line, why use the second-best left-handed pitcher you have? Gardenhire then compounded his already multiple errors in judgment by shifting blame for the result onto the pitcher he used. Look, if the guy’s fastball can’t beat Davis’ swing, then you use someone else on Davis; the best pitch there is, after all, is the located fastball. The only thing worse than Gardenhire’s behavior has been the complicity in the media in transmitting Gardenhire’s “reasoning” rather than asking him why he is managing “by the numbers” rather than thinking through his decisions. Oh well, I guess the larger point to observe is that the baseball media and the conventional wisdom remain inextricably interlinked.

Gardenhire Makes Me Scratch My…

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From Aaron Gleeman:

Matt Tolbert has a .290 career on-base percentage, including .183 this year, yet yesterday was the 10th time in 34 games this season he’s batted first or second in the Twins’ lineup. And prior to Trevor Plouffe‘s hamstring injury Ron Gardenhire had him batting second despite a .306 career OBP in the minors. At this point I should be used to it, but Gardenhire ignoring OBP skills because he has it in his head that No. 2 hitters should be middle infielders is maddening.

Oh, yeah, and Gardy’s thing with middle infielders needing speed so J. J. Hardy was expendable in the off-season. Bah! Humbug! Gardy said, “We want to get back to the speed game.”

I say: how about the getting-on-base-and-thus-scoring-runs game, Gardy? OBP isn’t optional since no one on means no one scores.

Take a look at 2011 Twins’ offensive ineptitude: click on R/G, R, H, 2B, HR, BB, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and TB, and the Twins are easy to find–in last place. To summarize: in every measure of offensive performance that translates directly into run production the Twins are dead last.

Written by jjvedamuthu

May 11, 2011 at 17:31

Posted in Gardenhire, Sabermetrics, Twins

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Twins Injury Woes Continue–Thome to DL

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Liriano no-hits the White Sox, but Thome was sent to the DL today.

(Much, much more on Liriano’s game here, at Twinkie Town, and here, thanks to Aaron Gleeman.)

The revolving door at shortstop continues (’cause, Gardy doesn’t like slow middle infielders and so the Twins just HAD to trade J. J. Hardy and run off Orlando Hudson).

Ben Revere called up.

Read more here and here.

Alas, cruel irony–Blyleven wasn’t in Chicago broadcasting the Twins last night for Liriano’s no-hitter, since he was, instead, in Cooperstown, NY, at the orientation for Hall of Fame inductees. Go figure.

Written by jjvedamuthu

May 4, 2011 at 10:11