Monday, May 22, 2006

If your sanity is important to you...

don't read Paul Meyer's game description and notes in the Post-Gazette today. Because I made the mistake of doing so, I am beginning my day today with rage--not a good way to begin the day.
Perfect situation -- runners on first and second, no outs.

Tracy sent up Jose Hernandez to bat for Craig Wilson. Hernandez lifetime was 3 for 7 with two home runs against Bob Wickman, but Tracy ordered Hernandez to bunt.

"Numerically, I was very well aware of [Hernandez's success against Wickman]," Tracy said. "But right now he's not swinging the bat that makes you think he's going to hit. I thought it was very, very important to get the runner to third. That puts you in a wonderful position and means a lot of decision-making on the other side of the field.

"If Hernandez swings away and hits into a double play, you kick yourself."
It gives confidence to know that our manager was "very aware" of the long and significant history that Hernandez has had facing Bob Wickman. Were he unaware of that, we might be inclined to think that he is an idiot.

Left unaddressed here is the elephant in the middle of the room that no one talks about--why was Hernandez batting for Wilson in the first place? I would hope that Kovacevic would have at least suggested the possibility that the game was lost yesterday by Tracy's overmanaging, pointing to the two failed sacrifice bunts late in the game. Meyer offers an alternate explanation, though: failure of the DH.
They are, after all, 14-30. And 4-19 on the road. And 2-13 in day games. And 4-12 in one-run games. And 2-13 in their past 15 interleague road games.
Some of that ineptitude in the final category can be attributed to the unproductiveness of their designated hitters.

The Pirates first used a designated hitter June 16, 1997, at Minnesota. Mark Smith hit a two-run home run in his first at-bat, and it has been pretty much downhill for the Pirates' DH since.

Smith hit three home runs as the Pirates' DH. Nobody else has more than one.

Entering games yesterday, Pirates designated hitters ranked seventh all-time among National League teams with a DH career batting average of .260. They were tied for eighth with nine home runs. And tied for 13th with 31 RBIs.
Thanks for the astute statistical analysis, Paul. But take heart, Pirates fans, there is hope on the horizon as we stumble from Cleveland to Arizona. Meyer offers this in the Pirates Notes:
The Pirates might enter their next series at Arizona with some confidence.

They've won seven of their past 10 games at Chase Field, outscoring the Diamondbacks, 69-46. In their past four games at The Chase, they've had 52 hits and scored 29 runs.

Jeromy Burnitz is a lifetime .259 hitter in Phoenix and has 12 home runs and 28 RBIs in 139 at-bats there.
Yes, a red-hot Jeromy Burnitz could really turn things around for us in Arizona. Can't wait!

And what's more, Arizona may afford the opportunity to insert into the lineup a catcher who has played first base once (or is it twice) in his life, enabling us to replace our second best hitter.
Doumit, bothered by a tender left hamstring, still isn't able to catch, but there's a possibility he could play some first base during the series in Phoenix.

Doumit worked out at first base Saturday and yesterday in the cool temperatures at Jacobs Field and should be able to expand his workouts in much warmer Phoenix.
So, that will be a good thing...why again?

OK, that's enough. I'm getting worked up all over again...

9 Comments:

Anonymous bucdaddy said...

Tracy's affection for Jose Hernandez is bordering on the homoerotic ... not that there's anything wrong with that.

I don't get his reasoning at all, but I'm getting used to that. The other day, when Hernandez went 0-fer against Dave Williams & Co., Tracy said he was getting good pitches to hit and just missing them, making it sound like he believes the hits will come flying out of Hernandez's bat at any second. Sunday he sends him up on a mission to bunt with the reasoning that even though Hernandez torches Wickman, there's no reason to expect him to get a hit.

What exactly was it about Hernandez that happened between Thursday and Sunday that finally convinced Tracy that Hernandez can't hit, period? How can he just be catching on to this when we've known it for years?

For the record: Hernandez had three successful sacrifices in 2005, 0 in 2004 (part of which he spent in L.A. with Tracy), 0 in 2003, and 0 in 2002.

The stupid thing about all this is, if Tracy realy really really felt the need to take the bat out of Craig Wilson's hands, and he really really really didn't believe Jose Hernandez could even hit Wickman, he had a couple much better bunting alternatives on his bench.

Victor Santos: 3 sacs in 2005, 6 in 2004, 1 in 2003.

Oliver Perez: 7 sacs in 2005, 10 in 2004.

I know the whole thing about having pitchers pinch hit and pinch run -- do anything other than pitch -- seems to have fallen out of favor. But it ought to be a hanging offense to just blatantly ignore the abilities of people you have at your disposal to send up one of the worst bunters on your team.

But I'm also getting used to seeing Tracy try to ignore the abilities of people like C. Wilson and Sanchez every day, so I shouldn't be surprised.

9:49 AM  
Anonymous KPatrick said...

Spot on. This will be the featured piece of the portfolio Meyer submits to the committee judging the Hack Of The Year awards. It's almost a self-parody.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Rory said...

That was a really good point Bucdaddy, even if he wanted to bunt, he's got pitchers who are ridiculously better at it. Oliver of late has really been doing that well.

I was so dissappointed by that article. I was really hoping that Tracy was going to get so frustrated acounting for his own idiocy that he swallowed his own tongue.

Stupid Meyer.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Billy said...

It's a disgrace that a sportswriter at the biggest paper in the city could watch that game and not question the decision to pinch hit for Wilson and put Hernandez up there to bunt.

Tracy has no appreciation for the use of statistics as a tool to actually, you know, learn things or to make informed decisions. Statistics are, for him, only a tool for providing absurd rationale for his decisions. Invariably, those decisions are based not on an honest analysis of statistical data, but on illogical and bizarre prejudices and faulty notions about Pirates players. For a sportswriter to let him get away with this charade, without even posing the most obvious questions, is both inexcusable and pathetic.

6:36 PM  
Anonymous bucdaddy said...

As a wiser man than I once said, he uses statistics the way a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.

Wow. My head has swelled three sizes from having people agree with me. I'll take a big chance here at ending my brief winning streak by tossing a couple other notions your way to see what y'all think.

This idea that because Sanchez is such a good contact hitter ("Absolutely" Tracy said) you take the bat out of Jack Wilson's hands: Is there reasonable support for that? Let's see:

J. Wilson 2006: 132 AB, 13 K
Sanchez 2006: 120 AB, 8 K

J. Wilson career: 2846 AB, 360 K (8:1)
Sanchez career: 642 AB, 58 K (11:1)

I dunno ... Tracy seems to be somewhat right about that, but nevertheless: It's not like Wilson is a TERRIBLE contact hitter. He's not Burnitz or, for that matter, Jose Hernandez up there, where the strikeout or the popup is all but a sure thing. This is a good hitter. Guy's only striking out once every 10 ABs this year. Guy's hitting .288 or whatever. So why not let him swing away with a runner on second and nobody out? Or at least see if the first pitch is a good pitch to hit. Why bunt on the first pitch? What was the hurry?

Jack seemed disgusted about the whole episode in Meyer's story. What wasn't clear is whether he was disgusted at his own inability to get the bunt down or disgusted that he was asked to bunt in the first place.

Finally, and I realize this would call for a level of sophistication unheard-of on the Pirates in the past 13+ years, but: You had McLouth on second, and he's got a little speed. He stole two bases the night before. Why not send J. Wilson up to bluff bunt on the first pitch, see how far he can pull the third baseman in, and allow McLouth to evaluate his chances of a straight steal? If it's no go, you've still got at least one pitch to bunt with. There's a lot of things you can do here, why not try something unexpected? I mean, what the hell, you've got a .350 hitter on deck.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Billy said...

The bunts were just bad plays last night, as they are most of the time, and they decreased our chances to win. It would be nice if Tracy would take just a bit of the responsibility for the loss, but he didn't--he never does.

Jim Leyland often used to say things like, "We all have to do better--the hitters, the pitchers, the coaches, and me."

Most people have forgotten Gene Lamont, and deservedly so, because he wasn't much of a "leader of men." But one thing I do remember about Lamont is what a forthright, no-bullshit guy he was. Near the end of his tenure, someone asked him a question about his future with the club, and he just answered it honestly. That's how the world found out that he was about to be fired. He almost never said anything that was self-serving, dishonest, or stupid.

There may be other qualities in a manager that are more important--that leader of men thing, maybe--but Leyland and Lamont were honest and had integrity. This clown who Littlefield brought in to preside over his own demise doesn't.

10:52 PM  
Anonymous bucdaddy said...

Well, that'll teach me to get a big head. Two minutes after I posted the screed above, I turned on the game. The Pirates had McLouth at second with nobody out, and Jack Wilson at bat. Wilson struck out, and McLouth got doubled off when Sanchez hit a pop fly to short right.

So ... Jack Wilson CAN'T make contact and Sanchez CAN'T get a one-out hit with a runner on second and McLouth CAN'T evaluate when to take an extra base.

Just thought I'd go ahead and call myself an idiot before someone else did.

11:08 PM  
Anonymous bucdaddy said...

Billy,

Chuck Tanner once told me, "I never made a bad decision. They just didn't all work out."

Sounds like Tracy's philosophy too.

Hey, look. The "word verification" I have to type in to post this is "ynzdber." What's that mean in Pittsburghese?

Ynz d ber? How about, "Pardon me, but would you fine fellows perchance hail from Pittsburgh?"

11:15 PM  
Anonymous bucdaddy said...

Those managers and coaches who say stuff like "We lost the game, so I must not have coached very well" ... that always rings hollow with me. I hear Bill Cowher say that sometimes. You think for a second he believes it? You know he doesn't, you know he believes he knows better than anyone on the planet. It's just something he says to mollify the fandom and deflect questions before they can be asked. You know coaches and managers believe what I wrote Tanner said: "I never made a bad decision, they just didn't all work out." You know in their heart (if they have one) this is what they really believe. They HAVE to, really, if they're ever going to get any sleep at night. A manager must make dozens if not hundreds of big and little decisions every game. If he started dwelling on them, he'd never get anything done. They say stuff like "Yesterday's game is over, I can't worry about it, we have a game to play today," and we snort in derision at cliches like that, but you HAVE to focus ahead, day to day and minute to minute, because even if you admit to yourself that you made mistakes yesterday, there's nothing you can do about them, so what's the point? Now if you're a good manager or coach, you evaluate day to day the decisions you make and perhaps over time you alter your conclusions about what you can and can't do with some people, but that's not the same as admitting you made a mistake. You have to make split-second decisions and you have to have absolute confidence in them. You start second-guessing yourself every move, you're in big trouble.

A second point is, what would be the point of giving your detractors any more meat by saying you were wrong? Whether you're a baseball manager or your boss at work or a general at war or the president, you're always going to have people who think everything you do is wrong anyway. You're never going to make those people happy by admitting you're wrong, so screw 'em. The people you have to worry about are those under your control or command who have a rock-solid belief in you. You have to maintain that at all cost. You start giving them reason to believe even you think you're a screwup, you start introducing doubt into the ranks of true believers, who's going to follow you into the Valley of Death? (Not to be too dramatic about it.) What chance do you have? Once you think you've lost the confidence of the troops, your only option is to offer your resignation.

So I'm fine with picking apart every goofy thing Tracy says and does -- that's part of the fun of being a fan, and as aggravating as the Pirates are to watch, let's admit this is kinda fun or we wouldn't waste our time -- but I'll never fault him for never saying, "I really screwed that one up."

10:08 AM  

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