Friday, May 28, 2004

On Vacation California (ye olde stomping grounds before Grad School) and will return in a week.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Stumbling into Strategy?

I don't know what prompted Melvin to start using his relievers wisely, but yesterday's game was an excellent example of how to use a bullpen. Up 3-1 in the eighth, J.J. Putz relieves Freddy Garcia and gives up a walk and an infield single. The go-ahead run is coming to the plate, in the form of left-handed hitting Bobby Higginson, who's having a decent year, hitting .280 with a .791 OPS.

Prior to this game, we'd expect Melvin to go by The Book: bring in your lefty one out guy ("LOOGY"), who for us is Mike Myers. After all, lefty Carlos Pena is up after Higginson. And it's not the ninth inning, so it's not time for your closer.

Except this is a situation where you need your best reliever pitching, particularly one that can get you a lot of strikeouts. A hit makes it a one-run game with the tying run at third, waiting for a sac fly. The ninth inning will come with a clean slate, but right now, you need outs in rapid succession, and you can't afford any more base-runners. Happily, Melvin finally realizes this, and brings in his best guy, Eddie Guardado, who by the way, is the best on the team at getting strikeouts. (It would almost be defensible to leave Putz in, since he's been pretty good so far. But again, there's no room for error now, and the infield single was a hard shot off Putz that may have injured him.)

Now it's time for Detroit manager Alan Trammel to play bunt-foolish baseball, as he attempts to have Higginson, a power hitter, bunt. A waste of his talent, and Higgy can't bunt anyway, and pops it up to Olerud. One down, but the fire's still burning. Guardado proceeds to strike out two of the next three batters, giving up a walk on a 3-2 count to Rondell White.

Now that the Tigers' eighth-inning potential rally has been quelled, we can breathe easier. The ninth is not a problem for Eddie, who retires the side in order, with two more strikeouts. In total, Guardado threw 31 pitches, which is something he certainly can handle (he threw 37 against New York on May 15th). At his current workload pace, Eddie will throw 919 pitches this year, which would be the lowest total for him since 1999, when he missed part of the season. In fact, this will be his 11th full season in the majors and he has exceeded 1000 pitches in all but two of those seasons.

This win can be credited in large part to an intelligent use of the bullpen by Bob Melvin, and we should laud him for making good moves. We'll have to see if a similar situation comes up when the M's are tied, because that will be the true test of whether Melvin has learned.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Around the Internet

A few of you may not look around at other blogs very much. The USS Mariner, who continues to ignore me (insert sad violin music here), but continues to be an excellent daily resource of opinions and links (insert cool MTV indie-rock music[?] here), really should be the first thing you read, before you read the paper, or, god-forbid, the M's official web-site.

For a look at how badly the M's are performing even compared to the statistically-minded pessimism of the blogosphere last off-season, check out this post at Sodo Oh No*. First column is what actually happened in 2003, second column is what we thought would happen in 2004, and third column is what is actually happening.

As Larry Stone put it, The M's are done. The only way for Bavasi to save this season is by making smart trades. See David Cameron's post about how to clean house.

Also, Steve goes into great detail into why Bob Melvin needs to read the Baltimore Sun. Read the whole thing, but if your wondering about the Baltimore Sun reference, scroll down to the bottom.

*No to be confused with the wife of the late John Lennon.

How Bavasi can increase the importance of his scouts

We know how much Bavasi loves his scouts. He was let go from his GM job in Anaheim in part because of his refusal to fire scouts in his organization. Not that Bill would be reading this, but for rhetorical effect:

Dear Bill,

I know you love your scouts. Those guys know baseball, like they were born in the dugout. You know there's no substitute for actually seeing a player, watching the way he approaches the game, the at-bat, the pitch. It tells you about character, whether this player has what it takes to fight his way through adversity and make it to the Show. You want to show the world how important your scouts are? Get a stats guy.

Face reality: in 2004, any team that doesn't lean heavily on statistical analysis just isn't playing on a level field. Your competition has laser levels, and you're eye-balling it. Betting the future of the organization on a young guy without some objective measurement is too expensive and takes too long for trial-and-error. You've gotta have some sort of foundation.

That stats guy will show you where to start. He'll keep you from missing the guys your competitors are signing and turning into all-stars. He'll warn you about signing the guys that will likely fall off the table next season. The point is this: You'll now have the same tools that every other team has. The numbers are easily available, Bill, and there are thousands of guys out there—literally thousands—who can help you make sense of them. Every team—every one of them—can do statistical analysis. This isn't a zero-sum game, where if you look at the stats, the other guy can't, or vice versa. Not having a stats department would be like not employing a pitching coach. You'd be starting three meters behind everyone in the race. Getting your organization looking at statistical analysis just puts you on the same playing field.

This is where your scouts come in. Once you have (and use) the tools that every other team has at your fingertips, your scouts become your most important resource. They'll tell you that that young pitcher you were thinking about drafting has the worst mechanics in the world, and won't make it out of A-ball before injuring himself. The numbers can't tell you that. They'll tell you that your young hitting prospect is going through some personal issues, but you should hang onto him for another year to make sure he really isn't going to develop before you let him go.

But remember, until you start paying attention to the vast amount of objective baseball information out there, your organization will be fighting with one arm tied behind your back. That's the same arm other teams are using to cut you up with right now.

Remember, everyone has access to the same statistical resources that you do. Once you start using them, you'll be on the same playing field as everyone else. That's when your scouts are going to give you an advantage, but not before then.

You've got your scouting department. Get your statistical department, now. Because your team's broke, and you need to make sure you make it better, not worse. We don't care about your loyalty to your scouts, or how great an executive your dad was. We want this team to win, and that ain't gonna happen with your best hand tied behind your back.


Nate Woodward

Sunday, May 02, 2004

A couple of longer posts are percolating in the ol' noggin right now, but the end of the term in grad school is keeping my hands full right now. But how far the mighty have fallen--we're looking up at Texas. Hey, did anyone else notice they got better after they dumped Alex Rodriguez? No, I don't really think there' a correlation there, but it's fun to wonder about what the baseball gods are laughing at.