Filed under: Baseball | Tags: Allen Craig, baseball, marc rzepczynski, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Tony La Russa, World Series
I wish that I could convince myself that what I am about to write is simply hyperbole. I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want to be this reactionary and short-sighted. But it’s impossible. I can’t stop thinking it. Tonight may have been the worst-managed baseball game I’ve ever watched. Feel free to correct me. Tell me about a game that was managed worse. It would make me feel better.
Tonight I watched the St. Louis Cardinals make a series of awful decisions that cost them the lead in the World Series. And it sucked.
Earlier this evening, I made a very quick post about Mike Napoli’s stats versus righthanded and lefthanded pitchers. It was brief, and I only made it because I couldn’t fit my point into a single tweet. Basically, Napoli’s had a strong platoon split for his entire career. He hits righthanders fine, but he crushes lefties. This season especially, he’s been one of the best hitters in baseball against lefthanded pitching. Leaving in noted lefty Marc Rzepczynski to face Napoli with the bases loaded was painfully foolish. It’s reminiscent of allowing Lohse to face Howard in game 1 against the Phillies. La Russa loves matchups, and he’s been manipulating them like crazy throughout the playoffs. Here, he sat in the dugout and watched as a mediocre lefty faced a batter who eats lefties for breakfast. The result was predictable. 4-2 Rangers.
If only that was all we saw tonight. Instead, we also witnessed Ryan Theriot pinch-bunt. Bunting isn’t a great move in general. There are few situations where it improves the chances of scoring a run. Most of those situations involve a pitcher at the plate. There’s no reason to insert a player into the lineup specifically to bunt. That’s insane. I thought about citing statistics to prove how insane that is. I don’t think that’s necessary. The insanity is self-evident. And I wish it was the most insane thing we saw.
No, the most insane move of the night was bringing Lance Lynn into the game to intentionally walk Ian Kinsler. This was the calling card of the catastrophe. It was how we all know that something was truly wrong. There’s no explaining it. Bringing in a pitcher, issuing an intentional walk, then pulling that pitcher should never happen. Never. I can contrive an elaborate situation to justify almost any managerial move–even the pinch bunt. Not this one. Clearly, the Cardinals management was lost in one of the most important games of the year.
Then to top it all off, in the top of the ninth the Cardinals send Allen Craig while Pujols (who can hit the ball a long way) is batting and Neftali Feliz (who can barely find the strike zone) is pitching. It wasn’t just predictable that Albert would swing at a ball out of the zone and Craig, slow as his tortoise, would be thrown out at 2b. It was damn near fated. Craig can’t run. Feliz is probably one of half a dozen pitchers in baseball that Pujols can’t be trusted to make contact with. Why? Why hit and run there? Craig crossing the plate doesn’t win the game for the Cards. It doesn’t even tie the game. The only reason to hit and run is to prevent the double play. DPs have been a problem for the Cards, but consider this:
Albert Pujols has struck out 704 times in his career. He’s only hit into 232 double plays. That’s actually a lot of double plays and not that many strikeouts. But the K is STILL far more likely than the GIDP.
Neftali Feliz has struck out 164 batters in his career. He’s allowed 150 ground balls. That’s right, Feliz is more likely to strike out a hitter than allow him to make contact and produce a ground ball.
There’s no reason to just expect a DP. There’s no reason AT ALL to hit and run.
After the game, the excuses came fast and furious. There was something wrong with the bullpen phone. Albert himself put on the hit-and-run. The speed at which this team covers for Tony La Russa is phenomenal. If Allen Craig could run as fast as the Cards spin their failures, the team would be coming home up 3-2.
I really don’t know what else to say about what we saw in game 5. It was atrocious. It was like watching a car accident, except car accidents are usually over much quicker.
One week ago, the entirety of sports media was fawning over La Russa’s brilliance. I wonder how many of those same writers dare question him after tonight?
Filed under: Baseball | Tags: Albert Pujols, Allen Craig, David Freese, Infield Defense, ryan theriot, St. Louis Cardinals, Tony La Russa
There are a whole lot of things I could write about Sunday’s game against the Braves. Most of them have already been covered earlier at some point in this blog. Ryan Franklin is a bad pitcher, Ryan Theriot is a bad shortstop. Trying to wring anything more out of these subjects would be agonizing. I think everyone knows my opinion about the two Ryans at this point. Frankin is a long reliever and Theriot is a second baseman. Relying on them in critical innings or at shortstop respectively has led to predictable disaster. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Et Cetera. Et Cetera.
But that’s not all that happened. The Ryan-fueled collapse wasn’t the biggest loss the Cardinals suffered on Sunday. David Freese was hit by a pitch and suffered a broken bone in his hand. Once again, the St. Louis Cardinals do not have a third baseman.
Freese getting injured and missing significant time was almost as predictable as a Ryan Theriot error or a Ryan Franklin walk-off loss. Yes, HBP injuries are unexpected. Yes, it has nothing to do with his ankle. But we’ve seen this before. Think back to June 17, 2001, when J.D. Drew lost 6 weeks to a broken finger when David Wells drilled him in the hand.
These two injuries, combined with the bizarre career of Nick Johnson, almost make me want to believe that avoiding the DL is an innate talent that certain people simply lack. But I won’t go that far. It’s far more likely that this is just confirmation bias rather than some incredibly mild form of osteogenesis imperfecta that allows the victim to play baseball and live a normal life but makes HBPs, foul tips, and bad baserunning far more dangerous.
Whether or not an injury to David Freese can truly be unexpected, the injury still happened. And it caught the Cardinals off guard. In fact, combined with an earlier precautionary exit from David Freese, TLR was forced to move Albert Pujols to third base for the first time since–
Wait. That’s not how it happened. That’s not why Albert Pujols had to take his surgically reconstructed elbow across the diamond, where he actually has to use it. That’s not why a player who hasn’t played 3b in nearly a decade was put there during a tie game.
All of that happened because Tony La Russa pinch hit Jon Jay for Tyler Greene. AFTER both of the injuries. The decision was made to pull Greene from the game with the full knowledge that someone would have to play out of position at either 2b, SS, or 3b. (And Ryan Theriot was already playing out of position at SS.)
It was one of the most unbelievable things I’ve seen from TLR. And that’s saying a lot, because I can still remember the day he brought in Jeff Tabaka to face Lance Berkman, and when he double switched Matt Holliday out of the lineup during a 20 inning debacle. There’s a reason Albert Pujols is not the Cardinals’ 3b. It isn’t like we’re keeping him at first because of the fantastic options we have at third. He’s a 1b because he’s been diagnosed with a bad case of Fucked Up Elbow. And last I checked, throwing across a baseball diamond is not part of the recommended physical therapy for Fucked Up Elbow.
Unsurprisingly, TLR has backed himself into this corner before. On April 22, 2008, an injury to Cesar Izturis coupled with typically poor bench management by the Cards front office left the team with a deficit of infielders. That time, however, TLR made the right decision. He put Pujols at 2b.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t the right decision. But if you start from the assumption that “moving Pujols off 1b” is a critical part of the solution, 2b is the best place to stick him. Throws at second base rarely require much force, and it’s probably the second best position on the diamond for a player with a halfway reconstructed elbow. Yes, Pujols wouldn’t have any range at 2b, but neither does Skip Schumaker and that never seems to bother La Russa.
If TLR moved Pujols to 2b for a couple innings, I might have made a few jokes. It would have been funny. It would have made a few fantasy baseball teams with very low playing time requirements juggernauts. But it wouldn’t have been particularly dangerous for the Cardinals’ season, or Albert Pujols’s career.
And now, of course, the team has to make do without David Freese. From the sounds of it, the Cards are activating Allen Craig rather than calling up Matt Carpenter. What does this mean? It means we’re going to have to fill three spots in the lineup (and the entire infield defense minus Albert) with the following players: Ryan Theriot, Nick Punto, Tyler Greene, Daniel Descalso, and Allen Craig.
How terrifying is that?