Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sloppy Baseball

The Yankees have been a very good team thus far this season. Best in baseball. They've done this despite inconsistent offense and what could probably be defined as inconsistent fundamentals, and that's because their starting pitching has been largely outstanding and their closer rarely gives up a lead. I've discussed the offensive element quite a bit, and it just keeps on going so I won't beat it into the ground. The inconsistent fundamentals were on display all week.

Tuesday night in Arizona, Dontrelle Willis was really struggling in the 1st inning. He walked Jeter, gave up an RBI single to Swisher, walked Teixeira, walked Rodriguez, and struck out Cano. 5 batters faced, 1 out recorded, right? Wrong. Swisher got picked off first and Teixeira got thrown out by about 10 feet trying to steal 3rd base on a strike 'em out throw 'em out of Cano. When you have a pitcher walking three of the first four hitters, and allowing the other to single, you should be standing on the base. Like glued to it until the ball is delivered. To have this happen once is one thing. But then to send Teixeira, who is not exactly a beacon of speed, right after? I understand that a 3-2 count with a contact hitter at the plate is a traditional situation to put runners in motion. But all situations are not equal. You don't want to help a struggling pitcher out. The Yankees did just that through poor player focus and poor managing.

Tonight in Los Angeles Pettitte gave up a leadoff double to start the 3rd inning. Pretty routine. What happened after should have been similarly routine. It ended up being anything but. The pitcher was due up, and Kershaw dropped down a bunt back to Pettitte. Instead of taking the sure out at 1st, he tried to get the runner going to 3rd. Can't completely disagree with the decision. You always want to get an out there, which usually means taking the sure one, but if you have a good shot to get the lead runner you can take a chance. But if you're going to do it you have to be able to make the throw. Pettitte threw the ball away. Mistakes happen. Next Furcal dropped down a bunt for a hit, very nice bunt and usually you just tip your cap. You still tip your cap, but the problem is he did the very same thing the night before in the exact same spot. I'm a big fan of adjusting. Anyway, the next hitter, Belliard, drops down a sacrifice, again back to Pettitte. With Rodriguez charging and Jeter holding the runner at 2nd, nobody is going to be covering 3rd unless Rodriguez gets back to the bag. Pettitte fields the bunt, and looks immediately to 3rd. There are times where Rodriguez might be able to get back to the bag, but this was not one of them. No problem, Pettitte does what he's supposed to do, check 3rd, then throw to 1st. Throws it away. You can't have this type of execution. No question baseball is a game of reaction. Bigtime. But you also have to run through sequences in your head based on the current situation. Not just for yourself, but so that you and your teammates are all on the same page. The Yankees seem very much not on the same page in this regard recently.

This doesn't really have to do with fundamentals, just general annoyance, but for years now it seems like the Yankees give up more groundball hits down the line than everyone else. By everyone else, I mostly mean that they don't get nearly as many as they give up, but also other games that I watch. I understand they are probably playing the percentages, but you can only hope that those percentages are balanced against the fact that when you get to a ball in either hole you are saving a single, but when you get to a ball on the line you are saving a double. So in playing those percentages, you have to consider that you might get to more balls playing off the line because more balls are hit there, but the ones you give up down the line go for more bases. Just tonight, all three innings the Dodgers scored in were set up by groundballs down the line that could have been caught, not even by playing on the line, but just by protecting it a little bit more. I have no idea about any of the numbers, and I certainly trust that the Yankees staff is positioning people where they are for a reason. But just by eyeballing it, it seems like this is an issue.

11 comments:

the gm at work said...

PF,

If we take a look at all the negative posts you've put up about the Yankees this year (and there haven't been many because they've been such a good team in general) and we can find a pretty strong general theme.

That theme is that you don't like Joe Girardi. True, but that's not my point.

The real similarity among all these problems indicates that this team clearly has some collective concentration problems. Sloppy defense. Failure to anticipate or detect patterns. Playing complacent. Blowing leads. Not being patient at the plate.

That's all a failure to concentrate. And unlike my co-author (and my father), I am not one to crush managers whenever I get a chance. However, these are all issues that have to be resolved from the top.

PF said...

Incorrect inference on the first count, correct inference on the second count. With the exception of some bullpen slumps and a few other tactical decisions/philosophies (and no manager is perfect, nor is there any perfect way to manage. If I was the manager and instituted all the things I think are right, plenty of people would be complaining about me too. People are always going to criticize the manager, and I think we should keep that in mind when I do so with girardi) I think girardi has done an outstanding job for the last 17 months and counting. He has shown a real willingness to adjust to things he's doing that aren't working, and I love that. And he's just become a great manager. There really isn't a whole lot more to it, he's one of the best in the game right now.

That doesn't mean he's never going to do anything wrong, and I agree that as manager he has to assume some responsibility for the way this team has played at time. But really only for the things he can control, like sending teixeira when willis was having trouble throwing strikes and giving away outs. But on this general topic - and I think you hit what it covers - that's a very small fraction in girardis control, and thus this is not a "starts at the top" kind of thing for me. Not to say that this is a universal rule. There are some scenarios - a young team, maybe - where the manager would share more in the responsibility. But this is probably the most veteran, experienced team in the majors, with tremendous leadership. When it comes to things like "focus" and "complacency", that's on them. Joe girardi can't really do much about nick swisher not waiting long enough to go in motion on a 3-2 pitch and getting picked off (girardi talked to him in the dugout right afterward) or andy pettitte not executing bunt defense properly. These are veteran guys and they have to do the job. These mistakes happen, but they've been happening a little too much this year.

I've been thinking about it, and I don't think it's complacency. That's too strog a word for how hard this team plays, as evidenced by last nights comeback and even moreso by the fact that they are 19 games over. Even really talented teams can't be that good playing complacent. I think it's in the direction of complacency, but when the start to see it set in they change it in a hurry, either after a game or two of it or even within games (like last night). Which is the sign of a veteran, professional team that wants to win and wants to win bad. They just have bouts of lacks in focus. Even I would admit that if the end result is the way they've played this year I'm more than happy to put up with these bouts. Doesn't mean its any less frustrating in the moment, and as I always go back to, in this division its magnified. For as well as they've played, they are within a few games of missing the playoffs. That's why its important to clean this stuff up. Girardi has to do his part to help facilitate that process, but its ultimately on the players to execute the fundamentals 99/100 instead of 90/100, or whatever it is.

Great win last night. Really great to see 2 guys just called up for the first time with only a handful of at bats have 2 of the biggest at bats of the game against a pitcher like broxton. And of course rivera, rodriguez, and cano.

Anonymous said...

Guys,

Lack of concentration on the diamond can be a problem. That's largely why the softball team I am on has lost 4 straight games...well that and the fact that in two of the last three ballgames I have given up the game winning hit in the last inning of the game.

Tough injury stretch for the Sox. Having said that, the Yankees endure this type of thing on a yearly basis and get through it so I'm not counting that as an excuse. Do you guys see the Sox targeting anyone in a trade to try to help them through this?

Also, while I think Pedroia is a significant loss, I do think it's being blown out of proportion. Is he one of the better hitters at 2nd base? Yes. But as I've said 100 times, you don't get extra points because a player happens to play at a position that is weak hitting. It's not like we're losing Albert Pujols here. We're losing a player that in a given year is going to hit .295 and 15 homers. Let's not jump off the bridge about this.

Lastly, there needs to be some accountability on this blog if it's going to remain viable. If you're Pat, you can't dump on Girardi every 5 minutes, and then go back at a later time and say that actually we've misrepresented what you've said and that you are actually a big fan of his. I'm picking on Pat here but he's hardly the only culprit. I know I'm annoying, but nothing is as annoying as people that try to rewrite what they've said in the past and explain to you how you are misrepresenting things you've clearly said.

bandi

the gm at work said...

Bandi,

"Have another protein shake and wake up." I wish I could keep old voicemails.

jason said...

Yea for pat saying girardi is one of the best managers in the league he certainly talks about alot of flaws he has that other good managers dont have... namely bullpen management

PF said...

I don't think this is as polarizing as you guys are making it out to be. Where did I say that I haven't been critical of girardi? I admitted in my post the two majors ways in which I am. You have taken that and assumed that because I am critical of him I think he's a bad manager. While that may seem logical, its an incorrect assumption because you have never seen how critical I have or have not been of any other manager besides joe torre (who I also thought was great yet criticized). It's a bad assumption because I would be 10x more critical of a bad manager. Maybe I'm just not soft and expect even those that are really good to be even better. at the end of the day give me a few bullpen slumps any day of the week when you're going to win a world series and be 19 over before july 1 despite a littany of injuries. I might seem like I'm wild enough to let the bad/annoying stuff overshadow that, but that's my co-author, not me. I'm much more middle of the road in reality. Its just that if you are going to right a site like this, its tough to be roses all of the time or you lose credibility because things aren't always rosey. So you are critical in the moment. That doesn't mean big picture you aren't happy with a given something. For those paying attention, I wrote numerous times how terrific girardi was in 2009 on the aggregate after a rough 2008, and that was despite criticizing him in 2009 as well. You can be really good and still do things wrong as a baseball manager. Its the nature of the position. The really good ones just make less mistakes than the bad ones. That's girardi. Doesn't mean I'm going to give his mistakes a pass. Again, if it seems like I've criticized him too much to possibly really think this, you should see how much I get on bad managers.

PF said...

I don't think this is as polarizing as you guys are making it out to be. Where did I say that I haven't been critical of girardi? I admitted in my post the two majors ways in which I am. You have taken that and assumed that because I am critical of him I think he's a bad manager. While that may seem logical, its an incorrect assumption because you have never seen how critical I have or have not been of any other manager besides joe torre (who I also thought was great yet criticized). It's a bad assumption because I would be 10x more critical of a bad manager. Maybe I'm just not soft and expect even those that are really good to be even better. at the end of the day give me a few bullpen slumps any day of the week when you're going to win a world series and be 19 over before july 1 despite a littany of injuries. I might seem like I'm wild enough to let the bad/annoying stuff overshadow that, but that's my co-author, not me. I'm much more middle of the road in reality. Its just that if you are going to right a site like this, its tough to be roses all of the time or you lose credibility because things aren't always rosey. So you are critical in the moment. That doesn't mean big picture you aren't happy with a given something. For those paying attention, I wrote numerous times how terrific girardi was in 2009 on the aggregate after a rough 2008, and that was despite criticizing him in 2009 as well. You can be really good and still do things wrong as a baseball manager. Its the nature of the position. The really good ones just make less mistakes than the bad ones. That's girardi. Doesn't mean I'm going to give his mistakes a pass. Again, if it seems like I've criticized him too much to possibly really think this, you should see how much I get on bad managers.

Anonymous said...

Pat,

Put your wild inconsistencies to the side- I would like to get your thoughts on this issue.

People around here are moaning and complaining about how injured the Red Sox are.

As we've seen with the Yankees in past years, this is going to happen- if you have a payroll like the Red Sox then you need to be able to overcome that and not make excuses.

Your thoughts?

Bandi

the gm at work said...

Bandi,

I read that and I see it as an opportunity to answer it as a post tomorrow.

Thanks for helping me define my scope.

the gm at work said...

And Pat,

Your "managers other than Girardi and Torre" comment is weird, seeing that those are the only two managers you've seen on a day-to-day basis since you were eleven years old.

The misspelling of "rosy" was bad but the "right/write" mistake was heinous.

And I feel like I've been perfectly fair to Francona. Only people I get on without being subjective have been Papelbon, Theo, and any Boras client. Enjoy yo day.

PF said...

Most teams deal with the injury bug. There was a time earlier this season where the yankees had a new injury every day. Everybody always thinks their injuries are the worst, and I understand that because I'm guilty of it too. the reason people feel that way is because only fans of a team really know how injured they really are, so it always seems like everyone else is not so injured and you are very injured. A great example would be alfredo aceves. An unsung hero of the 2009 team, the yankees bullpen misses him I'm a major way (and it would be more noticeable if not for the starting pitching). Not many fans of other teams are going to be aware of this consciously, and even if they are probably think little of it because they don't know how important he is to the team. They just notice when the posadas, grandersons, pedroias, martinez's of the world go down.

Anyway, point being that everyone has injuries in all shapes and sizes and you have to just do your best to deal. Some seasons it might get so bad that it really derails your season, but that's out of a teams' control, so you have to just play. The yankees and red sox are in the beneficial position of being able to put adequate replacements in at most positions, so we can't really complain as much with the respective resources we have because fans of other teams would laugh at us. The red sox have the injury bug bad right now, but so did the yankees a month ago, you just have to try to get through it in a position to charge, and once you get healthy, hope you can in fact charge.