Tipping Pitches: Sports: The Thinking Man's Game... Right?


Monday, November 2, 2009

Sports: The Thinking Man's Game... Right?

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I'm in my 30s, so I'm old.  And when you're old, you say stuff like

"In my day..."

At one point in Game 5 of the World Series, Tim McCarver made one of these comments.  Except it was still after his day.  It was something to the fact that 20 or 25 years ago, hitters would take on 2-0 and 3-1.

But they don't now.

Why don't they?  Because the home run is king.  And no matter what type of player you are, today's sin is taking the pitch down the middle.  So swing away at hitter's counts!  Oh yeah, still not a good chance that if you swing away you'll get a hit.

There are many examples of "But they don't now" in today's game.

It used to be that you'd use your closer for one, two, or three innings.  Because you had to get outs.  Because he was your best reliever and one of your best pitchers.  And stats didn't matter.  And feelings didn't matter.  Only wins.

But they don't now.

Now, they ignore that you had a 7.21 ERA during the regular season (Brad Lidge) and put you in pressure packed situations because he's your "closer."

[I understand that Manuel may have finally lost confidence in Lidge, but seriously.  It took this long?]

Now, they only put in a closer if you're up by one to three runs and you need three outs (Mariano Rivera excluded, although he's still no Rollie Fingers).

The managing I see in this World Series flusters the hell out of me.  Girardi and Manuel are the antithesis of today's manager because they actually have strategies.  But they are also the antithesis of good managers because they have strategies that make no sense.

The pitching changes.  Repeated pitching changes.  And they're all so that you can have a lefty face a lefty or a righty face a righty.

Never mind that some batters actually fare better against pitchers from their side.  But no manager cares to look at that.  Because they'd be second guessed.

So instead, they overmanage.

Just win the game.  Can a manager do that?  Forget feelings.  Forget conventional wisdom.  Forget roles.  Do what gives you the best chance of winning a game.

It's why Bill Belichick is successful.  He does not care what you think.  He just wants to win.  There is no Bill Belichick in baseball.

So we sit through the constant pitching changes.  And the 100 pitch counts.  And the overzealous approaches at the plate.  And the 20 trips to the mound which cause three and a half hour games.

And why?  For perception?  Perception that you are actually thinking?  Fear that if you did nothing or went against conventional wisdom that it would be perceived that you are stupid?

In my day, managers put the best players on the field. And overmanaged by bunting and stealing too much.

Oh well.

Now I'm just coming off bitter.  Bitter and old.  Bitter + old (ok, not that old) + small market fan is not a good combination.

Let's watch some football.


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