Thursday, April 17, 2008

First Guessing: 4/18/08

Nelson Figueroa had pitched six solid innings and hadn't yet breached the mythical 100-pitch mark, but was leading off in the bottom of the sixth in a 2-1 game. The temptation to pinch-hit for the pitcher must've been high, but Willie made the smart choice by letting Figueroa bat there. At that point the Mets had four more chances to tie the game and a starting pitcher who was cruising; it made all the sense in the world to give him the at-bat and see how deep into the game he could go.

RESULT: Figueroa did not reach base, but gave the Mets one more effective inning.

Then, of course, Willie forgot to double-switch after the seventh inning. Luis Castillo left two runners on and Aaron Heilman was set to pitch the eighth. Willie could've double switched by bringing Brian Schneider in to catch or Endy Chavez in to play left field. Carlos Beltran was available as well; as far as I know he's not injured and this is just a routine night off. (EDIT: Beltran has a stiff neck.) Wilie did nothing and simply left Heilman in the #9 spot in the order.

It took Aaron just 11 pitches to go through the eighth and would've been available to at least start the ninth had the Willie double switched and the Mets not scored. But Willie blew it again and Heilman had to be pinch-hit for; Marlon Anderson struck out to make Willie's failure complete.

At this point, I am convinced that Willie Randolph is intentionally refusing to double switch. He is inexplicably ignoring a unique and important National League strategy for maximizing reliever usage, employing pinch hitters at opportune times and for substituting defensive replacements. Marlon Anderson's presence on the roster becomes all the bothersome when you realize it becomes a crutch for Willie to continue to ignore double switching in order to use Anderson strictly as a pinch hitter.

RESULT: Anderson strikes out, but the Mets tie the game on a Carlos Delgado single. Heilman is forced to give way to Billy Wagner, even though three of the next four batters in the Nationals lineup are right-handed. Willie's failure to double-switch forces his closer to pitch to a series of guys who bash lefties:

Zimmerman - 1.103 OPS in 167 PA against lefties
Johnson - .938 OPS in 179 PA against lefties
Milledge - .956 OPS in 70 PA against lefties
Kearns - .883 OPS in 167 PA against lefties

Wagner gets the first two outs and sets up a wonderfully interesting at-bat with his former tormentee Lastings Milledge. I have to admit, I was absolutely rooting for a long, long home run by L-Millz there!! But Wagner gets the out and officially turns Willie's mistake into a mere footnote.

EDIT: Willie double-switched! It took waiting until the 11th inning and two unnecessarily short appearances from Heilman and Wagner, but Damion Easley has come on to play left, the pitcher slides into the #5 spot and Joe Smith is on to pitch. Of course, had Heilman pitched the ninth and Wagner the 10th ... oh, forget it, I guess I should be happy Willie even grasps the concept.


MP said...

And then he couldn't DS again because all he had left in the bullpen was Scotty Show.

Don't know if you noticed it - I did simply because I was in Row O of the Upper Reserved - but when Castillo is up the LF basically plays a deep shortstop and Milledge was playing way over towards left and about 2/3 of the way towards the infield.

I know other teams don't fear Castillo's power, but it's reached a point that is just ridiculous. There isn't even a chance for him to flare one over the infield (though he managed to find one spot for the bloop down the line).

On the bringing Wagner in, just to play Devil's Advocate, he might have wanted to get Heilman out of there after a good appearance - if only to boost confidence. And while I agree with the fact that the middle of the Nats lineup bashes lefties, if we can't count on Billy to get the heart of their order out, we have problems. It's not like in a 2-1 game Willie's going to go to Heilman to close it instead of Country Time.

Great post - love the blog and will be back regularly.

Judge Roughneck said...

That's funny, I was supposed to go last night but ended up working late.

Yes, you could see just how shallow the Nats play Castillo when batting from the left side - it's obvious they don't think he can hit even a medium fly ball to the opposite field. If Luis loses his patience at the plate, he's going to turn into Neifi Perez.

I agree with your take on Wagner - a good closer should be able to get anyone out regardless of their tendencies. But if Willie double-switches after the seventh, he at least allows himself the option of going a second inning with Heilman should the game circumstances make that the right move. Say the Mets break the game open with a seven-run eighth - if Willie had double switched, he has Heilman available to for a second inning of work with a six-run lead and righties coming up.

Thanks for the kind words and insight - I hope I'll be seeing you in the comments section regularly!

tim said...

What's really funny is that if not for extreme exhaustion and a family visitor from California, I would have taken a friend's invitation to last night's game as well.

I almost posted last night about the bottom of the seventh. I know the rule is to save your catcher when you can but I would have pinched hit for Casanova with 1 out and men on second and third, a prime spot for Marlon Anderson, who led off the ninth because of Willie's foible. Anderson had a better chance of at least lifting the ball into the outfield and getting a run in Delgado or not. By letting Casanova sofly line out to third (which is how the gameday coverage termed it) and Castillo be the RBI hope with two outs, Willie effectively wasted Clark's SAC bunt. If you're not going to make a serious play for a run in that spot why not let Clark swing away with none out?

In my view the game could have been won in the 7th, Anderson is an excellent contact guy who could have certainly gotten the run(s) home, instead he's wasted as the lead off guy in the ninth. Mind boggling. Willie has no idea how to play national league baseball.

By the way, check out the fantasy homepage, it looks like someone is straight up biting your style on Brian Bannister.

Judge Roughneck said...

Good point about the sacrifice. If you're relying on Raul Casanova to drive in a run in that situation, you're very likely to be disappointed. Earl Weaver used to say that if you only play for one run, that's all you'll get.

tim said...

And sometimes not even.