Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday Baseball Post

I rarely disagree with Christina Kahrl; there's no one now writing about baseball that I'd rather read.  I did, however, find her evaluation of Bruce Bochy (gated, I think)...well, I'll call it incomplete.  After singing Bochy's praises for his terrific use of positional flexibility and his willingness to use Brian Wilson in the 8th inning, she adds one caveat:
But as creative as I felt he'd been with his lineup, he owed a lot to having a rotation that was every bit as good as the Phillies, and was perhaps deeper, providing that much more freedom of action to take chances—could I credit Bochy with all of that, when so much relied on the presence of five quality starting pitchers? I decided he was my third-place vote.
I don't want to argue the vote (she went Black/Baker/Bochy, and that's fair enough), but I want to argue with the notion that five quality starting pitchers just happened.  Sure, they all arrived with plenty of talent.  But how many talented  pitchers never transition to rotation starter?  Bochy inherited Cain, so he only gets "do no harm" credit there.  And Zito?  Who knows -- I never thought he'd be as "good" as he was this year, but then again at best he's been where reasonable expectations would have put him  during his time with Bochy and the Giants (no, upper managements' expectations were not reasonable).

However, Bochy surely gets a bit of credit for transitioning the Freak from prospect to star.  I'd say he gets quite a lot of credit for riding with Sanchez to get to this point.  That one, at least, has involved some pretty active, visible, managing, as seen by the quick hook in the playoffs (yes, that one doesn't count towards the award, but he'd been at it when needed all year).  And he gets credit for elevating Bumgarner in the middle of a pennant race.  We all know there are plenty of managers who would have resisted it.

Now, of course one cannot prove anything in these sorts of cases; it's not like IBB or pitch out or bunt stats.  But I do believe that managers differ on their skills in helping pitchers transition from prospect to rotation regular, and if we don't quite want to say that the results speak for themselves, let's just say they're highly suggestive.   And were I voting, I'd have given Bochy quite a bit of credit for those five guys..


  1. I notice in the same article she mentions Dusty Baker and how he's learned not to destroy his pitchers' arms by having them overthrow late in the game. This seems to contradict her analysis of Bochy. If what she says about Baker is true, then why should Bochy be any less responsible for the way things worked out with his rotation? A lot of managers would have had Lincecum pitch 250 innings a year at this point just to cash in on his talent while he's young; I think you're right that Bochy deserves credit for his development. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say his patience with these young pitchers has been much more important to the Giants' success than his "creativity" with position players.

  2. I think your analysis is absolutely correct, and managers don't get enough credit for turning raw talent into performance. Ask Dallas Green whether it's automatic for highly touted pitchers to turn into a top-notch rotation.

  3. This is a bit unrelated. But I'm glad the voters gave the AL Cy Young award to Felix Hernandez. I thought that was the equivalent of the political media chalking up the midterms to the poor performance of the economy instead of the lack of message from Dems.

  4. It really is astounding just how much weight "wins" carry in the Cy Young vote. Even this year, when Hernandez was better than Sabathia in virtually every statistical category except wins, Sabathia still received 3 first-place votes. That means three baseball writers either don't know anything or are hostile to west coast players and didn't want to see one win unanimously.

    i'm inclined to think the latter.


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