Tag Archives: Mussina

WHY DO THIRD BASE COACHES (READ: BOBBY MEACHAM OF THE YANKEES) HAVE TO LEARN THE HARD WAY?

                                                                            Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas   

It’s stunning how, when given a chance, baseball lifers can make game-deciding mistakes and then look reporters right in the eye and say they would do it again.  It’s already happened to Yankees manager Joe Girardi (see Kallas Remarks, 4/13 /08), when he made the bizarre decision (along with Mike Mussina) to pitch to Manny Ramirez with first base open after Manny had already hit a moon shot off Mussina.  After the second moon shot (making the Yankees losers), Girardi was still explaining why it was a good decision.  But you can bet that it won’t happen again.

Which leads us to Saturday’s subway series (no capital s in either word unless it’s the World Series, please) game, an eventual Mets victory.  Mets-Yankees, top of the third, Yankees up 2-0, nobody out, Johnny Damon on first and Bobby Abreu hits one into the gap in right-center.  An excellent relay from Ryan Church to Luis Castillo to catcher Brian Schneider, who somehow managed to block the plate, catch the ball and tag Damon out on a bang-bang play. 

   

Frankly, a very poor decision to send Damon home.  Why, you ask?  Well, that’s easy.  There were NO outs, and the Yankees had numbers three, four and five hitters (Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi, respectively) coming to bat.  Stupid decision to send Damon whether he’s thrown out or not?  Absolutely.  Not that you would need more ammunition as to why this was a bad move, but Jeter had already hit a two-run homer off Johan Santana in the first inning.

    

But none of this phased third-base coach Bobby Meacham.  After the game, Meacham told reporters the following (according to Mark Hale of the New York Post): “I knew it was going to be close.  We’ve been struggling a little bit scoring runs and we’ve been preaching to these guys got to be more aggressive.  Once it got in the gap, my mind was made up.” 

    

Very scary stuff if you understand the different “skill set” needed to coach third base, which is vastly different from any other baseball job, including manager.  Unlike managers, third-base coaches have to make bang-bang decisions – they can’t turn to their bench coach, they don’t have 30 seconds or five minutes to think about that reliever or that pinch hitter or “should I get this guy warming up for the seventh inning?” or many other decisions.

    

Frankly, once Bobby Meacham “knows” it’s going to be close at the plate, HE HAS TO HOLD DAMON WITH NOBODY OUT AND THE HEART OF THE ORDER COMING UP.  Like not pitching to Manny Ramirez, this is a pretty simple solution, nothing complex.  To say after the game that we have to be aggressive is fine, but there’s a line (not that fine) between aggressiveness and stupidity.

    

We saw this when Larry Bowa came to coach third base for the Yankees in 2006.  Considered to be a relatively good manager of the Phillies (before his hard ways turned the players off), Bowa had a lot of trouble early on.  In the first couple of weeks of the season, he (mystifyingly) waved both slow-footed Jason Giambi and slow-footed Jorge Posada home (in different games) only to have them both thrown out.  Any Yankee fan could have told Bowa not to do this.  He eventually learned (the hard way, of course).

    

Which brings us back to Bobby Meacham.  Joe Girardi supported his coach, stating: “It’s an aggressive play.  I don’t have a problem with it.”  While you have to stick up for your guy, hopefully Girardi told Meacham privately that you don’t send these guys with no outs and the heart of the order up unless you’re 110% sure he’s going to make it.  In fact, Meacham should be told that if you know (as Meacham said he did) that it’s going to be close at home in the same situation, DON’T SEND THE RUNNER HOME.

    

It’s scary that this stuff takes place in the major leagues.  Again, it’s actually harder to coach third than to manage a team because you simply have to make instant decisions.  Anybody who’s coached third at any level knows this.

    

One final thing:  the one time a third base coach does have a little time (say, five seconds) to make a decision was this play – man on first, ball in the gap.  If a third base coach says as soon as I saw it in the gap, I’m sending him home, he’s given up those five seconds to make an informed decision.  Again, with nobody out, it’s a no-brainer: let your three, four and five hitters drive the runner in.   If the Yankees don’t have confidence that these guys can do that, then they are in deeper trouble than they already appear to be in terms of making the playoffs.

    

Won’t it be great if, some day, a manager or coach says:  “I shouldn’t have let my pitcher pitch to Manny.  It was a stupid move on my part and I hurt the team.” Or “I shouldn’t have been aggressive in that spot with nobody out and the meat of the order coming up.  Next time, I won’t do it.”

    

Good luck waiting for either of those to happen.  But know this:  right now, the Yankees aren’t good enough to overcome these coaching/managerial blunders.  Games like this (and the Manny two-homer game) are often the difference between making the playoffs or not.

 

 

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved

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NEWS FLASH: MIKE MUSSINA WINS GAME #3OO, NOT #255 — IT’S THE NEW MATH IN PITCHING

                                                        Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas   

Once upon a time in pitching, as hard as it may be to believe today, a major league  pitcher would take the ball every fourth day and would start 40-41 times a season and would pitch usually into the eighth or ninth inning (if he was a good pitcher).  

But that was then, this is now.  Today, a major league pitcher takes the ball (maybe) every fifth day, starts 34-35 times a season and, on the rare occasion, pitches into the eighth or (unbelievable today) ninth inning.   

Which brings us to Mike Mussina and his win number 255 on May 8, 2008, a 6-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians.  While the win wasn’t hailed as a milestone, it really should have been viewed as such.  There’s the new math in pitching and here’s how it works:  Starting with the young Met pitchers of the late1960s (you old-time Met fans will remember – Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and even part-time starter Nolan Ryan), pitchers started to rest four days between starts rather than three.  Over the next few decades and coupled with expansion, this would be the watering down of pitching as we see it today (but that’s for another time).  

Over the next decade or so, there was a transformation of pitching – no longer would pitching every fourth day be the norm, it would now be every fifth day, a huge difference in terms of putting together a pitching staff.  

So whether everybody understood it or not, there would never be another 30-game winner again (an impossibility today with only 34-35 starts a season).  In fact, the question is whether there will ever be another 25-game winner again (also for another time).  

But the new math in baseball for career wins is this:  Since good starters for decades, with rare exceptions (Whitey Ford and Bob Gibson come to mind), would start 40 or so times a year and good starters today start 34 or so times a year, it’s simple mathematics to figure out that a pitcher’s chance to win games reduces by six starts a year or 15% (40 starts less 15% (six starts) equals 34 starts a year).  So, too, again by simple mathematics, will a pitcher’s actual number of wins go down by 15%.  

So the 300-game winner of yesteryear, by mathematical definition, couldn’t possibly win 300 games today if he pitched every fifth day instead of every fourth day.  And this, of course, is before we even talk about middle relievers, closers and the mentality of the pitch count.  So by simply subtracting 15% from 300 (45), we come up with the modern-day equivalent of 300 wins — 255 wins.  

So Mike Mussina, a possible Hall of Fame candidate down the road, essentially won his 300th game on May 8, 2008.  And nobody knew about it.

 © Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.