Go back to the NLDS Reds/Giants and you will see Crusty Baker made the same rookie mistake in leaving in a not-so-sharp-that-day Latos to give up 2 runs, then load the bases then give up a GS. All with not even 1 pitcher warming up in a do-or-die game. In this case it likely make a difference because the Reds scored 4 in an attempt to come back, in addition to having a rested bullpen. Dusty is a great guy and I wish him well, but please please let someone else manage the games, especially post-season. His track record in post season speaks for itself. Matheny making a mistake his first time around is more than acceptable.
A question: Do win probabilities change in playoff games? As I understand, WP’s are based on the results of many thousands of regular-season games. But a game late in a playoff series isn’t like a regular-season game. Managers are going to try different strategies because they have more resources and because more is at stake. Possibly those factors cancel each other out.
Baker has had issues with bullpen management dating back to his days in San Francisco. Ask any Giants fan if they’ve forgotten the Game 6 debacle in Anaheim in 2002. I like Dusty, but his bullpen management is, and has always been subpar.
Comment by vivalajeter — October 23, 2012 @ 3:17 pm
I probably would have let him him hit with a quick hook if he allowed any more runners. Wainright would have been the replacement with a possible burn of a standard reliever to get out of a jam.
What the Giants did right is to capitalize on Lohse’s tendency to throw cheese for a first ball strike. Second time through the order and the Giants were waiting in the bushes. Matheny should have been anticipating that as it was painfully obvious to most people watching.
Comment by celtic1888 — October 23, 2012 @ 3:24 pm
This is a tremendous piece, as usual, Dave. My only possible quibble is with the title, which implies that Matheny’s mishandling of the 3rd inning is a byproduct of his inexperience. Yet I’ve seen nothing to indicate that Matheny has learned from his mistakes, or will in the future. If anything, the Cardinals’ success this year seems to be encouraging his very worst instincts, so we can probably expect more of the same mismanagement from him going forward.
Comment by Brian Gunn — October 23, 2012 @ 3:27 pm
Bochy managed a 9 run lead perfectly.
Comment by celtic1888 — October 23, 2012 @ 3:32 pm
Since Matheny didn’t have the benefit of knowing when the highest leverage situation would be during the game, suppose he had done exactly what you would have done. Suppose also, that a much higher leverage situation had then occurred later in the game and he was then forced you use Kelly against suboptimal matchups. Would you still lecture him for needing to learn from his mistakes?
This was a great piece but it’s worthy of mention that Rzepczinski, in all likelihood, doesn’t inspire a lot of game 7 confidence from Mike Matheny. He’s been awful a good chunk of the year and probably barely made the postseason roster. In fact, if it weren’t for the other horrible left handed options out of the pen, he wouldn’t have. Rosenthal was clearly the best choice in that situation.
First, Matheny could have put Ryan Jackson on the roster instead of relying solely on Pete Kozma. The “Kozmanaut” came back to earth for the NLCS and became the player he was previously. However, the cards continued to run him out there in games 6 and 7 even though he had become the replacement level player he was meant to be. At a minimum they could have played Schumaker at 2nd and Descalso at SS to get some actual offense. Matheny also put Holliday in despite the fact that Matt Carpenter is a far better option against Cain. Carpenter has owned Cain in his brief career.
Completely agree on the rest. Kelly was a particularly poor choice.
You could also take note of the fact that Lohse has been a bad postseason pitcher yet he was set up as our ace throughout the postseason. Its like Matheny didn’t even notice how ineffective Lohse was all last postseason.
The manager has to go with the information he has at the time. At the time, the team was down 2-0 with and the Giants had the bases loaded with no one out. It was at least as likely that this plate appearance would be the last important plate appearance of the game as it was that there would be another one of equal importance later on. Moreover, Matheny would’ve likely been inclined to use someone like Mujica, Boggs, or Motte later on — the last 2 of which weren’t considerations for the bottom of the 3rd inning.
And if this situation happens in the 12th and all Matheny has left is Joe Kelly, then Matheny would have to use him as Kelly would be the only option. Clearly that wasn’t the case here. He can hardly be faulted for using one of his best relievers in a game-changing situation and then not having him around for another one later on.
It’s clear, though, that — given Kelly’s profound splits — he absolutely shouldn’t have been the guy used in that situation unless he was just going to use him to pitch to Pence. Whether that’s a rookie mistake, inexperience, stubbornness or stupidity hardly matters now. Hopefully for the Cards, it’s just a rookie mistake that he’ll learn from but, given the way in which he’s managed the bullpen many times during the season, there’s reason for Cards’ fans to be concerned.
I’ve been saying all year that Matheny is Dusty-lite. His players seem to like him and play hard, but he is just helpless on game situations and line-ups. Not only that but like Baker he just refuses to learn after he gets burned.
Just play it out – it’s easy to see how far-fetched this scenario actually is.
Put in Rosenthal – he pitches the 3rd inning. Say the team actually gets two baserunners against Cain in the fourth, and you have to pinch-hit for him, so you burn him on “just” getting three huge outs to keep the game close. For the fourth inning, you’re looking at the top of the order again, so you probably want to go with Mujica or Boggs to keep another rally from developing. Depending on how the fourth inning goes, you can either stay with current reliever against the bottom of the order or go to Rzepczynski to run through the lefties. Now it’s the 6th inning, and you still have one of Mujica/Boggs, plus Wainwright and Motte, and you only need to cover four innings. You probably want Wainwright to have enough time to get warmed up since he’s used to starting, so you hand the ball to Boggs/Mujica for the 6th while having Wainwright warming up to pitch the 7th. He can then go two innings and hand it over to Motte for the 9th, who can stay in for the 10th if need be.
If it goes to the 11th, you might need Joe Kelly, and you might end up with him facing some left-handers in a tight game. But making your team less likely to get an out in the 3rd inning to improve your bullpen depth for the 11th is just silly.
Well, that would be great if it worked out like that, Dave. But your hypothetical involves exactly zero additional trouble and involves everyone performing perfectly. Suppose they get out of the third and the fourth begins equally bad with Mujica or Boggs… Should a manager not plan for trouble?
I’m not arguing that Matheny was correct. I’m just pointing out that the strategy of blowing your load early is no way to go through life (and not necessarily the best way to go through a baseball game). These things are not necessarily as obvious as you indicate, because a manager has imperfect information during a game, and the earlier in the game, the greater his uncertainty.
Heh. I thought I was being just a little harsh on Kozma already, but you may be right.
Frankly I’dbe surprised if we ever see Kozma in a major league uniform again-except that Matheny is his manager and Matheny gave replacement-level Descalso 374 at bats this year and ran him out there every day in the playoffs too.
I don’t get all great article comments – this was yet another “what an idiot” articles; while there were #’s thrown in here and there, there was no actual analysis
What’s the run expectancy difference in the 2 different situations? Large? Small? If you are going to project 2-0 in one scenario, how about projecting the expected outcome of of Matheny’s actual move (If you are critiquing the decision, shouldn’t it be base on the expected outcome of the decision?)
And what does that do to the OVERALL win probability. a 2-0 game vs the two different expected outcomes… did that change the win probabilty a lot? A little?
Here’s some of the nuggets the article gave us:
“If you get out of the inning, you are still in the game”
“It’s not hard to see him getting out of that inning 2-0, instead it was 7-0” (
so a projection based on “it’s not hard to see it” vs the hindsighth of what did happen – instead of looking at the expected outcome given the moves Matheny made)
It’s easy to write yet another article throwing stones at managers, but this is Fangraphs – how about a statistical and analytical approach to quantifying what the potential magnitude of the mistake was? And not using hindsight against a thumb in the air “it could have been 2-0 if he was smart”
No, you cannot. I’m not as convinced that it’s what he should have done as I am that he should have pinch hit for Lynn in the bottom of the 2nd of game 5, but between the bullpen depth, the leverage of having multiple baserunners on (in both cases), and the difficulty of scoring against the Giants, I’d say you take your chances when they come.
The trouble you are in right now is always the most important trouble of the game. Hoarding bullets for the prospect of, maybe, another troublesome situation later in the game is pointless if you don’t survive the first onslaught.
Spot on, Dave. Except, I would argue that Matheny’s inflexibility with his lineup costs the Cardinals games and in particular games in this series. Holliday has been in the three hole all year long despite having an average with RISP hovering around .225 all year. This is 80 points lower than last year. Many managers would have moved a guy down in the order that has been as unclutch at Holliday. Heck, Bochy even moved Pence down for one game and that worked out wonderfully. Further, Holliday was hurt this week, and there’s a hot replacement in Matt Carpenter able to take his Game 7 spot. Instead, Carpenter rides the pine all game and Adron Chambers and Shane Robinson pinch hit ahead of him. Also, Beltran has been the hottest post-season player on the planet this century. Why not move him down to the 3 hole? Molina is Mr. Clutch all year with a .304 average with RISP and 2 outs and .309 average late in close. He ended up going 4 for 4 in game seven. Why not move him behind Beltran? Except Matheny doesn’t do that. He’s had the same lineup since opening day no matter rain or shine and I have to think, it cost the Cards big this year.
Comment by Senior Circuit Court — October 23, 2012 @ 5:17 pm
Ok. I’ll bite. Defend the decision to use Kelly as good process.
Also, you can’t really use a “hindsight” argument when Cameron and others disagreed with the move as it was happening. (During the fangraphs chat last night, I remember someone lamenting the use of the Cards nth best reliever – a comment chosen and ‘published by Dave, presumably because he thought it was insightful.)
Finally, the inning played out pretty much as the numbers would suggest. Granted the Pence double was lucky…but the lefties, who process suggests would succeed, succeeded against Kelly. It was a bad decision. The results proved it. And it wold have been a bad choice (and lucky result) even if Kelly had managed to shut things down. This article is not nearly the “bad things happened thus Matheny must have done something wrong” argument you’re proposing it is.
nope, you definitely never want to blow your load early.
Comment by Sleight of Hand Pro — October 23, 2012 @ 5:38 pm
The hindsight I’m talking about it using the actual outcome against some hypothetical outcome. If you are going to critique the decision – use an expected outcome for both scenarios.
If you were critiquing a pinch hitting decision would you use the actual outcome of one AB against the expected outcome of another? Or would you logically use an expected outcome for both?
I’m not defending Matheny’s decision or saying it was a good process, I just think the magnitude of the mistake is not nearly as substantial and is being spun; like Dave tends to do. The same good process should apply to the analysis as well; instead a picture of 7-0 vs 2-0 is being painted.
If you think the likely outcome was 5 runs allowed, then I guess the analysis is spot on.
He did learn not to have Rzep face Tyler Moore rather than having Boggs face Chad Tracy after Game 1 of the NLDS. He is capable of learning.
Comment by Ivan Grushenko — October 23, 2012 @ 6:56 pm
That is an interesting point and probably impossible to determine since the postseason is such a small sample. Going back more than 30 years and to some extent even more than 15 bullpen usage was very different so comparing the situations would be tough.
What Tom said. You have magnified the costliness of this decision greatly. People on fangraphs always bag on “mainstream media” for inappropriately using stats, yet when the same is done and said about some fangraphs articles they are seen as ignorant and know nothing about baseball.
Comment by snoop LION — October 23, 2012 @ 7:47 pm
I would say that the holder of a very unique and extremely desirable job that draws a seven figure salary to make decisions that aren’t very difficult should not be making mistakes like this let alone have people find it “more than acceptable”. By far and away the easiest part of a baseball manager’s job is in game decision making. It astounds me that any in game mistakes are ever made that aren’t razor thin at the margins.
Comment by CHamelsToe — October 23, 2012 @ 9:33 pm
“it cost the Cards big this year.”
they lose one of the Top 3 greatest players in their great history — baseball’s best player of the past decade — move on after one the sport’s long-time best managers (as well as one of the best-ever pitching coaches), avoid the modern-day-common hangover and defend a WS championship to the point of Game 7 for the NL pennant?? i’d say that’s a big cost any team would pay
Comment by CrashCameron — October 23, 2012 @ 11:18 pm
that said, Matheny absolutely — no probaby numbers needed — made the wrong decision with Kelly. i was scratching my head to remember if Kelly had even thrown in the series
Comment by CrashCameron — October 23, 2012 @ 11:23 pm
Comment by CrashCameron — October 23, 2012 @ 11:25 pm
Past clutch is not predictive of future clutch, so you should keep your best batters in the prime lineup spots regardless of how clutch they’ve been.
FWIW, his wRC+ with RISP was 108 this year, so he wasn’t really a disaster in those situations.
Comment by suicide squeeze — October 24, 2012 @ 8:57 am
Have you watched Pujols at all in the last three years? He was not much of a loss and Cardinals fans were well aware of it. I don’t think anyone in St. Louis would rather have had Pujols this post-season than Beltran, especially because they would have been extremely right handed and even worse defensively with Craig in right field.
Dusty is loved dearly by the players. Dusty is clueless at game management, because ne wants and needs to be loved by the players … especially the veterans. The Reds have a team over the last 3 years that could have made a lot of postseason noise. Instead we are writing posts like this.
The playoffs and world series are full of improbable outcomes and head scratching decisions. That’s why we watch it with so much anticipation, hope against hope that the improbable decision will payoff and our team will win.
Comment by Hurtlockertwo — October 24, 2012 @ 11:52 am
Me go the wrong way
So no easy double play
Manager gets blamed
Comment by Pete Kozma — October 24, 2012 @ 2:48 pm
I like what Hurtlockertwo just said.
After Cain’s line drive (which almost hit Lohse in the head), Matheny needed to get Wainwright up in the top of the 3rd and get Lohse out of there after the leadoff hit to Scutaro. The real blunder was letting him face the Panda for a second time. We can argue if Kelly was the right choice, but by then the animals are out of the barn.
Yeah, Big Fish and Ted. I was (and still am) a Giants fan in 2002 and can never forgive Baker for losing that series.
I live in Cincinnati now and would love to root for Cincinnati as my 3rd or 4th team, but I can’t do that because I hate Baker so much.
Win probabilities are based on average players coming up to pitch and bat, and thus are only rough approximations anyway. I doubt that the difference made by the additional strategies available in playoffs would effect them significantly.
What you suggest would have been impossible, as WP’s are not calculated for specific players. Dave correctly stated the WP at the time to help indicate that the game would get out of hand if there were any more scoring and then correctly used stats of various pitchers (including K%, GB%, platoon splits) to analyze whom Matheny should have used.
It is a perfect instance of what a FanGraphs article should be.