Friday, October 17, 2008

Let's hear it for Jerry Manuel!

Hooray for FJM, for pointing out a story I'd missed, featuring Jerry Manuel's official de-interimming by the Mets.

Manuel's "interim" tag was removed Friday night when the Mets gave him a two-year contract that guarantees him more than $2 million and includes a club option for 2011. Now he must figure out why the team collapsed in each of the last two Septembers and find a solution that gets New York back in the postseason.

I will save you the trouble of figuring it out, because I already know: your bullpen sucks out loud and you have seventeen frickin second basemen but no corner outfielders. There ya go, genius.

"We have to grow from every time that we get as close as we get and don't make it, and we have to review and kind of marinate on why we don't make it," Manuel said during a conference call.

You could marinate if you like. Or, you could look at this list of relievers employed by the New York Mets over the past two seasons:

Billy Wagner
Pedro Feliciano
Joe Smith
Aaron Heilman
Scott Schoeneweis
Guillermo Mota
Aaron Sele
Ambiorix Burgos
Duaner Sanchez
Nelson Figueroa
Claudio Vargas
Brian Stokes
Carlos Muniz
Jorge Sosa
Luis Ayala

Of these, who would you keep? Stokes, Smith, Burgos, and maybe Sanchez? Wagner - if his arm hadn't fallen off. You want we should keep marinating about this, boss?

On his first full day as the Mets' long-term manager, Manuel forcefully attacked the SABR-type mathematical analysis some have fixated on in recent years. "You get so many statistical people together, they put so many stats on paper, and they say, well, if you do this and you score this many runs, you do that many times, you'll be in the playoffs," he said. "That's not really how it works, and that's what we have to get away from."

Oh, that’s great. Forget statistics! Go with your gut! Let Schoeneweis pitch to a righty in the eighth inning of a tie game we MUST WIN to keep playing baseball! Let’s have five second baseman on our roster at all times, but no corner outfielders! What could possibly happen?

Not to be a giant-sized jerk about it, but look for just a half-minute at this statement: "If you do this and you score this many runs, you do [it] that many times, you'll be in the playoffs. That's not really how it works." Uhm, it kind of DOES work that way. If you do the things more likely to score runs, and do them often enough, then yes, that improves your chances of winning baseball games - what with scoring the most runs being the whole point of baseball games. To recap - you score runs on offense and prevent runs with pitching and defense, and anything that helps those objectives is the thing you SHOULD BE DOING, not "the thing we have to get away from."

But all that winning would stop us from marinating, and we don't want that!

"And that's going to have to be a different mind-set of the team in going forward. We must win and we must know how to win rather than win because we have statistical people. We have to win because we have baseball players that know and can understand the game."

It doesn't matter at all if people understand baseball if they can't actually PLAY baseball. Criminy! Does anyone honestly think Manny B Manny knows jack doodle about baseball, other than how far one goes when he hits it? Let’s have the 2008 MathCounts Competition winners play for us against the Phillies – they’ll completely think the hell out of that game right there!

Instead – and this is rather important – you may want the MathCounts winners to consult with when actually building a roster of actual ballplayers. They can tell you stuff like “Moises Alou is 42 years old and is not likely to play well, when he plays at all” and “Your bullpen’s ERA was 268.37 last September, so you should get some better pitchers so that sort of thing doesn’t happen again” and “Eleven ex-major-league shortstops just picked Jeter over A-Rod, so maybe you should leave the thinking to us.”

Look at the two options:

1. Win becuase we know how to win
2. Win because we have statistical people

I know how to win too. I've just described it in painful detail. It will not help me hit a two-strike curveball to the opposite gap. The statistical people, on the other hand, can demonstrate with objective evidence how good or bad your players are at baseball, thus suggesting areas in which they must improve. Going 1-15 is bad. It isn't good because the one hit is "clutch." Don't keep running that guy out there because he accidentally hit a pitch off a bounce that hung in the air six seconds but dropped untouched behind shortstop because four different guys thought someone else had it.

(Then again, this is a guy who owes his continued employment to Fernando Tatis rising from the dead and Carlos Delgado getting his bat back from Witness Protection. He doesn't want to admit this - he wouldn't get the credit. So he HAS TO marinate all this weapons-grade hokum and serve it up to the reporters. It's how the managerial game is played. Unfortunately it's not how the actual game is played.)

The funny thing is, the rest of the article says pretty much what I wrote above about having no corner outfielders and the Armando Benitez Memorial Bullpen. I hadn't even gotten that far down the thing when I wrote the above - THIS IS NOT A STATE SECRET. Why are you marinating, Jerry Manuel? What do you hope to learn?

"We have to put a value on say, moving a runner over. We have to put a value on getting a bases on balls. We have to put a value on infield back, [getting a] ground ball that's sufficient to score a run," he said.

Yeah, and you know something? PEOPLE HAVE DONE ALL OF THAT ALREADY! It's called statistical analysis, you dunderhead. Baseball Prospectus has pages of articles on the value of a walk in all sorts of game situations, derived from analysis of what actually happened in actual baseball games when walks were earned in those real situations from those real games and gaaaaaaaaah QVRT!GN0 994 GHQNACV %&*(!*!!1!

"You don't see a lot of guys that have statistical numbers play well in these championship series," Manuel said.

Unless they do.

"What you see is usually the little second baseman or somebody like that carries off the MVP trophy that nobody expected him to do. That's because he's comfortable in playing that form of baseball, so therefore when the stage comes, it's not a struggle for him."

No, that's because people make a big stink about the little second baseman PRECISELY BECAUSE nobody expects him to, because he stinks - but hell, anything can happen in 4-7 games. Even a sucktacular collection of suck can win four out of seven ballgames. Even the worst regulars in baseball are actual major league ballplayers, and can have the occasional 10-hit, 3-dinger week.

(Unless of course "little second baseman" means Dustin Pedroia, who may win the American League MVP for the entire 2008 season of baseball because he's good at it, in which case maybe you have NO POINT.)

This is atrocious. They fired Willie Randolph for this? It was not Willie's fault that nobody got him any relievers who could pitch, nor that Carlos Delgado was a disaster for a full season and a half. It's not his fault that they flank Carlos Beltran with giant cardboard cutouts instead of baseball players. It's not his fault that he was stuck with Castillo, Valentin, Easley, Anderson, and Argenis Reyes at second base. Those five guys could form Voltron and still suck.

Gah. These stooges are going to waste what’s left of Beltran’s prime, and make Jose Reyes and David Wright bolt the moment they hit free agency. They might as well advertise a free kick in the nads to the first fifteen thousand guys who attend the first game at Citi Field, at least this way we’d know it was coming when we bought tickets.

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