Thursday, May 18, 2006

Conventional Wisdom

Not being a sabremetrician the following remarks should be considered hunches rather than hard facts.

It appears that when the Phillies lose they tend to give up a big inning nearly every time rather than be nibbled to death by one or two runs every few innings.  If the statistics bear me out in this observation, one obvious place to begin looking for answers would be the manager’s decision on when to lift a starter.

Last night is a case in point.  Though he had been sailing along nicely after yielding a first inning home run to Geoff Jenkins, starter Gavin Floyd has a tendency to suddenly and dramatically collapse as his command continues to plague him.  Entering the sixth inning last night, Floyd had been staked to a 4 – 1 lead by his teammates.  It all came apart at that point as he gave up three hits and a walk in rapid succession.  For the evening Floyd threw 81 pitches in less than six innings of work, 36 of them balls.  As Larry Andersen is fond of pointing out, that is a lousy ratio.

So, why did Manuel stick with him as long as he did in that fatal sixth inning?  Lefty Rheal Cormier, who until last night had not yielded a single earned run this season, had warmed up.  Manuel’s response after the game was:  "I wanted the kid to pitch there.  It was time for him to pitch there."

Sorry again, Charlie, but history, especially Floyd’s personal history, suggests it was actually time to get him out of there about one or two batters earlier.  But Charlie is only a human manager, and as such, he goes with his hunches and the percentages.  Righties vs. righties.  Lefties vs. lefties.  It doesn’t matter if the particular righty is imploding right before our eyes if not his.

Of course all of this speculation on my part may not have been necessary if the Cormier who showed up after the horse was out of the barn had done even a reasonable impersonation of the Cormier who had been showing up heretofore.  But on this night, lefty Cormier yielded consecutive base hits to lefties Prince Fielder and Corey Koskie en route to 2/3 of an inning pitched, two inherited runners allowed to score, two hits and his first earned run allowed in 2006.

Later, when the Phils rallied to tie the score late, it was lefty Ryan Howard who delivered a key hit against lefty Brian Shouse.

So much for conventional wisdom.  And before anyone points out to me why conventional wisdom is conventional, I am talking about when other indicators suggest conventions are not the answer.

Oh, and by the way.  The game winning hit by Jenkins, a lefty, came off of Arthur Rhodes, another…you guessed it…lefty.


J. Weitzel said...

As much as you thought Myers' last start was telling, I thought Floyd's start last night would tip the scale as to whether he was a contender or pretender.

So what's the verdict?

Tom Goodman said...

I still think Floyd is going to contribute, but when Manuel leaves him in too long because "it's time" that does nothing for the kid's confidence. Don't get me wrong; Floyd's problems are not all attributable to Manuel and Dubee. His fastball has little or no apparent movement as seen from my arm chair and centerfield, and he still lacks confidence to throw the change enough. He is using his curve more, however. And one more thing: I'd like to see Ruiz catch him for his next few starts. I don't think he needs Fasano's cheerleading; I think he needs someone who can call a good game and set a good target.

gr said...

floyd's still got a chance to be decent. he hit a guy and gave up a dinger in the first and how did he respond? he sat done 12 straight. i though his location was much better until the 6th, when he had to pitch out of the stretch. that needs work, but if memory serves, he gave up a walk, a hard hit double, a tough luck chopper over nunez, and then routine single. he then got carlos lee to tap out weekly. hardly the stuff of self-destruction -- the brewers have the best offense in the league right now. as for the change, did you see it? i don't remember seeing it once. he might have thrown one in the dirt in the 4th.

Tom Goodman said...

Good points, gr. They weren't exactly creaming him in that fatal inning, but he had trouble with his location and at that point Charlie should have realized it was time to go out and get him while the damage was minimal. Moreover, if he cannot pitch out of the stretch, game time is not the best time to work out that little detail.

If nothing else, it is clear at this juncture that he still has work to do, especially but not exclusively in the confidence area. Knowing that, why push those limits? Had Charlie removed him two or three batters earlier, the kid could have looked back on his performance and been pleased. Instead, he is charged with five earned runs.

gr said...

its a good point and if the bullpen had delivered the way the entire has lately, i guess it'd be a moot point. i think the question is, what exactly does the brain trust expect out of floyd if he were to right himself? how high is his value? is he worth all this work in progress? i want to believe but the outlying factors: BB/Ks, the non-existent 3rd pitch, the apparent fragile psychie, have me wondering.

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

I'll be devil's advocate.

Part of the reason you don't take him out is that if you keep lifting the kid while the damage is minimal, he never learns to pitch out of those situations. He never grows into the type of starting pitcher that can sustain a long career. Instead he becomes a guy who was protected too much, and can't handle adversity.

It is times like these where you grow. It is after you fail that you do the most growing. And if he does not grow from this, then there is a problem.

If he only had 81 pitches under his belt at the time, then it was not unreasonable to expect him to pitch some more.

I think you are wrong in the one aspect. It's not whether he loses his confidence because he is left in too long. He has to learn to keep his confidence through a tough stretch, not to maintain it by getting out while the getting is good. You do that too much to a kid, and he never grows as a player.

Tom Goodman said...


It's admittedly a fine line, but there was more at stake than the kid's psyche. The Phils needed to win that game and Floyd's history suggested the longer he remained in there the less likely there would be a good outcome.

On the job training isn't always a wonderful thing.

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

No it isn't, but it's the only kind in this case where you grow. and the kid needs to grow.

I admit it sucks when the game is on the line. But sometimes the only way to see what the kid is made of is to see how he gets through situations like that. And you can't do that on a computer. You gotta keep him out there and hope he pulls it off.

Put it to you this way... I'd rather do it in May than October.

Nat said...

I agree with Steve on this. I think Floyd's future with the Phillies is shaky and I would read Manuel's comment in that light. Leaving him out there with troubling brewing (pun intended) was a test. If he had passed, it would have been a big lift both for him and the Phils. But he failed, and I think he's maybe a couple more failures away from sealing his fate here.

The Phillies need to decide soon whether he's part of their rotation and, if not, decide what to do about it.

RickSchuBlues said...

I disagree that Floyd needs to have room for "growth". The place for that is the minor leagues, or teams like the Royals. This is a contending team that does not have the luxury to experiment or be patient with a pitcher who more or less has no clue out there.

I furthermore don't think Floyd is worth the pateince. I think he compares unfavorably even to someone like Brandon Duckworth in terms of pure stuff. The numbers flesh that out: try 47 hits, 23 walks and only 22 strikeouts in 41 innings. It's fair to say he's extremely fortunate to be 4-2 with those numbers. That isn't going to get it done, and I don't see them improving. Floyd's only quality major league pitch is his curveball, which he shows no ability to locate with any consistency. His fastball is straight and lifeless. I don't see a whole lot to like here. I see a guy who's still living off his first-round pick reputation instead of what he's presenting when he goes out there, which aside from an occasinal nasty curve, isn't impressive in the least.

George S said...

What Gillick/Manuel are thinking in the long term for Floyd is dictating to some degree how they handle him. If they want him to be a permanent part of the rotation for a contending team, then he has to figure out how to get through tough innings, and he has to figure out how to get batters out when all of his pitches aren't working. At the very least, Gillick needs to know if they can count on this kid. Right now the answer is a big fat NO.

On the other hand, if Gillick thinks that Floyd is a stop-gap starter who they will replace as soon as a better option is available (Wolf, or a trade), then it makes sense to pull him at the first sign of trouble. It doesn't matter if he develops any further, and it certainly isn't worth a loss to try to do so. If Manuel starts yanking Floyd at the first sign of trouble, you can bet that Floyd does not figure in Gillick's longterm plans.

The common thread I see when Phillies pitching fails is that they cannot throw strikes. Even if you don't walk the batter, being behind in the count on every batter will eventually kill you.
That's my big problem/concern with Floyd, Madson and especially Rhodes.
As soon as Rhodes came in to that tie game and walked the first batter, they should have yanked him. I think his first 6-7 pitches were balls. You should know right then that the only way he is going to throw a strike is to start grooving pitches, and hard hit balls will result.

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

You can grow in the minor leagues, but your growth is limited there.

The only way to truly grow is to battle the hitters at the major league level. And again, you find out whether the guy can sink or swim in these months first.

Right now, you send him back to the minors, it really does nothing for him. He's at the stage where now is the time to prove it against the big guys.