Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jerry Manuel: Managing without thinking

Football coaches have a two-point conversion chart that tells them under what circumstances they should go for two instead of kicking an extra point. The chart tells them what to do - they don't have to think about the decision.

Kind of like how Jerry Manuel makes many of his decisions.

When Manuel brought Francisco Rodriguez into the game in the eighth, the pitcher's spot was due to bat third in the ninth. The book says to do a double switch with the player who made the last out.

So Manuel followed the book and double-switched Jeff Francoeur out of the game, replacing him with Gary Matthews Jr.

Here's what this move accomplished: With two outs and none on in the top of the ninth, Matthews came up instead of Frankie.

Going into the game, Matthews was hitting .193 with 23 strikeouts in 57 at bats. That's 40% of his at bats. So it's not exactly second-guessing to say I was not surprised when Matthews struck out again.

In return for giving Matthews another chance to strike out, Manuel removed Francoeur, his hottest hitter and a strong defensive right fielder, and replaced him with Matthews, who does not belong in the major leagues.

Fortunately, Matthews did not have a chance to come up again in a big spot or fail to make a throw that Francoeur would have made. Manuel had another plan for blowing the game.

Bringing in Raul Valdes.

Manuel mismanaged Valdes when he stretched him out to be a spot starter, than used Fernando Nieve instead on Saturday night in Milwaukee. Nightly Nieve has been mediocre for weeks since Manuel started burning him out. But Manuel wanted Nieve to start over Valdes because the Brewers had a mostly righthanded lineup.

When you have two journeyman pitchers, you should go with the one who's hot, not by the book of which one is a lefty. But only Manuel would figure that the best use of an overworked reliever would be to give him a start. Not surprising, Nieve did poorly.

Meanwhile, Valdes didn't pitch for six days, then came into the Monday night game and gave up four runs without retiring a batter. He pitched so poorly he looked as if he were injured.

Maybe Valdes was messed up because his perceived role kept changing. Or maybe there was something wrong with him and he would have pitched poorly had he started on Saturday.

But once Valdes had his Monday meltdown, one would think that he would not be used in a big spot just two days later unless there was no alternative. Yet despite having other options, Manuel sent him out tonight for the eleventh.

It was clear from the start that there was still something wrong with Valdes. The only out he got was on a sacrifice bunt.

But Adrian Gonzalez, scheduled to bat fifth in the inning, is a lefty, so the book says to be sure to leave Valdes in.

Going into the game, Gonzalez had nine homers and 23 RBI in 128 AB against righthanders, but no homers and 5 RBI in 58 RBI against lefties.

Make that one homer and 9 RBI.

When Gonzalez came up with one out and the bases loaded, Valdes had only retired one of the nine batters he had faced in his two San Diego appearances, and that was on the sacrifice bunt. The odds of Valdes retiring Gonzalez, who was already 3 for 5 (and by the way, two of those hits were off lefty Johan Santana), were pretty low.

Would Jenrry Mejia have gotten Gonzalez out? Who knows. But it was worth a try, since Valdes was not going to get the job done.

It's a shame that the Mets can't score runs for Johan and that Frankie blew the save. But at least Johan is pitching really well and Frankie still has overall good numbers. Would I trust him in a playoff game? Maybe not, but the Mets aren't likely to have that worry for awhile.

Not when their manager is making moves that make no sense.


Leslie said...

When is Manuel going to be fired? I had enough of him. Enough is enough. The guy can't take the Mets to another level. He is a medicore manager at best. Mets deserve an upgrade.

Uncle Mike said...

"Two-point conversion chart." Remember Rich Kotite, the man who coached the Jets to a 4-28 record in 1995 and '96? The year before, he took the Philadelphia Eagles from 7-2 and a sure NFC East title to 7-9 and out of the Playoffs -- meaning the Staten Island native and former Giants tight end lost 35 of the last 39 games he's ever coached in the NFL.

One of those 7 straight Eagle losses came in a rainstorm, when he forgot to put a protective sheet on his two-point conversion chart and the ink ran, and he guessed wrong, and the opponent came from behind to win by 1 point.

The problem isn't Jerry Manuel, just as it wasn't Willie Randolph. The problem is that the Mets, although they have more character than in the last 4 seasons, don't have enough players who are good enough or smart enough. And that is the fault of Omar Minaya, the man who got them; and of Jeff Wilpon, the man who got him. The best chef on the planet can't make chicken salad out of chicken feathers -- or other chicken products, for that matter.

mhochman said...

Every morning I wake up hoping to see the headline "Manuel Fired" and every day, i'm dissapointed.

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