Saturday, October 16, 2010

Various takes on the Rangers Game 1 loss

This is mainly a Redskins-Orioles-Wizards blog (with some Terps basketball thrown in). But last night in Game 1 of the ALCS, the Rangers blew a 5-1 lead in the eighth inning against the Yankees, and they eventually lost 6-5 in disastrous fashion. Rangers manager Ron Washington is being criticized for some of his in-game decisions, with the most popular critique being of his eighth inning bullpen management. In that inning, he used four relievers, and two of them threw just one pitch each. And while the ship was sinking, Washington never decided that maybe it would be a good idea to get the team's most effective reliever, closer Neftali Feliz, into the game to stave off the Yankees rally.

My take: Once the Yankees started their eighth inning rally, Feliz should have been summoned immediately. Yes, it's certainly easy to criticize now after the fact, but too often managers prefer to wait to use their closers in the ninth inning instead of in situations late in games when they're needed the most. Sure, Feliz could have blown the game too, but he would have had a much better chance than Darren Oliver, Darren O'Day, and Clay Rapada. And that's not even mentioning his ninth inning decision to have Elvis Andrus bunt.

Let's see what others are saying:
  • "Not using ace closer Neftali Feliz in the 8th, when they REALLY needed the game saved? It doesn't take a sabermetric genius to intuitively grasp the value of using your best relief pitcher when your team needs it most late." [Dan Shanoff]
  • "You can question the bullpen decisions by manager Ron Washington. You can wonder why third baseman Michael Young was playing on the infield grass with Derek Jeter up and holding a four-run lead. You can wonder why first baseman Jorge Cantu was still on the field with six outs to go with a lead. You can wonder why Hamilton kicked a ground ball single, yielding a key base. You can wonder how Ian Kinsler can possibly get picked off first base for the first out in the bottom of the inning. But this is really where the inning fell apart: Darren Oliver came into a 5-2 game and walked the only two batters he faced. That's where the game fell apart for Texas. There was no recovering from handing the Yankees two base runners without an out. Oliver never gave his team a chance to get out of it." [Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated]
  • "There were, for the Rangers, a lot of almosts. They almost delivered what might have been an early critical blow to the Yankees, whose ALCS future might have included three additional probable losses (both Cliff Lee's starts, and A.J. Burnett's start). They almost forced Girardi into making the difficult decision to tap Sabathia again for Game 4, thereby putting his entire staff on short rest (that Girardi pulled Sabathia after only 93 pitches suggests he was already thinking about that)." [Ben Reiter, Sports Illustrated]
  • "When the goat horns are handed out (sorry boys, no antlers in this one), they'll go to Oliver and Ian Kinsler (who walked to lead off the bottom of the ninth, and was promptly picked off). There's no accounting for Kinsler's gaffe. But when it comes to pitching changes, the buck should stop with the manager. Oliver performed terribly, and he'll probably take that to his grave someday. But his manager wasn't much better. Ron Washington might be the Manager of the Year. But if we're voting for Manager of Game 1, he's going to finish dead last." [Rob Neyer, SweetSpot]
  • "I’m sure Washington was saving his closer for a supposed “save” situation, but there’s no situation that could possibly need saving more than the Rangers’ eighth-inning implosion and after coughing up the lead there was no “save” chance for Feliz in the ninth inning anyway. Blaming the manager for five different pitchers allowing seven straight batters to reach is obviously silly, but Washington pulled some extremely questionable strings and never even saw fit to let Feliz try to put out the fire." [Aaron Gleeman, Hardball Talk]
  • "Hindsight is 50-50, but then again, Twitter will give you a live account that a lot of people thought Ron Washington was mis-managing today with each move he made. The only move was to leave Wilson in the game to face Swisher and Teixeira, and had he allowed them to reach base, to bring in Neftali Feliz to face Alex Rodriguez. Baseball teams need to put their best pitchers on the mound in the biggest situations. This isn’t theory that should be debatable. In the course of the five at-bats that happened immediately after C.J. Wilson was pulled – a stretch that included four different Rangers pitchers – the Rangers win expectancy dropped almost 70%. While it’s easy to blame Darren Oliver, or Darren O’Day, or Clay Rapada for the game’s outcome, the Texas Rangers lost a game they needed to win because Ron Washington (and the majority of baseball managers) continues to fail to recognize ideal game theory." [Bryan Smith, FanGraphs]
  • You may have seen this by now, but here's what Nolan Ryan looked like during the Rangers collapse. [David Brown, Big League Stew]
  • "Going to Oliver made some sense, but as soon as the Old Man walked Swisher and Teixeira, that should have been it. No Darren O'Day. No Clay Rapada. How could Washington pin the Rangers hopes to Clay Rapada? He's not even the lefty Clay reliever with the killer mustache. It's managerial malpractice. It's entirely possible Feliz would have given up the lead as well. But at least the Rangers would have lost with their best relief pitcher on the mound." [David Brown, Big League Stew]
  • "The second mistake that Washington made is more egregious and obvious, yet again, almost all managers do and would do the same thing. We ALL know that was. Not bringing in your best reliever in a high leverage situation in the 8th inning, regardless of the number of outs. Now, whether that was with runners on second and first and no outs or bases loaded and the go ahead run at the plate, I don’t know. But surely there was a time in the 8th inning where the leverage was extremely high. Had the Rangers been able to get into the 9th with a 3-run lead, Washington would have joyfully used his closer, Feliz, and that would be the ONE situation where he would not be needed (although it would be OK to use him) as the leverage with a 3-run lead in the 9th is low, as anyone who has read The Book knows (and you can probably guess anyway). Of course he never got to pitch at all and the rest (and the game, and likely the series) is/was history for the Rangers." [The Book Blog]
Quick point: The Yankees obviously deserve a ton of credit for last night's comeback. It really was a fantastic effort to win that game. But with a few moves, the outcome could have been much different. But it's too late now; the Yankees are now up 1-0.

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