He wears his sunglasses at night/ So he can So he can/ Look cool in the dugout and stuff la la la something etc.

>> Tuesday

As the general populace of baseball fandom has grown more familiar with the idea of Pythagorean Win-Loss% (or more generally, the idea of run differential as a predictor of wins), more attention has been given to teams like this year's St. Louis Cardinals who have compiled an actual win-loss record that betters their expected win-loss. And whenever this topic surfaces, so does the manager's name--almost without fail.

In the case of a team like the '07 Cardinals, where the manager is someone as high-profile as Tony LaRussa, he's not only mentioned but given the bulk of the credit. (The latest sportswriting-guy to go with this angle: Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune.)

I understand the temptation here: The on-field numbers don't compute, so something intangible must be at work. Someone must be "managing" the runs in a way that stretches their value into a greater number of wins.

And I think there could be some truth to this line of thinking. Say a team consistently loses 4-0 or 6-1 type games but pulls out a lot of 3-2 and 2-1 wins, one could argue that the manager is doing a good job of holding small leads with wise defensive maneuvers or "manufacturing" key runs late in tie ballgames when "agressive" strategies (i.e. sac bunts, moving runners) can prove advantageous.

But that doesn't seem to be the case with the Cardinals this year. (Pay no mind to the fact that the Cardinals, who stand at 59-62, are just 2.4 games over their third-order expected win-loss and just five games over their straight-up Pythagorean win-loss.) While I understand that the general premise behind ExWL is that good teams = more runs = more wins and that individual games shouldn't really be picked apart, I think the real story with the Cardinals is a team that's suffered a lot of blowouts.

Let me show ya sometin'!!

April 4, 10-0 loss to the Mets
May 1, 12-2 loss at the Brewers
May 5, 13-0 loss to the Astros
May 18, 14-4 loss at the Tigers
June 15, 14-3 loss at the A's
July 13, 13-3 loss at the Phillies
July 27, 12-2 loss to the Brewers
Aug 1, 15-1 loss at the Pirates

That's a total score of 103-15, or a run differential of 88 in just eight games.

They have had wins of 12-2, 11-1, 15-6, and 10-1, which alone get back 38 of those runs, showing that it hasn't all been extra-inning wins and blowout losses for the Cardinals. But still, we're looking at a sizable 50-run differential in their twelve most blowout-y games, which leaves the Cards one game over .500 with a 14-run differential in their other 109 games.

Ok, so maybe Darrin Jackson wouldn't manage them to that mark--in large part because he'd probably be starting So Taguchi, Jose Oquendo, and Tom Pagnozzi right now--but it doesn't exactly prove that Tony LaRussa is a sorcerer who can will the trajectory of baseballs.

While I understand that all teams suffer and/or score blowouts that can skew their run differential, it doesn't help the hypothesis that the Cardinals are just 10-15 in one-run games. They are, however, 6-3 in extra-inning games--a fact that should garner LaRussa some credit, albeit some very caveat-loaded credit.

Is Tony LaRussa a good manager? In the debatably insignificant realm of baseball managing, he may be. (I won't answer that question because I hate him for his role in the popularization of current trends in bullpen categorization, and I am therefore biased.) At the same time, I think it's really lazy for analysts to attribute this sort of statistical oddity to something as subjective as "good managing" unless they've really scrutinized that manager's technique throughout the season. Even then, they really can't know.

3 comments:

Lina 5:04 AM  

Who sà how many beautiful things you have written in this blog.
Sin that I do not understand your language, I love the reading very, but putroppo I understand only a P2o of lngles and see that in blogger not there are Italian, and do not understand the reason, however novellistic mine blog and. if you come to visit it and me lasci a salute you would make me happy: … YOU COME I EXPECTED CIAOOO!!! LINA

Vinnie 4:02 PM  

Hahahaha... This post clearly hit a nerve.

Zuch 8:26 PM  

It was only a matter before the future Mrs. Vincent Bergl discovered YCS. And an Italian to boot.

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