No, really. Start managing like it’s the playoffs.

Posted by Steve

It’s been a few days since I was able to post, and quite a bit has happened in the world of Brewers baseball over that time. It’s old news by now to talk about beating Arizona, so I’ll just say that attending that game was perhaps the most nerve-wracking and exhilarating thing I’ve ever experienced. Amazing.

But moving on to this series. Of course, my worst nightmare of facing the Cardinals came true. Anybody but the Cardinals. Since there’s nothing they can do about it now, let’s take a look at what we’re working with this series.

Everyone is talking about the struggles of the Brewers’ starting rotation. The starters have struggled, but people seem to be downplaying one important factor: They’ve been facing great offenses. Arizona scored more runs than the Brewers this season, and the Cardinals are the best offense in the National League.

I would argue that neither Zack Greinke on Sunday nor Shaun Marcum yesterday were awful. Both allowed some cheap hits and then made the fatal mistake of giving up a meatball with runners on. Marcum certainly doesn’t seem like himself, but he was hurt by bunting, hit-and-runs and poor defense as well.

At some point, you have to be willing to admit a good part of the runs the Brewers hav given up is due to the Cards’ great offense.

Now, how does that help any going forward? It doesn’t, really; they’ll still be facing a great offense. It’s why I don’t expect the Brewers to win this series, but you never know. The Brewers’ offense has knocked around Cardinal pitching as well, so I expect more slugfests going forward.

Before looking ahead to the rest of the series, I want to reflect on yesterday’s trouncing. Obviously, the pitching and defense needs to be better, but I was again discouraged by what I saw from Ron Roenicke. Again, his moves are ones that managers make in a regular season game. There was no sense of urgency.

After the top of the fourth inning, the Cardinals had a five-run lead. The Brewers finally got on the board with Weeks’ homer and cut it to 5-2. I ask you this: Is a three-run deficit heading to the fifth inning still a winnable game? Apparently not to Roenicke. At least that’s what his decision communicated.

After cutting the lead to three runs, the Brewers needed to hold the Cardinals right where they were. They had their 2-3-4 hitters coming up. Who does Ron turn to when he needed a hold? Saito? Hawkins? Even Loe with right-handed Pujols and Holliday due up?

Nope. The answer is: the last guy in the bullpen! That’s right; after cutting the lead to three and the heart of their order coming up, Roenicke called on Marco Estrada. Unbelievable.

Again, this move makes perfect sense during the regular season. Marcum wasn’t getting it done, they pinch hit for him in a scoring opportunity, and then they need the long reliever Estrada to eat some innings and save the bullpen.

But what are we saving the bullpen for now? Especially with a day off before the next game! The Brewers gained nothing by not having Saito, K-Rod or Axford pitch yesterday. They wouldn’t have lost anything either, as I mentioned, because of the off day today.

This is just like when he kept Randy Wolf in to face Cowgill in the game against Arizona. Both times it was crucial that the Brewers stop the bleeding, as they were very much still in the game. Both times RRR failed to recognize that fact, and the game blew up and got away from them.

As much as I despise Tony La Russa with every fiber of my baseball being, he runs circles around Roenicke when it comes to this. He removed his starting pitcher with a three-run lead in the fourth inning! Talk about something you’d never see during the regular season. Yet, it was the right move. TLR sensed the Brewers were figuring Edwin Jackson out, and he made a proactive move rather than the one Reactive Ron Roenicke (“Reactive” has replaced “Runnin’” until further notice) made.

So anyway. I want to see that change immediately, or the Brewers will waste more opportunities.

Quickly looking ahead. What do the Brewers need to do? They don’t necessarily need to win tomorrow; they just need to win one of the next two. I’d feel great about a 2-2 series. I’m not sure I see it, though.

I’m very nervous about tomorrow. I wish the Brewers would essentially punt Game 3 and put their eggs in the Game 4 basket. Here’s my reasoning: tomorrow is Yo against Chris Carpenter (ugh). Carpenter’s been lights out lately, and the odds of the Brewers beating Carpenter in the Cards’ first home game of the series is pretty low. So why waste Yo in this game? Pitch Randy Wolf instead. That way, if you lose the game, no big deal–you have a huge advantage in Game 4 with Gallardo against Kyle Lohse. And if you somehow win the Wolf-Carpenter match-up, well then you’re sitting pretty with Yo against Lohse in Game 4 and a great chance at a 3-1 series lead.

But if Yo loses to Carpenter tomorrow, suddenly they’re faced with Randy Wolf on the mound in a must-win game. Not an enjoyable thought, but  a very real possibility.

This is all moot, as Yo is going to start tomorrow. Like I said, this makes Game 3 much more crucial than I’d have liked it to be. For this reason, the Brewers need to do everything they can to give themselves an edge. Specifically, I’d like to see Carlos Gomez get the start in center over Nyjer Morgan.

I know it sounds funny to ask for Gomez to start against a righty over Morgan, but consider the factors. First, Morgan and Carpenter have their history, and you never know what sort of controversy might arise with Morgan in the lineup. More importantly, though, Morgan hasn’t been hitting lately, and he has very poor numbers against Chris Carpenter in his career. And most importantly, Gomez is the team’s best defender, and they’re going to need all the defense they can get in what could be a low-scoring game. Gomez isn’t likely to hit Carpenter, but neither is Morgan, so get the All-World defender in center if it’s a wash. Morgan’s play in center yesterday should only further help RRR to make this decision.

To be honest, I’d be fine playing Morgan in right over Hart. That makes the outfield defense fantastic. hart only has a .701 OPS against Carpenter in his career, so it’s not like the Brewers would be missing much.

So, to recap:

  • Remember it’s the playoffs, and manage accordingly
  • Flip Yo and Wolf.
  • Since you won’t flip Yo and Wolf, at least play Gomez in center. The Brewers need great defense in what they hope is a low-scoring game.
  • Win plz.

 

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4 responses to “No, really. Start managing like it’s the playoffs.

  1. Why would you play any differently than the way that won you games throughout the course of the season?

  2. from:

    Playoff Cornucopia

  3. The distinction is that changing from your regular season offensive philososphy which worked all year, is completely different than the way you should manage your bullpen in a short series. You are absolutely not going to become a more effective offense by all of a sudden switching to a small ball approach.

    As far as bullpen management, you have to be more aggressive. You chipped away at the 5-0 deficit to 5-2. In the regular season you save your bullpen because its a long season and you don’t have to sense of urgency present in the postseason. In the postseason, every game is critical. Using Saito in the 5th is not analogous to “playing differently than the way that won you games throughout the regular season.” The other day, Brian Anderson said that RRR had only 16 intentional walks during the regular season, fewest in the National league. If he all of a sudden was giving everyone an IBB in the postseason, that would constitute a major philosophical switch that you shouldn’t really fall into.

    I’ve got one more analogy: In the regular NFL season, you might spell your top RB for a few series a game to “keep him fresh” or whatever. In the playoffs, you leave him out there as much as you can. Keep the same run/pass philosophy etc, but put your best players in in the highest leverage situations since it’s do-or-die all the time.

  4. Yeah I should have clarified offense vs. bullpen. Bullpen is the one thing you manage more aggressively in the playoffs. Dan said it better than I could.

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