Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Day After: Who Was the Scapegoat?

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The day after a tough one-run loss, people want answers. Despite a strong performance by Josh Johnson and homers by Colby Rasmus and J.P. Arencibia, they want to know why the Blue Jays missed a golden opportunity to put away the Chicago White Sox.

Frankly, I don't blame fans for seeking an explanation as to why the Blue Jays let their lead slip away late in the game, but I think any finger-pointing today towards manager John Gibbons is misplaced.

As I was listening to Jays Talk on the way home last night, I simply couldn't understand why so many people were pegging the loss on John Gibbons. In a close game like that, people tend to look for a scapegoat, but Gibby was merely playing the percentages.

You cannot fault John Gibbons for putting in Rajai Davis who is a career .289 hitter against lefties, for Colby Rasmus who is a career .207 hitter against lefties. The numbers do not lie.

Any sane manager would have pinch hit Colby Rasmus in the bottom of the 8th inning with a tough lefty on the mound. Unfortunately, the move didn't pan out for the Blue Jays, but in that particular situation, you simply have to play matchups.

There were some that were pining for Colby Rasmus to remain in the game, but what if he stayed in the lineup and simply struck out against Santiago, as he tends to do often against left-handers? Then fans would have been clamoring to why Gibbons didn't pinch hit for Colby.

What it all boils down to is run production (or lack thereof). More often than not, three runs are not going to be enough to win a ball game. So when runs are scarce, the margin of error is paper-thin.

That's when defensive mistakes become difference makers; like Emilio Bonifacio's miscue in centre field, the throw wide of the line by Rajai Davis and even the wild pitch in the second that allowed Paul Konerko to score from third base.

John Gibbons managerial style is a bit of a departure from what we've seen in the past few years with the Blue Jays. He often employs platoons, he isn't afraid to use his best relievers in high leverage situations, and he doesn't shy away from matchups.

However, I much prefer his managerial style as opposed to a laissez-faire approach, where previous Blue Jays managers might simply let Colby Rasmus swing away in that situation and hope for the best.

The only move I may have questioned by John Gibbons was his decision to keep Steve Delabar out there perhaps for a little too long. Given, Delabar had a clean 8th inning and threw only 12 pitches, but after walking the first two batters, at that point Gibbons should have given Delabar the hook.

If people are looking for a scapegoat for last night's loss, blame the starting lineup. They're hitting a paltry .193 as a team with runners in scoring position. I think that tells you everything you need to know. 

The Blue Jays are averaging just 3.8 runs per game. As a comparison, the lowly Houston Astros are averaging 4 runs scored per game.

Micromanaging the manager's decisions may only have a minor impact on the game, but the fate of the team rests in the hands of the starting lineup, the starting pitcher who goes to the hill, and the bullpen.

It's a simple solution for the Blue Jays, but for some reason it's been a difficult plan to execute the first two weeks of the season; score more runs. If the Blue Jays can do that, then minor mistakes will come out in the wash.

9 comments:

  1. The loss should be pinned on the offence for managing just two runs against a pretty lacklustre starter and on Delabar. Two walks to start the 9th is bad news.

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  2. Then someone ought to delve into those difficulties.
    Who sets that in motion?

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  3. I completely disagree with this. I can blame Gibbons. Numbers may not lie but as they say there are "Lies, damned lies, and statistics". Gibbons completely ignores what pitchers or hitters are doing on the actual night (ie who is hot and who is not THAT night)and manages by numbers (ie what people did in the past). I know remember why I hated Gibbons as manager as it is all about lefty/right match ups and past performance. A math teacher who has never seen a baseball game could manage the same way he does.

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    1. But still, Rasmus was a .200 hitter against lefties lifetime. Heck, he was 0 for 4 against a lefty yesterday. I realize Colby had a home run that game, but you have to play the percentages at that point.

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  4. There's still no denying that Bonifacio is a terrible fielder at any position.

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    1. Exactly. But Gibbons can not think in those multiple dimensions (if I pinch hit now what does that mean for the defence in the next inning). All he can see is the lefty/righty match up that is right in front of him. When asked later rather than admit he made a mistake (or at least traded a potentially better hitting match up for a clearly worse defensive match up) he said "I don't know if there's that much of a difference in center field with Bonifacio and Rasmus,". REALLY - SERIOUSLY?

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    2. No question there whether Rasmus or Bonifacio is the better fielder. I don't think anybody could have anticipated how poor Emilio's defense would be. I just think Gibby wasn't trying to throw him under the bus, but we all know who's the better CF in that situation.

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  5. I wish I thought that Gibbons said that to spare Bonifacio but I don't. I think it is because he will never admit he made a mistake or that some action he took did not work. That was they way he was last time he was manager so at least he is consistent. I was stunned when the Blue Jays spent all that money to retool the team and then put Gibbons in charge. An all star roster managed by a minor league (at best) caliber manager. There was a reason no other ML team hired him as manager after he was fired in Toronto.

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