Wednesday, April 17, 2013
The Day After: Who Was the Scapegoat?
By Ian Hunter
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.