Shhhh … Albert Can Be Human

pujols.jpgIf the Phillies know something the rest of the world does not know about Albert Pujols, they’re not saying it.

Pujols went 1-for-3 with one RBI in the Phillies’ 7-2 victory over St. Louis today at Citizens Bank Park. He hit .250 (4-for-16) with one RBI in the four-game series, but is hitting just .193 (11-for-57) with one homer and four RBIs in his last 15 games against the Phillies, dating to 2008. St. Louis is 4-11 against the Phillies in that span.

The secret?

“I don’t even want to talk about that,” Charlie Manuel said. “I remember two years ago, in St. Louis, you were talking about how great our offense was. You said, ‘You’re on pace to score 1,000 or 1,100 runs.’ And I told you that night to be quiet. We went out that night to score 20 runs and then we had trouble scoring one run for about a week to 10 days. And then we went about two weeks before we started getting on track.

“I don’t want to talk about Pujols’ hitting. He’s going to hit enough.”

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Phillies pitchers are 6-2 with a 3.36 ERA in their last eight games. The offense also has found some normalcy, averaging 5.6 runs per game with an .819 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

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The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter. His Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” is available online, and at Delaware Valley bookstores!

20 Comments

Classic response. I love Charlie Manuel.

DO not F**k with the Baseball gods….Never say too much hitting, or pitching, or this guy is an easy out. You know what will happen as soon as you finish the sentence…….

Has anyone ripped (Genius) Tony LaRussa for hitting the pitcher 8th? At least 3 times in the Phils series the 8-hitter came up with a runner in scoring position and less than 2 out. The pitcher made the second out and the 9-hitter made the third.
100 years of baseball tradition, and LaRussa thinks he’s figured out a better way to construct a lineup. I’m sure whomever is hitting 7th is thrilled about that. Put the pitcher in front of Ibanez and see how that works out.

…behind Ibanez. You can’t correct or delete these comments.

Except in those rare cases where a pitcher is a better hitter than the eight hole guy, every time LaRussa pencils in the pitcher in the eight hole, he is giving the opposition an edge from the get-go. When is the last time anyone has heard of a pitcher getting a walk-off hit let alone a walk-off home-run? The answer is obvious because baseball orthodoxy dictates that in such a situation, the typical pitcher is not allowed to hit. The earlier the pitcher hits, the earlier it is possible for the situation to arise, the earlier LaRussa has to make a decision involving his bench and his bullpen. It may seem farfetched but I don’t think the ’51 Giants or ’93 Blue Jays would argue about the value of one more at-bat.

The sabermetrics guys have done the math and it’s actually ever-so-slightly better, in terms of runs produced, to have the pitcher bat 8th, the way most lineups are constructed, because the best hitters bat 1-5. Putting your worst hitter at 9 means that the first 2-3 guys in your lineup, who usually have high BAs, get up with men on base less often than they would if a better hitter were in the 9 spot. As Whitey used to say… right muleman?

zach: Actually, you might be able to look it up, but you don’t have a large enough sample size of pitchers batting 8th to come to a conclusion.
I know we’re supposed to bow to the Sabermetrics math whizzes, but baseball is played on dirt and grass, not on paper. When MLB is a fantasy league and they stop sending real people out to play, I’ll start listening to the guys with the calculators.
“Ever-so-slightly” isn’t enough of an edge for me to give up the AB of my 7-hitter. What is ever-so-slightly, by the way?

LaRusso is not the only one doing it and I really don’t get it. It is a dumb thing to do, unless they know that their pitcher is not going to pitch very many innings and they want to load up the 8 spot with pinch hitters.

The thought did occur to me that the sample size would be too small if only one team did it. But on second thought, a sample size one- sixteenth of the whole is probably statistically significant, at least as far as my memory of Intro to Statistics goes.

muleman: the analyses I’ve seen average around 10-20 runs per season, the equivalent of 1-2 wins. And yes, there isn’t much real data on pitchers hitting 8th so it’s based on simulations. Anyway, it’s close enough that it doesn’t matter very much, so I don’t understand why anyone gets their panties in a bunch one way or the other. With Pujols hitting 3rd, LaRussa wants to give him a better chance of hitting with men on base. It makes sense to me.

Now LaRussa is clearly no baseball genius, because he has Pujols hitting 3rd, a terrible spot for your best hitter and best OBP guy, but that’s a whole nother can o worms.

I wonder if any visiting NL manager has ever tried this: start the top of the 1st with 9 hitters, and the leadoff man is a bench player. When the bottom of the 1st comes around, replace the leadoff man with your starting pitcher.
The positive: you get at least one at-bat with a hitter, as opposed to the starting pitcher (maybe 2 if they bat around)
The negative: you burn one of your options later in the game, especially if it goes extra innings.

sully: not allowed… the starting pitcher on the lineup card must face at least one hitter

Todd: In the event Wheels, McCarthy or Sarge are ever out sick for the day/evening…I think we’ve got a pretty entertaining bunch of baseball-lovin’ characters on this board who would carry us just fine through the middle innings of any game….besides that I’d love to know what everyone looks like! Why, yes, I’d love the chance to ring the bell after each HR. :)

Mule: When you pay your respects to Mr. Roberts before the game tonight would you please tell him that the belle sends her aloha. Mahalo plenty.

Enjoy the game tonight everyone!

I’m not sure how anyone can say that switching the pitcher with the 8th hitter in the line-up is better or worse. The pitcher is usually a lousy hitter no matter where he is in the line-up and will be pitched to accordingly. Likewise, the 8th batter moved to the 9th spot is a ML hitter and will be pitched to accordingly. If the pitcher is Carlos Zambrano, I’d hit him 5th in that Cubs’ line-up. If it’s a pitcher for the Braves, leading-off or batting 6th-9th wouldn’t make a difference in the world.
If the pitcher (hitting 8th) gets a lucky check swing bloop single that knocks in a run, is that proof in suppost of keeping him there? If the position player hitting 9th leads off with a single but never scores, is that an argument to keep him in the 9th spot? Or would it have been better to let the pitcher make the first out so the next inning could start off with the cleanup hitter leading off and not the 5th batter?

The AL never has to worry about where tha pitcher will bat….

This game should be a real test for Jamie. If he can’t shut down the worst offense in the NL, who can he shut down? Jamie had always been able to find his stride or groove or whatever you call it. Through the ’08 season, he had struggled and then gone on a tear where he was able to pitch a couple of months worth of quality starts. Last year I really tought that he could’ve done a repeat of his ’08 performance, but Charlie pulled him out of the starting rotation so we’ll never know. This year he hasn’t been able to put a string of quality innings together, muchless quality starts. His fastball is just as fast (I mean slow) as it has been last decade or so. The umps haven’t been giving him those borderline pitches-forcing him to throw more over the plate with the results being what they are….

One point everyone seems to forget during the “pitcher 8th or 9th” argument is this: no matter how you slice it, the 8th place batter will have more ABs over the course of a season than the 9th place. Does it make sense to have the worst hitter in your lineup have more ABs? Personally, I think not.

-Ballhawk Shawn

realtalk.mlblogs.com

Ballhawk, it makes plenty of sense if you consider having a pinch hitter batting for the pitcher in the 8th or 9th spot. Most pitchers not named Roy Halladay will only bat 2-3 times in a game anyway, but the position player usually plays the whole game. Plus there’s always the so-called “Double-switch” when the pitcher is changed and a defensive change is made at the same time, allowing the replacement position player to bat 9th and the new pitcher to bat 7th or whatever.

Zach, why is the 3rd spot bad for the teams best hitter or the guy with the highest OBP? Carlos Ruiz currently leads the NL in OBP. Where should your top OBP hitter bat in the line-up? First?

Yeah, top OBP guy should go first. Next best hitter should go 2nd or 4th. 3rd is bad because the 3-hole hitter comes up with 2 outs more often than any other spot, so getting on base isn’t worth as much. There’s a good chart here: http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/story/2006/2/12/133645/296 showing the value of OBP, SLG, a hit, a walk, or an extra-base hit for each lineup position. There’s also a link with added variable thrown in. Interesting stuff, you can draw your own conclusions…

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