Orioles Rays BaseballThe GBT – The Good, The Bad and The Telling sandwich, where The Bad is nice and lean and the The Telling is ripe.

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THE GOOD: Top O’ The Order To Ya. The bats are heating up. the top 5 batters in the lineup combine for 10 hits…Ben Zobrist. Zorilla is getting back into the swing of things with his second home run in as many nights.

THE BAD: It’s Not The Heat. We always say it. It is not the home run that kills you, it is the walk(s) before the home run. Last night the O’s hit a 3-run HR and a grand slam. Of the 5 players on base, 4 reached via walk…Fox Sports/Sun Sports. Stop with Batting Stance Guy. It was fun for about 3 seconds on YouTube. Now it is just some 35-year old dude doing poor imitations of Orioles hitters in his parents’ backyard. Just stop it. We imitated big leaguers also, when we were 8. For the love of everything Tampa Bay Rays, just STOP.

THE TELLING: Carlos Pena got the night off.

SUNBURST PLAYER OF THE GAME: Ben Zobrist

DEVIL DOGS WEBTOPIA

  • Jayson Stark seems convinced that the Rays can’t win without a closer. [ESPN]
  • There is a very obvious flaw to Jayson Stark’s thinking, but we won’t say it. Trop It Like It’s Hot, already did. [Trop It Like It's Hot]
  • Seems a bit strange to devote a column to how James Shields leads the league in lack of run support on the day after the Rays scored 7 runs in a James Shields start. [Tampa Tribune]
  • Raymond went for a ride on a Manta Ray, sorta, but not really. Pic included…Somebody queue the alarmists! Raymond was in Orlando! [Orlando Sentinel]
  • Gregg Zaun spoke to the Baltimore Sun about joining the Rays and leaving Baltimore. [Baltimore Sun]
  • Josh Q. Public makes a case for Jeff Niemann as Rookie of the Year. [Josh Q. Public]
  • The Top 177 Devil Rays ever, continued. [Bugs and Cranks]

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28 Comments

  1. Deadeye says:

    THE BAD: Joe Maddon’s use of Lance Cormier instead of keeping Shields in longer or Poor choice by Joe and he does not get a pass this time.

    • bobrittner says:

      Just give it a moment’s thought and forget the result. Why might it have made sense to relieve Shields at that point? Why might Cormier have been a proper choice?

    • MPH says:

      Just to be clear, I am not defending Cormier. He clearly sucked last night. But I don’t think Joe’s decision was unreasonable. Shields had thrown over 100 pitches, and, arguably more importantly, he had just finished walking the #9 batter. It would be nice to be able to bring in the 2008 version of Balfour at that point in the game, but since he is not available, Cormier seems like a reasonable choice.

      • Sam A says:

        And it’s not like Maddon knew Cormier would struggle.

        This loss hurt for a lot of reasons, but I try not to nitpick unfortunate managerial decisions or poor individual performances by a player who has otherwise done well this year. If they become a pattern then I’ll voice my objections or concerns.

        • Gus says:

          Shields is your best pitcher. He deserved a chance to get out of the mess; a mess created in part by Aybar clumsy play at first on Longo’s bad throw. Although Longo got the error, that ball took a room service hop for Aybar that he should have gotten (big difference with man on first than on 2nd in a 1-1 game). Until the slame, it was a total cheap inning. One hit, an error, and two walks (one off an 0-2 count where Shields’ change was moving too much for his own good). He still had good stuff.

          Moreover, bringing Cormier into a bases loaded situation against a team that knows him all too well — that is asking a ton of him. But more importantly, Shields is the ace, he deserves the chance to finish the inning when he was only at 106 and nobody had hit him that hard all night.

          • Dirtbag Fan says:

            whether or not Shields is the best pitcher (which he clearly isn’t) has little to nothing to do with the Cormier decision…

          • Sam A says:

            I also would have left Shields in the game for one more batter. I just don’t think the decision was so obvious that I am willing to criticize Maddon for thinking differently.

  2. Dirtbag Fan says:

    Bringing in Cormier to begin with was standard procedure.
    The questionable move was bringing Cormier back into the game the following inning after the Rays had pulled back to within 1, but even that was questionable at best– remember a tough Texas team is headed to town and having the stable full of fresh arms is vastly important.

    • Gus says:

      I’d say a guy gives up a slam to is first batter, then his offense almost takes him off the hook, those are signs to go to another reliever.

      Also, if Shields isn’t the best pitcher/ace, then who is? I think Maddon by starting him first to being the season, first after the all-star break, and first in the World Series is telling the world that’s my horse. My point is that is he is your horse, than ride him. At 106 pitches, let the starter get out of it, keep his chance at getting the win and show some leadership.

  3. Deadeye says:

    You all are wrong. When has Cormier ever been brought in a high leverage situation. He is a long reliever and best suited for it. Roberts splits were an obvious call for a Loogy or someone other than Cormier. Clearly Balfour, Wheeler, Choate, JP, Bradford, etc… were a better choice. I am not a Maddon hater, but he severely mis-managed the BP last night.

    • bobrittner says:

      I repeat. Try to work out why it made sense to relieve Shields with Cormier. It is easy to argue that it was wrong when things don’t work out. It takes a bit more thoughtfulness to consider the decision from multiple angles.

      Some comments have already presented reasonable arguments that already indicate your somewhat dogmatic assertion is at least debatable, less clear cut than you say. There are other equally cogent reasons. Can you use them to balance your point of view?

      Incidentally, while looking at Roberts’ splits, which are not particularly significant this year (although more so over his career), you might also look at Cormier’s splits both this year and for his career. (That is however only one factor in the decision in this case in my view.)

      • Deadeye says:

        Your grandiose polemic language aside, why do I have to prove to anyone why Cormier was a GOOD choice? When he was brought in, not after the fact, I KNEW it was a bad choice. Show me stats when Cormier hase been in high leverage situations in his career and this year and performed well.

        Secondly, no arguements were presented other than to say Cormier was the right choice. If anyone cares to look at his stats vs. lefties and in high leverage situations and to realize the Roberts has much better power numbers from the left side they would realize it was a bad choice all around.

        I am still waiting to hear WHY it made sense to bring Cormier in in that situation over any other reliever………crickets……….

        • MPH says:

          If I have my numbers right, Cormier’s ERA vs. lefties going into last night was about 2.90. Who do you think Madden should have used that is so clearly better? Your original e-mail seemed to say that Shields should have been left in the game. Is that still your answer? If not, considering that Roberts switch hits, who would you have used that would have offered a clearly better matchup? I’ve looked over the splits, and other than JP, I just don’t see where you can find anyone clearly better (and while it would be nice to have the luxury to use your closer every time you got in a jam in the 6th inning, I hope we can agree that is not realistic.)

          • Deadeye says:

            ERA is not a good stat, but yes if Jamie was left in the game, could the result been worse? A Loogy would have been better than Cormier as Roberts only has 1 homerun from the rightside this year. Choate or Shouse or better yet Wheeler as he has been tough on lefties lately. My whole point is that Lance has been great this year, but he is not a high leverage situation guy. Could he be at some point? Yes, but that has not been his role this year and it was unfair for Joe to put him in that spot.

        • bobrittner says:

          Ok, here is my point-at length.

          My objection to most fan criticisms of moves is that they generally assume there is a right and wrong answer rather than a number of choices, all of which are reasonable and/or problematic at the same time. Ordinarily the fan is adamant that there is just that one correct move, often based on some argument such as “I knew it beforehand” or “every little leaguer knows”.

          In other words, the fan begins with an assumption that some rule he has learned is the definitive answer without considering that rules are only guidelines, not absolutes.

          So let’s take the Shields/Cormier situation. Basically Maddon had 2 possible choices, but the second choice is really 7 choices. One, he could leave in Shields and two, he could relieve him with one of 7 relievers. (Or is it 8 now?)

          What would be the reasoning behind removing Shields?

          1. He had thrown 106 pitches already and was laboring. It is not really the number of pitches, but they were thrown under stress which made it significant. Had it been the first or second inning, it might have made sense to leave him in, but even should he get out of the inning he was unlikely to go much further.

          2. Contrary to the assertion that Shields is unflappable, he has been prone to big innings this year and has not been particularly reliable under stress. In last night’s game, all the signs indicated he was unraveling. A normally excellent control pitcher, he walked 2 in the inning, a warning sign of fatigue or losing command. And the second walk was to Pie who does not walk much and after an 0-2 count.

          3. Ordinarily fans cannot tell as well as the manager or pitching coach if the pitcher is straining or if his mechanics are off, but last night any reasonably attentive fan could see that Shields was over-emotional on the mound. And if Maddon and Hickey saw any mechanical changes they certainly would have to consider removing him.

          Why bring in Cormier?

          1. He combines the two traits most desired in this situation. He has the second best BB ratio of all our relievers and the second best home run rate. The best BB rate is Wheeler who has one of the worst home run rates, and the best home run rate is Balfour who has one of the worst BB rates. So Cormier combines two important factors in his favor.

          2. He has been excellent this year against lefties and significantly better than either Balfour or Wheeler. He is also better against righties than either Shouse or Choate are against righties against whom both are practically helpless.

          3. He has been probably the most consistent reliever in the bullpen (aside from Howell) and has lately been moved more into higher leverage situations. There is no reason to suspect he does not have the capacity to succeed in such cases.

          All that said, it does not mean that choosing Cormier was without question right. Other arguments can be made for an alternative. I would have brought in Howell, but that is because I have such disdain for the concept of the closer. My point is that there are good reasons to choose Cormier among the total of 8 or 9 possibilities.

        • bobrittner says:

          Incidentally, since Aug. 4 Cormier has been brought into 4 high leverage situations prior to last night and has maintained the tie or lead in each case. (Once he allowed 1 run to cut a 3 run lead to 2; the other times he gave up nothing.)

          In those 4 cases, where 1.0 means average leverage and anything higher means higher leverage, he came into the following situations: 2.02, 1.09, 2.23, 1.26. Two are extremely high leverage and he succeeded perfectly. The only blip was the lowest leverage (1.09) where he gave up the run without a hit or walk, i.e. unearned.

          • Deadeye says:

            Check his BB rate vs lefties ;-) As far as closers go, Trey Hillman would disagree with you (Rays series in KC). Thank God he is not the Rays manager

          • Gus says:

            But he’s not always Mr. High leverage. With a rested bullpen, it was a curious choice. He had appeared in Tuesday night’s game up 5-2 starting the 6th. His two appearances before that were finishing an 8-3 game against Toronto and coming in for long-relief in LA down 6-3 when Garza melted down. Before that, he was in late in the Friday night extra inning game in Seattle.

            I get your point that you always 2nd guess and that everything doesn’t work out. But I didn’t like it when Maddon made the move and I don’t like it now. I’d much rather have Shields give up that HR than a reliever because he’s the big gun out there. If the season is going down in flames (and last night’s loss was a huge loss), I want Shields on the mound if he can still go. 106 pitches, he should be still going.

            Generally, I think if anything Maddon could stand to go with his starters a little longer and rely on his bullpen a little less. But that is who he is. It is frustrating to watch sometimes.

          • bobrittner says:

            All I am saying is that the choice of Cormier was not a mistake or something to blame Maddon for. My point is that there are good reasons for that decision. It is entirely legitimate to argue that there were other options you would have preferred, but that is not saying that one decision is wrong while the other is right.

            Shields gives up home runs. He was struggling and showing signs of frustration on the mound. It is possible, though I don’t know it is the case, that Maddon and/or Hickey saw changes in his mechanics. Certainly a walk to Pie, the second of the inning, after going 0-2, suggests he was losing command and was more likely to groove one.

            There is no rule, nor should there be, that the putative ace should always be allowed to finish an inning or get out of his own mess, and certainly not in the 6th inning when he has already gone over 100 pitches. (That was Little’s argument about letting Pedro get beat by the Yankees a few years ago.)

            But in the end, none of that matters, nor am I claiming that the move was absolutely right. I recognize the legitimacy of arguments that bringing in Cormier was unwise. But I think that those who think that way should recognize that it was also a defensible move, not a mistake or evidence of poor managing. To label baseball moves in such a simple-minded fashion is to lose sight of the complexity of the game and the many options available at any given moment.

            I just returned from the game tonight and was distressed that Maddon left Balfour in to pitch to Hamilton as the tying run in the 8th. And he may have been lucky that the runner was thrown out stealing so that the AB was not completed. But I also recognize that it is not cut and dried and am able to defend the decision even while I would not have done it.

  4. Don says:

    Why bitch about the relief pitchers when you have…
    A Starting pitcher(s) that can’t last 5 innings….and Shields (who has gone down the tube) pitching “around” Wigginton(?), and after 2 strikes on the 9th hitter can not throw a strike, and WALKS him, to leave a relief pitcher to pitch to a real hitter!
    You can cry about Bad Luck or relief pitching but the starters (esp. Shields) STINK….except…. you rookie Nemann!

    • TOBY says:

      Who didnt last 5 innings? If Cormier gets that out, then we would all be saying Shields pitched a “soid” game…not Great, but solid.

      • Don says:

        I don’t know what you consider “solid”, but not going to let any pitcher off the hook that loads up the bases with walks and “pitch arounds” and leaves with the bases loaded for someone else (relievers) to deal with!
        Bad news…that is not “solid”!

  5. Kevin says:

    Brian Matusz IS left-handed, so that’s why Pena sat and the switch hitters hit right-handed.

  6. Sublime says:

    who in the hell earlier in the week was complaining about WEAK HITS??? Oh for a weak hit, we could have tied the damn game up! All of us last night would have taken a WEAK HIT to tie the game!

  7. bobrittner says:

    In the interests of accuracy regarding pitching into the 5th inning, let’s keep in mind that Shields is 5th in the AL in innings pitched (just .2 innings behind #4-Greinke- and about 2 innings behind #3-Verlander). He has averaged slightly better than 6.6 innings per start, an excellent figure and the best on the staff.

    By the way, Niemann is third on the staff in innings/start, behind Garza who is #2.

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