Some of you who are familiar with my writings over the years know that I hold a special place in my heart for Joe Maddon. I am pretty sure he is a smart guy, at least as managers go, and he does some nice things with his team (you know, the T-shirts and casual Friday thing), but in my opinion he thinks that he is a lot smarter than he is and consequently he seems to habitually do some really obviously stupid things.
To wit in last night’s ALDS Game 2:
Before the game, Maddon decided to use Delmon F. Young as the DH against the righty starter, Lackey, rather than his regular (and excellent) lefty DH, Matt Joyce. The one with the career wOBA versus righties of .360 (.835 OPS)! Not the other Matt Joyce. You know, as opposed to Young, with a career wOBA against righties of .309 (.709 OPS).
But, being the cerebral celebrity that he is, he had some very good reasons:
If you want to break it down sabermetrically, there’s absolutely different righties that he’s better against than others. I’ll concede that point right now. The thing is with Delmon, right now I believe that he is kind of locked in and I think he’s had really good at-bats against some tough right-handers also. If you really want to break down all of our right-handers, there’s going to be different right-handed pitchers they’re all going to have difficult moments against. Delmon’s really demonstrated the ability to come through in key moments at the end of the season, and I believe in that kind of stuff too beyond numbers. I think that there’s a certain group of people that are really able to rise to moments or occasions and he’s proven that.
I think I just threw up in my mouth reading that.
I wanted to see how much of a mistake that was, on paper at least. That is all I can do. I mean, if Maddon is right with all that bullshit, all the more power to him. All I can do is look at it on “paper.”
So I ran both lineups in my very complex baseball simulator.
With Young, TB has a 47.85% chance of winning the game. With Joyce, TB has a WE of 51.92%. That is a difference of 4.1%! That is enormous for one decision! If Mattingly gets lambasted for a .2% mistake (IBB’ing Reed Johnson to pitch to Heyward in Game 2 of their NLDS) , what should the reaction to Maddon be for something that is 20 times worse! To me, that is an instantly fireable offense! (That would make a great dream – walking up to Maddon in the middle of a game and saying, “Hey bud! Take your smarter than thou attitude and your goofy glasses, and go clean out your office…”) This is not like an errant IBB or sacrifice bunt here or there. Those types of decisions typically are worth less than 1% in WE. This is big time.
Plus, you can leverage Joyce if you start him. If a LH reliever comes in to pitch to him or is already in there, you can pinch hit a righty! Since Maddon is already playing Young against a righty, he is presumably there to stay against righty relievers as well!
If Maddon is so high on Young, why is he batting 7th? Presumably if he played Joyce, Joyce would be batting 7th or lower, right? I mean, he is not saying that Joyce is bad right now (he is only saying that Young is great), and we KNOW that Joyce against a RHP is going to be one of the best hitters in that lineup. So surely Young, being better than Joyce, in Maddon’s mind at least, should be batting higher than 7th! So there is some serious disconnect in what he is saying and what he is doing.
Interestingly, later in the game Maddon brings in Joyce to pinch hit for Molina knowing that Boston is going to bring in Breslow to pitch to him (I suppose). Joyce is helpless against lefty pitchers. Is there anyone else he can pinch hit for for Joyce (a righty)?
Plus, you take out a catcher who is probably 20 runs better than his replacement (Lobaton) in framing. Granted you need offense more than you need defense at this point, but losing Molina is not like losing wood (a friend of mine likes to say, “What is that, wood?” As in, “What, that’s not good enough for you?”)!
Seems like the correct play is either to leave in Molina, or pinch hit Joyce and then replace Joyce with a righty off the bench when Breslow comes in. Any righty against a lefty pitcher is going to be a lot better than Molina versus a righty or Joyce versus a lefty.
I don’t like rooting against teams, but I really want Maddon to lose and it looks like I am going to get my wish!