Saturday, May 14, 2011

John Farrell is a Professional Fun Sponge

Fun-spongery is pretty much right there in the job description. Removing Ricky Romero just one out shy of a complete game shutout was a curious choice yet, even though my job is complaining loudly about the excruciating minutiae, I didn't find it that reprehensible.

Allow me to bust out a chronological timeline of my paraphrased feelings/sentiments as expressed on Twitter (if you don't follow, you should! My personal level of life satisfaction is directly proportional to my follower count.)
  • When Farrell first came out for a mound visit, I was a little shocked. It was (I think) right after Ricky Roma made Jason Kubel look downright foolish. Romero then demo'd the concussed remnants of Justin Morneau. Romero looks good, why disrupt the rhythm?
  • After a seeing-eye single by Delmon Young, Farrell brings out the hook. Romero looked a tad salty but didn't make a big production out of it. I admire his ability to balance competitive fire and leadership as making a scene when exiting the game with a lead is a little gauche.
  • I begin my passive line of John Farrell defese - if Farrell left Romero in to face Cuddles (a lefty killer who handles changeups with aplomb) and Ricky gives up the lead, we'd kill him. We'd kill Cito for doing the same thing (Cito would've almost assuredly let Romero try to finish.)
  • Farrell brings in "closer" Frank Frank to get Cuddyer. Francisco does his top-step-of-the-dugout routine and Ks Cuddyer - game over! Everybody's happy!
Except many people on Twitter were anything but happy, which I get. As I said: leaving Romero in for one more batter is exactly what I'd do but going to the 'pen doesn't stretch my credulity in the least.

Perhaps John Farrell isn't the trailblazing revolutionary many of us pined for. Going to Francisco is the safe thing to do, both in a traditional baseball sense (ill-informed matchups!) and in an optics sense (insulated from criticism! Safety first!) Calling for Farrell's job or claims that yanking Romero hampers his development is impulsive at best and recklessly disingenuous at worst.

It isn't that big a deal, in my mind. Pulling Morrow earlier in the week remains the far greater disservice even if the goal (keep winning games!) is roughly the same.

Are we demanding too much of Farrell? How many hats is the field manager supposed to wear? Is the "informed" fan's view of this season as a bridge to future success really the responsibility of The Manager, a guy who already needs to balance so many different egos and agendas?

This is one instance I cannot summon too much ire for the choice. I don't see one batter at the tail end of a game as a real teachable moment - the costs of failure might just outweigh the benefits of success. It's a lot more complex than it seems and more complex than many fans assume, myself included.

While Parkes, Stoeten, and I spend a lot of time killing many of Farrell's questionable in-game moves, this is one I don't feel the need to assail. He made a safe choice, one I don't think will have repercussions beyond last night. He's the manager (not yet The Manager) and it's still just the middle of May. I think I can reserve ultimate judgment for a few weeks yet.


  1. Bingo, I Think Romero was pissed not because of the hook, but because he didn't get Delmon. I was baffled by the twitter reaction. Farrel deserves some slack being just 6 weeks into his managerial career, hopefully he will learn as he goes. Am I happy with everything he does? certainly not, but I think he was unfairly criticized last night for the hook on Ricardo and for the botched squeeze play that he may not even have called for.

  2. I was briefly upset about the hook, but realized it was the remnant old-stats lover in me that was probably making me feel that way. The shutout is a nice thing - but you don't pursue it simply because it has been given a title (like a "save", or a pitcher's "win"). If the decision is always based on the best way to get an out - then I can see the logic of Farrell's decision and applaud it.

    Also, letting pitchers know that they don't have a right to be on the mound is, to me, a good thing -- that can get to be a pretty personal place, and personal decisions don't belong there.

    Finally, Romero had his chance to end the game and knew it was his chance. That is where the development happened, and next time, if he wants the shutout, he should get that out.

  3. My recollection was that the mound visit came after the Morneau at bat, not after the Kubel at bat. It seems to me he came out to tell him that he gets his chance with Young, but FF gets Cuddyer. That would mesh with Romero`s reaction after the weak single and subsequent hook. He took a look toward the dugout after the weak hit, as if to ask `does that count?` Then gave a smile as he saw Farrell coming.

  4. I had a long post, but it got ate, sadly. The highlights:

    -Farrell seems to put emphasis on psychological factors, probably rightly; but not allowing Romero to complete his shutout ignores all the psychological intangibles of the situation.

    -Whenever you introduce a new pitcher, you don't know whether they are going to be effective on the day- hence FF was not a better choice than Romero- we knew Romero was pitching one of his best games, while Francisco adds an unknown into the mix.

    -Romero is the better choice to avoid a homerun (the winning run at home), as he keeps the ball on the ground (especially that day), and particularly against righties.

  5. Not a big deal either way - QJays has it right - the CG is just another stat with limited meaning. I think if the Jays were leading 4-0, though, Farrell would have given Romero the chance to close it out. With a two run lead and the tying run on in the 9th, not a bad move to go to the pen.

  6. Just a quick point about Gabriel's post - I can see what you're saying, but it really isn't an accurate assessment. By the same logic that any new pitcher is an unknown, so is any given hitter or any pitch. Something unpredictable might happen, but that doesn't mean you can't use previous experience to make a better decision. If only the new pitcher were unknown, then you'd never take out a starting pitcher until they'd given up the lead - by the logic that they had been winning up to that point, and that is better than an unknown outcome.

    And even though he'd only pitched to about a dozen RHB on the season at the time, Francisco hadn't let any of them get hits. That doesn't jive with Romero being the better in the circumstance, or for the home run (since he'd given up 3 to RHB, though over many more ABs).

    Even with the jack last night, RHB are doing far worse against Francisco, and prior to it, they weren't doing anything against him. Now - if it's 2010, there is no way I put Francisco in, but if it's 2009, I do, so I can agree that we need a longer track record to be comfortable with the 2011 version of him, and that is the main reason I can see wanting to just stick with Romero for the final out.

  7. Sorry for the late reply, QJays.

    "By the same logic that any new pitcher is an unknown, so is any given hitter or any pitch."

    In the most elementary sense, this is true; but pitchers clearly have days where their stuff is off, or they have difficulty finding the strike zone; and other days when everything in their arsenal is working and they are able to locate their pitches. Better pitchers may be more consistent, or are able to contain batters even without their best stuff. My point, however, is that until the pitcher takes the mound, you don't know how effective his stuff is going to be- and that varies from appearance to appearance. Romero had established through 26 outs that he had effective stuff that day; Francisco, though a good pitcher (and hence likely to be effective on any given day) - had not shown that his location & stuff was working - and could not, until he entered the game.

    This is one of the fundamental reasons why managers pull ineffective pitchers and leave effective pitchers in for longer.

    In terms of using splits, you are far better off looking at lifetime splits than yearly splits- small sample size simply makes splits at this time of the year (especially for relief pitchers) nearly useless. Over his career, Francisco has tended to give up more fly balls and more home runs to right-handed batters.


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