2013 Reds

Managing urgency

This weekend’s series didn’t do anything to dispel the notion that both the Reds and Cardinals have excellent teams that are evenly matched. St. Louis won Friday night and the Reds won Saturday. Sunday’s rubber match went into extra innings. That’s as close as a series can get.

And while there was plenty of blame to go around for the Reds’ loss on Sunday (failed bunts, base running confusion, pitching and fielding breakdowns, forgotten out counts, and on) one difference that was made obvious by the post-game comments was the urgency with which both managers approached this series.

Mike Matheny managed like it was the post-season.

Maybe he suspects the young Cardinals pitchers can’t keep up their current brilliance and wants to win every game now while they can.

Maybe he judges that games between the two NL Central rivals – even in June – have an elevated importance.

Maybe that sense of determination has become part of the Cardinals’ DNA over the years – an organization that has won two World Series in the past decade. Former St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa had this to say after watching the Cardinals play on Saturday: “They get it. They really compete every day with a lot of urgency.”

In the other dugout, Dusty Baker managed like it was just another regular season series. Instead of double-switching when he brought Aroldis Chapman into the game for his ninth inning role, to allow for the possibility of having the Cuban Missile flatten the Cardinals for a second inning, Baker settled for the same-old, same-old.

“We don’t have a one- or two-man bullpen,” said the Reds’ manager when asked after the loss about a second inning for Chapman. Baker is trying to develop the rest of his bullpen. “We’ve got to get those guys together. We’ve got other guys to do that job.”

Baker managed the end-game cautiously. “We really couldn’t chance that. You really can’t hurt your two horses at the end by going away from the other guys.”

Meanwhile, Mike Matheny had Trevor Rosenthal pitch two crucial, dominant – decisive – innings. “I was ready to go more, even more than two if I had to,” said the 23-year-old Rosenthal.

As of today, the Cardinals hold a season-best, 4-game division lead over the Reds.

The two rivals still have 99 more regular season games to play, ten against each other. Plenty of season left. I’m not prescribing panic. By October, maybe Dusty Baker’s slow-but-steady approach will have been proven to be the right medicine.

Right now, however, the organization’s overall complacency feels too much like a sedative, designed simply to numb the pain.

34 thoughts on “Managing urgency

  1. Baker managed the end-game cautiously. “We really couldn’t chance that. You really can’t hurt your two horses at the end by going away from the other guys.”

    This is what I mean. I can understand what he’s talking about. However, for the entire first week or two of the season, he practically pitched Hoover and Chapman exclusively! And, he’s just learning this? What he’s talking is managing 101. Bottom line, he’s simply a poor in-game manager.

  2. The thing that bothers me the most the last couple of weeks is the lack of attention to detail. The Spier/Votto mix up last night, lutz being doubled off on a fly out a few games back, etc. are just a sign of a team who heads are either not fully engaged in the game or are pressing. I hope its the latter.

    DB is not a bad manager (I don’t agree with all of his moves, though), but there is something to his style where teams just hit a ceiling that is beneath their talent. It seemed to happen in Chicago before injuries took their toll, and it happend in San Fran after a fashion. Maybe it his, ‘we’ve never done it that way, and/or we’ve always done it that way.’ attitude. Baker seems to manage out of fear, trying to mitigate the worst possible outcome, rather than taking reasonable risks periodically.

    With the way this team had played against good teams this season (14-20, vs Pirates, Braves, Cards, Cleve, Rockies, Nats, and Angles), I start to wonder if this team will limp to a Wild Card based on their ability to do well against bad teams, then flame out in the one WC game.

    • @Lost and Found: The Reds have twenty games in the next month against Pittsburgh, Arizona, Oakland, Texas, San Francisco and Atlanta. If they don’t pick it up against this level of team, they could be well behind the Cardinals by the All-Star break.

      • @Steve Mancuso:
        We’ll see what happens, they have the talent to compete with those teams, but they have to play better than they have the last couple of weeks.

      • @Steve Mancuso: That’s just it, Steve. I don’t think they will. Because Baker will keep managing the same way he always does.

        I’ve said before, it seems like with Baker, very possibly, with these screw-ups he and/or his teams have, they have been good enough to cover them up in a 162 game season. Hey, we lose one game, we could very well go 7-3 next 10 games against weaker competition (talking a bit more general with this), and no one will ever remember this game. But, then, in the playoffs, it’s a lot harder to cover up a loss like this.

        I would love to see an in-depth analysis of the records of Baker’s previous teams against the better teams at those times. Like, we have said for a while how the numbers show we beat the teams we are suppose to beat but fall against the better teams. I looked at Baker’s last 2 seasons with the Giants. 2002, the Giants seemed to have a winning record against the top 2 teams in each division (taking the Giants out of their division). In 2001, they had a losing record against those teams, still winning 90 games overall, aka beating the teams they are suppose to beat, losing against the better teams. We can get the post season record easily enough; I believe I saw that was horribly a losing record, maybe under 40%. But, what about the regular season?

        • @steveschoen: Is it possible that Dusty is recognizing that the regular season is 162 games? Urgency in June is fine, I suppose, but I’m a long way from certain that Chapman (and the Reds) wouldn’t suffer for pitching 2 innings the day after pitching one.

        • @greenmtred: “Not coaching with urgency” is fine. But, “not coaching” or “poor coaching decisions” is another thing. Remember, last playoffs, our second best pitcher only saw, what was it, 3 innings the entire series.

        • @steveschoen: Steve, I’m probably too late with this, but I don’t believe that Chapman (to whom I believe you are referring) is our 2nd best pitcher. Thrower, yes–1st best, but pitcher, no. Losing Cueto had to hurt as much or more than any decisions Dusty did or didn’t make.

  3. Dusty will never get his boys to “over achieve” it just won’t happen, We saw this the last few years in the playoffs and of course his history in SF and Cubbie land speak for themselves. Not leaving Chapman in the game and at the same time knowing that he won’t is just mind boggling. I don’t know how many times in the last couple of years I’ve watched him get out-managed, out-thought and out-coached by the top guy in the other dugout. This team has the chemistry and talent to go deep in the playoffs the next few seasons…Dusty WILL NOT help…I like the guy as long as I see him in the visitors dugout….Grrrrrrr……Same ole Dusty…

  4. Dusty does not manage with urgency. Generally I have much more of a problem with that in the postseason than in I do in the regular season. But last nite I would like to have seen more urgency, in particular Chapman going 2 innings. It was annoying that Dusty said “Chapman was the 3rd batter” as if his hands were tied.

    But the main thing I saw, and it was hard not to with the espn broadcasters talking about it all nite, was a better coached Cardinals team. Their hitters have a great approach. They look for outside fastballs and hammer them the opposite way. They don’t chase breaking pitches.

    The espn gusy talked about how much better the Cards 3rd base coach is at helping runners, that Speier’s late signals (not even talking about the Votto non-slide) had the Reds base runners scrambling to figure out what to do.
    I’ve never before heard about how one team has an advantage over the other because of the 3rd base coaches. That’s not fixable ???

    • But the main thing I saw, and it was hard not to with the espn broadcasters talking about it all nite, was a better coached Cardinals team. Their hitters have a great approach. They look for outside fastballs and hammer them the opposite way. They don’t chase breaking pitches.

      This is a good observation. Other than a couple of hitters, I don’t even think it’s possible to describe an “approach” for the Reds. Dusty Baker talks about swinging early in the count at strikes. But I agree that it was interesting (concerning?) to hear so much last night about a consistent approach the Cardinals have to hitting and how their hitters attribute it to their success stringing together hits.

      I’m not sure I buy it completely, but to borrow from the famous philosopher Walter Sobchak, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

    • @pinson343: The hitting approach starts at the very lowest of levels. It starts with drafting guys with a good approach and then coaching that approach at all levels of the organization. The Reds haven’t scouted, drafted, and developed plate-discipline since Dan O’Brian’s ill-fated “always take the first pitch” mantra. The right idea just implemented very, very poorly with a hard and fast rule of always taking the first pitch in the low minors.

  5. Doesn’t this last week tell us that the Reds need a trade to add a consistent arm to the bullpen?

    • @joelie1274: That partly depends on the timing of Marshall’s return and rather or not he’ll be able to go the distance when he comes back. The underlying problem with trading for a bullpen arm however is the buying team almost always overpays. Then there’s the fact that the Reds farm system is a bit thin right now from recent trades.

      • @joelie1274: That partly depends on the timing of Marshall’s return and rather or not he’ll be able to go the distance when he comes back. The underlying problem with trading for a bullpen arm however is the buying team almost always overpays. Then there’s the fact that the Reds farm system is a bit thin right now from recent trades.

        And whether good ol’ D-Bakes will use Marshall once he is available. He’s shown through (in)action that he is loathe to use Marshall to his full capacity. In my mind, Marshall is as good as Chapman currently (Chapman has the higher ceiling, but I’m comparing the now). Chapman is flashier and strikes out more batters and has nastier stuff, but Marshall is more consistent and still quite effective if he is used enough to get into a groove (and uninjured).

        • @Zach:

          At this point counting on Marshall is too risky. They will need to get someone, and if Marshall comes back and can be durable and effective, that’s just gravy.

    • @joelie1274: JJ Hoover is putting up more or less exactly the same xFIP that he did last year. Last year he got very lucky, this year he’s been unlucky, but he’s not that good. Think about the park that we have and consider a pitcher that walks a lot of guys (4/9IP) and get’s very few groundballs (30% of balls in play). Recipe for success? No.

      I think they should try Greg Reynolds in the pen. He’s doing well as a starter in AAA, he’s a former #2 oerall pick so he has some pedigree, and he’s got an opt-out clause in his minor league contract coming up soon.

      Marshall’s return should help, and they should also start thinking about moving Cingrani to the pen when Cueto comes back.

      Right now our pen looks terrible, but I think we have the guys internally to make it better in the short-run.

  6. Here are some interesting stats for Reds relief pitchers through last night’s game. Not sure any useful info can be garnered from them, but they are interesting, nonetheless.

    Percent of Appearances Resulting in at least 1 Earned Run
    Parra – 41.7%
    Hoover – 28.6%
    Simon – 28.6%
    Ondrusek – 28.6%
    Broxton – 21.4%
    LeCure – 20.8%
    Marshall – 18.2%
    Chapman – 13.3%

    Reds W/L Record when the pitcher appeared, final run differential +/- 3 (i.e.-“close” games)
    Parra – 0-5
    Hoover – 8-11
    Simon – 5-6
    Ondrusek – 5-8
    Broxton – 16-8
    LeCure – 11-5
    Marshall – 7-3
    Chapman – 22-5

    So, excluding Chapman since he’s the closer, Broxton (by far) and Hoover appear in the most “close” games.

    Like I said above, not a lot to be hashed out from these numbers; just interesting, I think. Maybe LeCure should be used more often in close games? Sixteen appearances versus Hoover’s 19 and Broxton’s 24. I know he pitched poorly last night, but you can’t get ‘em all the time!

    I agree, we need some bullpen help as long as we don’t have to overpay for it.

  7. One thing when watching STL play this weekend was how rare they seemed to strike out. Every at-bat seemed to be quality.

    I looked up their stats and their highest SO guy is John Jay with 42!

    Compare that to the reds highest bruce at 78…then you have Choo with 58, Frazier 57, Votto 57, Cozart 42. That right there is/was your top 3 in the order. What is interesting is that almost 85% of the strike outs by those 5 players occur with 1 out or less………maybe bunting isn’t all that bad! haha

    • @abox03: I think some of that is just small sample size stuff. The Reds and Cardinals swing at almost exactly the same number of pitches (46%), almost exactly the same amount of pitches in the zone (67%), and the Cards have a slightly better contact rate (81% to 78%).

      They did have some very good ABs this weekend, but I think the overall K numbers will even out some over the season. They are also getting lucky on BABIP, and with their hit sequencing.

      Basically, this is what an offense looks like when everything is going the right way.

  8. The managing is definitley holding this team back. The Reds might not have the talent that the Cardinals do overall, but the Cardinals are certainly better at deploying their talent and getting the most out of it.

    Take two examples: Jay and Mujica. It didn’t take the Cardinals very long to move Jay down in the lineup and it didn’t take them long to shake up their bullpen when one of their top guys was ineffective.

    It effectively took the Reds a 8 months to move Cozart down in the lineup, and Broxton is still the Reds primary setup man.

    And a big one to me, when the Reds learned that Ludwick was going to be out for most of the season (basically 5/6ths), they should have moved Choo to LF. Defensive metrics say he’s already cost the Reds 9 runs in the field. A combination of Paul, Robinson, and Heisey would be much better. Choo may even have been an above average fielder in left.

    The total swing over the 5 months that Ludwick is out probably be in the range of 20 runs, or about 2 wins. Not taking those wins is managing without urgency.

    It’s just like Dusty splitting up Votto and Bruce against RH starters. Managing for the possibility of a close 8th inning, while ignoring the first 7 innings. Hitting Bruce cleanup and Phillips second would be managing to win early. That would be a sense of urgency.

    • @al: The important point you have made is that urgency is not synonymous with desperation, but Dusty seems to use the concepts of consistency and complacency interchangeably in his approach.

      • @rightsaidred: I think that’s right.

        It would be ridiculous for anyone to say that the Cardinals made their changes early in the season because they were desperate. They were just managing with a sense of urgency, the desire to win every possible game that they can, understanding that you can’t win them all.

  9. @ Steve Mancuso
    He managed the game like regular season game b/c it was. The game was lost on the back of the bullpen, not Dusty Baker. Lecure should of been able to handle the 7th(many on this site say he’s good enough to close,which is debatable) and Hoover should of kept the game tied. Those are the two who deserve backlash, not Dusty. I’m glad your not the manager b/c the Chapman would likely be recovering from Tommy John. Cubs fans dont like Dusty b/c he ran their pitching staff into the ground, something that cannot be said about his Reds staff. You can’t have it both ways. You play 162, and Dusty knows that better than anyone.

    • @RisingRed:

      Hoover is more than twice as likely to give up a run than Chapman, based on this year’s stats. Of course Dusty didn’t throw the ball, but he made the decision to let Chapman throw 12 pitches. That decision led to his team being in a suboptimal position to win. Everyone know’s managers don’t directly win and lose games, so don’t imply as such. But Dusty’s decision put the Reds in a position with a lower chance to win. Can’t argue that.

    • @RisingRed: dude, hyperbole much? do you have any idea how many innings chapman has pitched this year? well i’ll save you the trouble, he’s thrown 28, which is good enough for 50th in the league.

      i think there’s some wiggle room between wanting one of our best pitchers to be used more, and saying that he’d be getting surgery.

  10. Been reading(and enjoying)this site for years but, you guys harping on Dusty non-stop has made it much less enjoyable(which is a shame, b/c you have/had a good thing going). Also Steve, I have the # to Cards official fan club, sounds like you might be interested. You seem as though you like them more than Reds and you wouldn’t have to put up with Dusty.

    • @RisingRed: Now that you mention it, I did like a lot of things about the Cardinals better this weekend. I liked they way they were coached and the way they were managed. I liked their hitting approach better, too.

      Your comment confuses support for the team with support for the manager. Should I blindly support the manager if I feel his approach harms the team I’ve supported since the 1960s? Should I just shut up?

      The Reds were great long before Dusty Baker arrived here. In my opinion, the burden is on those who defend his uniqueness, to justify his large salary and wide latitude. Do the Reds play harder than other teams? No. Do they play with better fundamentals? No. Do they like their manager better? Maybe, but plenty of managers are popular with their teams. Let me know when someone starts handing out trophies for popularity.

      I like many things about Dusty Baker. I truly hope the Reds can win the World Series with him as the manager – several times. But his stubborn refusal to modernize or open up his thinking about the game really jeopardizes that, in my opinion.

      • @Steve Mancuso: Im not telling you to shut up(just please have some respect) , I come her for user generated content. I just wish you wouldn’t incessantly complain about Dusty. Really that would be great. If he pulls Joey Votto out of a 1 run game, sure let him have it. His line-ups and situational managing are about as consistent as it gets(which sucks if you disagree with his style). It frustrates me(im not saying he great,or even good manager)to no end sometimes, but beating the dead horse wont make it better.

    • @RisingRed:

      You’re on an internet message board for fans of the Cincinnati Reds. Are you expecting not to see discussion about the manager’s questionable calls during important games with our division rivals?

      Also, I did some checking for you about your above statement referring to Dusty knowing about saving pitchers since it’s a long 162 game season. The numbers are within error, but you MIGHT be on to something. Dusty’s career winning percentage, not counting 1994, is 0.526, his teams have played 0.527 baseball in August and 0.558 baseball in September. Perhaps the small up-tick in September is due to his keeping pitchers fresh and avoiding overuse early in the season. Maybe it’s just noise. Either way, most folks on this board will give Dusty a fair shake, but we’d be doing the fandom a disservice by not questioning his inability to pitch the team’s best pitcher more than 12 pitches every 2nd or 3rd game. ;)

  11. As long as we make the playoffs, I’ll give Dusty a pass. However, it sure seems like he gets out-managed in meaningful games all the time. He did move Cozart out of the 2-hole so give him so credit. Basically, I’m simply numb to anything he does now but let’s see how things shape up in September. We’re only 4 out behind the hottest team in baseball.

  12. Wake me when the Reds finally win a series of some consequence, as they had a chance to do yesterday. It seems as long as the Reds continue to stay above .500 by beating up the likes of the Cubs, Marlins and Mets, the management is going to fiddle while Rome burns — i.e., Dusty descends into senility, the bullpen implodes and/or is wasted because of mismanagement, and position players who seem to feel no urgency to play hard or smart keep swinging like they’ve got Weedwhackers in their hands with men on base. By the way, I predict the Reds do no better than split with the Cubs.

  13. The Old Cossack has finally calmed down enough from the game last night and the three hour drive home after the miserable 10th inning. I was already in a foul mood before the game after dealing with the ESPN schedule change for what was suppose to be a wonderful Sunday afternoon game at GABP, but Choo got the Old Cossack’s blood flowing right out of the chute with his smash double. That euporia lasted almost 2 minutes, enough time for Dusty to signal for a sac bunt from a player hitting over .300 with an OBP over .400. The sac bunt was successful and of course totally useless, if not counter-productive. Following the sac bunt, Votto walks (duh!) and Choo scores on BP’s single with Votto motoring to 3B. Choo scores and Votto ends up at 3B with or without the sac bunt, so all that happened was Dusty gave away an out for no constructive reason.

    Then the Reds moved on to the 2nd inning with Cozart reaching on a HBP and Hanigan reaching on an error by Freese at 3B (really makes Reds’ fans appeciate Frazier’s defense at 3B). With runners at 1B & 2B, Dusty does it again by ordering a sac bunt, but Matheny has the Cardinal infielders literally breathing down Arroyo’s throat as Lynn delivers the pitch. Unless Arroyo manages a perfect bunt that gets past the pitcher, the play was doomed to failure and of course it failed miserably to the tune of 2 outs and a runner at 2B.

    Then we get to the 3rd inning and that inning really set off the Old Cossack. with Votto on 1B after a BB, Bruce lines a smash to RF. Votto motors around 2B with his back to the play in RF, looking for some indication from the Reds 3B coach, who just stood there nonchalantly as Votto coasted into 3B while being tagged out. Folks, I’m telling you, Votto was HOT! He held his temper in reasonable check, but he was livid.

    That was every inning of the first three innings of the game where the players didn’t screw up, the manager and coach screwed up.

    I’ll be honest. I missed the 4th inning. I had to walk away from the game for a while in order to calm down after the 3rd inning, but I hear Arroyo fouled out on an attempted, 2 out bunt. If that’s true, I’m glad I had walked away for an inning to recompose myself.

    Then I had to sit through the 5th inning and watch Bruce smash a line drive into the RF corner and Bruce was absolutely flying right out of the box and around the bases, just as Votto had been motoring 2 innings earlier. Bruce plated 2 runs and he was eyeing a clean triple, but as he rounded 2B at full speed, he looked for guidance from his 3B coach who wasn’t even close to 3B and was paying no attention to Bruce. The 3B coach had followed (not led, followed) Robinson as he rounded 3B to score from 1B on Bruce’s smash. Once the 3B coach looked up to see Bruce well around 2B, he waived him on to 3B, but by that time, Bruce had stopped his momentum and was scambling back to 2B.

    That was 4 innings of the game where the players didn’t screw up, the manager and coach screwed up. That’s inexcusable, totally inexcusable. If the manager and coaches don’t perform any better than that or maintain focus on their responsibilites any better than that, why would we expect anything different from the players.

    • @Shchi Cossack:

      I think Bronson’s bunt w/two outs was a cautionary move as he had just taken a hard one-hop grounder to the knee on the last out of the top of 4. He immediately went to the clubhouse 2-3 trainers in tow, came out to hit and probably didn’t want to risk running on the leg, or a swinging the bat. He got through the 5th and 6th before the knee tightened up, so its hard to fault the reasoning there by Bronson/Trainers/Baker.

      i agree with you on the other miscues. The worst was not arranging for Chapman to be able to pitch 2 innings if the 9th went smooth.

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