June 18, 2012

Bonehead strategy costs Redbirds plenty

Okay, it's a rookie (managerial) mistake.
And by now, Cardinals manager, Mike Matheny, has had plenty of time to stew, and face the media.

And the mistake I speak of is the mid-game decision by Matheny versus the Royals in the rubber game of their inter-league series yesterday.

No outs, let me repeat that ... no outs, with base runners on second and third, Adam Wainwright at bat with an 0-1 count. Matheny, by his account, puts on the suicide squeeze. Wainwright misses the pitch, base runner tagged out at home with time for a commercial break before he gets to the dish.
Here's what one of my 13-year-old players from decades ago would've had to say: "First of all, unless your on deck hitter and the hitter in the hole haven't had a hit, or even a foul ball over the previous two season, skip the suicide. There's slim odds of an inning ending triple-play. Most fly balls and a goodly portion of ground balls will score the base runner from third, making the first out trade a good one. If the latter fails, you have two more tries to score one or both base runners; as well, you can still attempt a suicide with one out if the situation and count warrant the risk. At least pick a count where the opposing pitcher is behind and in need of throwing a strike, which is what you really, really, really need to make a suicide squeeze successful. A 2-1, 2-0, or 3-1 are excellent counts to take the suicide risk. With an 0-1 count, the opposing pitcher is likely to pick a corner or purposely throw just off the black, even to a lower average hitter like Wainwright, or typically, most pitchers. Wainwright is a better than average bunter, so if you are going to go for the "big surprise," you really, really, really need to give Waino better odds of a "buntable" pitch by revisiting the list of best counts for a suicide squeeze."

So one bonehead play led to a whole bunch of innings used by the entire team that 's going to have them saying: "Thank God we have one day off, because those Tigers are probably smelling the blood of a series sweep and our plane hasn't even landed."

As for the other bonehead mistake (not Matheny's), I can't repeat what the 13ers would've said about Allen Craig's failure to tag up because just like understanding the basic strategy of the suicide squeeze, they pretty much know the choice words of an adult.

Here's what else the youngsters know, however. They know everyone is entitled to make mistakes. And just because you are well accomplished in physical and strategic skills, doesn't make you immune to "muking it up" now and then.

Mostly, the Matheny mess-up points out a rookie manager who feels pressured too much, like he has to do something from the bench. That's the former player in Matheny. The manager in Matheny will make him realize he must trust his players will get the job done, and there aren't really that many big ways in which he can manufacture better odds for them, but there are plenty of ways in which he can make things worse.

Was Matheny's quick-trigger strategy wrong? You bet. What do the Cardinals do about it? Trust in their manager to learn a quick lesson and make better decisions because of the foul-up. You see, that trust thing has to go both ways, as I'm sure it will.
Mistakes of aggression are much more excusable in my book, even the big ones. In fact, putting Matheny under the microscope for a few moments of bashing isn't that big a deal. Even if I stick to my guns regarding the beatdown regarding strategy. It's still hindsight.

One bad choice doesn't change my mind that Matheny is still a good manager.

On to Detroit.