Thursday, October 04, 2007

Piniella's ponk

In game 4 of the 2003 WS, Torre bonked. He used Jeff Weaver, an out-of-favor, last-pitcher-on-the-roster starter who hadn't pitched in the whole postseason. The game was in the balance -- tied in extra innings. Torre wanted to save Rivera for a save situation because the Yanks were on the road. The Yanks squandered good scoring opportunities (Aaron Boone = whiffed with bases loaded, one out) and Weaver gave up a walk-off homer to lose the game. Before that loss, the Yanks had suffered zero losses on walk-off homers in the playoffs under Torre, but had inflicted about six. Walk-off homers are devastating to the team that loses, but the real lesson is that Torre played for tomorrow, not today, by resting Rivera in favor of a lesser pitcher. The Marlins had no clue how to hit Rivera -- they were completely overmatched. The Marlins won the next two games of the series and the 2003 title; Rivera saw only mop up duty in game 6.

Yesterday, Lou Piniella went stupid. He played for later, not for today -- a cardinal sin in the playoffs. Worse yet, he played for a later that may not arrive -- preparing for a possibly unnecessary game 4 at the expense of game 1. Although NLDS have become more competitive (five of six from 1995-97 were sweeps), 11 of the previous 24 have been sweeps and in the NLDS, game 1 matters a lot (21 of 24 winners won the series). So Piniella's decision to sit Carlos Zambrano after just 85 pitches yesterday to keep him fresh for a game 4 start on three days' rest was stupid. Even if the Cubs get to game 4, the odds are now 75% against a Cubs' 2-1 lead (based on equal likelihood for each team to win each of the next two games), therefore keeping Zambrano, playing for game 1 and potentially winning could have set the Cubs up for the 75% possibility of Zambrano pitching to close the series in game 4, not save it.

Piniella also displayed a preposterous ignorance of his own pitcher. Zambrano is a big, strong, power pitcher who would throw 275-300 innings each year if he could. He'd fit perfectly within a 1960s four-man rotation where the starters racked up 315 innings, 20 complete games and 85% of the staff innings (Sabathia is like that too). He's not a guy who needs to be babied or have his pitch count closely monitored (*cough*Pedro*cough*). And no top starter needs a hook after just 85 pitches.

Lou messed up.

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