Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Letting Jason Kendall Bat When Trailing Late Is Inexcusable.

I would occasionally defend Ned Yost in the past. My defense wasn't much of a defense actually, but it went something like this:

"Ned Yost is a bad manager, but he isn't the worst manager, even in his own division. It's not enough to fire him, you also need someone better."

Ken Macha has not necessarily looked worse than Ned Yost to this point, but he's not exactly doing anything to distinguish himself positively either.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that everything we hear about Jason Kendall's defense and staff-handling ability is true, and that Mike Rivera can barely get his mitt on correctly and burns crosses in the clubhouse. If you're down by a run in the bottom of the ninth, Jason Kendall's defense and gentlemanly demeanor don't mean shit. You need a run. Jason Kendall is terrible at producing runs. Having Jason Kendall on your team might not even be the worst thing in the world so long as you mitigate is offensive terribleness by pinch hitting for him in high-leverage situations, but if a manager is unwilling to do that, Kendall is a huge liability.

To put it bluntly, not pinch-hitting for Jason Kendall close-and-late is the same as not pinch hitting for the pitcher close-and-late.

I'm also not sure that Macha understands his team very well. I heard him on TMJ this morning. He pointed to the positive that "his offense is coming around." The Brewers have played 7 games against a veritable murderer's row of pitchers. Lincecum, Johnson, Cain, Harden, Zambrano, Dempster, Volquez. In those games they've scored 6, 4, 1, 4, 5, 5, and 6 runs. All things considered, I would say that the offense has looked pretty good (despite Jason Kendall's presence). You will also notice that the two Brewer wins came in games in which they scored 4 runs. That means that in Brewer losses, they scored 6, 1, 5, 5, and 6 runs. Again, offense has not been a problem with the exception of one game. Two of those games are the responsibility of the dead albatross that is Jeff Suppan, and you could argue that Jeff necessitating early bullpen use screwed them in a few more games.

Bad starts happen and this slow start is certainly not all Macha's fault. The Brewers have played a hard schedule and hit some tough luck against the Cubs, but there are some simple steps he could take to make the team much, much better.

1. Bench Jason Kendall late. (Or better yet, cut him, and call up Salome or LuCroy to split time with Rivera.)

2. Stick Jeff Suppan into the mop-up duty roll. Put McClung into the rotation (or Mark DiFelice)

These are easy and obvious.


tracker said...

If I'm not mistaken, the lefthanders were used up with Counsell on deck.

In other news, Jeff Tweedy and Wilco were last night's sausage racers. Will see them tonight at the Pabst.

PaulNoonan said...

You don't always have to pinch-hit a lefty v. a righty.

That's pretty cool. I like Wilco OK. A bit overrated (especially in Chicago), but solid.

Also, they don't know that their best songs are Box Full Of Letters and Outta Mind Outta Sight, which is annoying at concerts.

E.S.K. said...

I demand a Whiskeytown reunion.

tracker said...

No, but I think you need some sort of statistical support to ph for Kendall there, or you're just Yost "going with his gut" and ignoring history. For all the Rivera love, I take him for what his career norms suggest he is, not what he did last year in 60 ABs at 31 years old. I don't think a rookie rh(McGehee) vs. Coco improves your chances there either. And Kendall did have two hits prior, so I didn't have a problem with hitting him there.

Where this situation went wrong is long ago, with the decision not to resign Branyan, and designate Lamb the lh 3bman. Once it was determined Lamb sucked (and prior evidence should've shown that he did suck) to such a degree that you keep a rh backup 3bman (McGehee) on a team already stacked with rh bats, it left Macha in a spot like last night, where he didn't have a remaining lh bench bat in an opportunity where he could've used one. All he had was a bad hitter hitting, and two ph alternatives that didn't offer better prospects.

PaulNoonan said...

Ugh. Fine.

Jason Kendall, last 2 years:

So far:

And he's 35 and caught a record number of games last year and has no power in a one-run game.

McGehee doesn't have much MLB time, but in the minors was at least a minor power threat (11, 19, and 12 HRs over the last 3 years) and his average AAA line .282/.335/.410 probably makes him better than Kendall.

As for Mike Rivera:

v. LHP: .223/.284/.340, 1 HR in 102 PAs.

v. RHP: .259/.306/.414, 10 HRs in 352 career PAs.

Last year:

v. LHP: .176/.333/.235 in 21 PAs.

V. RHP: .356/.396/.511, 1 HR in 48 PAs.

Yup. Reverse split.

DannyNoonan said...

I'm with Tracker actually. I agree that Kendall sucks, but it's not like we have Kapler or Branyan on the bench anymore.

PaulNoonan said...

Just because you don't have a really good bat does not mean that you should let your worst offensive player play. The fact that Kendall got two hits earlier doesn't mean anything. The fact that McGehee is young doesn't mean anything.

Even the "Bad Mike Rivera" is a better hitter than is Jason Kendall, and more importantly in a one-run game with only 3 outs to go, Mike Rivera might hit a HR. Jason Kendall will not hit a HR.

ahren said...

the real problem is having kendall on the team in the first place. you're basically in a position where you're HOPING that he hits like last year. hoping a guy can put up a 650 ops is a bad position to be in.

i'm actually to the point of rooting against kendall when he bats, just because at some point, being 2-for-the-season will get him benched/cut, and i'm starting to believe that kendall going 2 for 100 then getting replaced by a legitimate major leaguer will be better than the 100 for 500 with all singles that he's gonna put up this year.

an additional point against batting kendall in the 9th there is that his lack of power allows the outfielders to play at about the same depth as male of's are allowed to play in co-ed softball while a female batter is up, making it difficult for a runner to score from 2b even if he does accidentally make his bat hit the ball hard enough to leave the infield.

Eric said...

It's late and i see the game is close. You've pinch hit your catcher and now the game is tied. Your backup catcher is now batting. I instruct my pitcher to drill the backup catcher in the head.

Backup catcher is now injured. You are now out of catchers. If i survive my half the inning you lose.

Managers will never Ever pinch hit their catchers.

If you don;t like Kendall then replace him. Cuz the only way you're subbing him is if he dies.

ahren said...

not using your backup catcher for fear that he might get hurt in the 1 or 2 innings left in the game, is one of the more non-sensical reasons that managers do anything:

1) what are the odds of the backup catcher getting hurt in 1 or 2 innings? 1 in 10000? 1 in 1000?

2) even if he does get hurt. so what? it's not like nobody else on the team is allowed to catch. sure, they're not going to be awesome. but realistically, you could stick basically any major league player behind the plate for 2 innings and he's not going to absolutely kill you.

3) the brewers in particular have other bench players with catching experience-- brad nelson, for one.

Eric said...

No manager in his right mind will risk a game with a third string catcher. none.

ahren said...

just because nobody does it, doesn't mean it's the correct decision. what's the reasoning?