TWITTER TALK

John Granato: When it comes to baseball, stat guy deserves to be muted

A.J. Hinch has had troubles with his bullpen. Jason Behnken / Getty Images

For the most part Twitter is awesome. The creativity is phenomenal. There is a lot of great stuff out there. And then there’s the other side: the Twitter argument. It’s basically two sides shouting their opinions with no chance of convincing the other side that they’re wrong. It happens all the time in political and sports arguments and most of all on the sports side in baseball arguments.

Why?

Stat guy.

A couple of weeks ago when the Astros gave up that five spot in the 9th to the Indians I asked why couldn’t A.J. Hinch have just left Devenski in to finish them off. He pitched a beautiful 8th throwing just 9 pitches, 7 strikes in a 1,2,3 inning. The Astros were up by 5. He was throwing well. If he got in any trouble they could always go deeper into the bullpen. It’s one of my pet peeves that a manager pulls a guy when he’s throwing well. Why not let him go and give him an extra day of rest if he needs it after a multi-inning outing.

Instead A.J. went to Ken Giles. An hour and a half later the Astros were on the losing end of a 10-9 14-inning heartbreaker.

You would have thought I told one guy on Twitter the earth was flat. To him it would have been impossible to have pitched Devenski in the 9th and just plain stupid. We went back and forth until I couldn’t anymore.

Mute.

It’s my favorite feature on Twitter. The mute button.

You don’t have to look like a jerk and let them screencap you blocking them but it’s basically the same. You can’t see anything they write but they don’t know it. For all I know that guy is still chirping at me and he’s probably getting madder and madder because I’m not responding to any of his trolls. Totally sweet.

Fast forward to the Red Sox game Saturday night. Verlander had thrown another beauty. Not his best but he battled like a champ. 6 innings, he gave up 2 runs and left with a 3-2 lead.

Enter Will Harris. Exit two baseballs and the Astros go on to lose 5-4.

So I tweeted:

I just thought of my next Sportsmap article. It’s going to be about HOW THE BULLPEN SUCKS

For the most part the response was positive.

I had 102 likes, 10 retweets and 30 responses.

“I am ready and would like to fistfight the bullpen.”

“It’ll take more than a single article. You’re looking at a series of articles.”

“No need to write an article - we already know.”

And so on.

And we all lived happily ever after....

Until stat guy showed up.

If you don’t know him stat guy is smarter than you. He knows more baseball than you. As a matter of fact you shouldn’t breathe the same baseball air as stat guy. You don’t deserve it. You should hang on his every word. Never ever ever disagree with stat guy because you’re too stupid to form an opinion on anything baseball.

Stat guy was having none of this bullpen sucks talk. Stat guy wanted us to know that we didn’t have any idea of what we were watching. He actually said that Ken Giles has been “dominant.” I should have muted right there. You have lost all credibility when you say something like that.

He did have facts though. Giles was 10/10 in save situations and the bullpen was top 3 in the league in ERA and number one in FIP.

If you’re not familiar with FIP it’s another way to measure a pitcher’s effectiveness. It’s Fielding Independent Pitching. It takes the fielders totally out of the equation. It deals only in home runs, walks, hit-by-pitches and strikeouts. Any ball that’s put in play is not taken into account.

The thing I’m not crazy about is that if you give up a home run it counts against you but if they hit 20 balls that dent the wall they don’t count. How about if you don’t strike a lot of guys out but induce a lot of easy grounders? Doesn’t count.

Don’t get me wrong. Stat guy knows what he’s doing. Most of the guys at the top of the ERA list this year are at the top of the FIP list except Corey Kluber. He’s fourth in ERA and 16th in FIP.  He’s better than the 16th best pitcher in the league.

In 2015 Dallas Keuchel won the Cy Young and finished fifth in ERA but 14th in FIP. You can’t tell me he was the 14th best pitcher in baseball. He just wasn’t. I saw that with my human eyes.

And that’s the problem with stat guy. You can’t use your human eyes. You can’t “feel” anything about the game. The numbers don’t lie. Unless….. you make them lie.

Stat guy can manipulate numbers any way he wants.

When you look at the Astros bullpen this year and see that league leading 2.99 FIP you can’t help but be impressed.

But there’s another stat that stat guy left out: clutch. There’s an actual number for coming through when needed most and for the Astros bullpen it’s not good. As a matter of fact it’s the worst in the league and by a wide margin; more than double the White Sox who are second to last.

-2.67 to -1.24.

And let’s add one more stat. I’m not sure you’ll find this one anywhere else because I just made it up.

I call it RPYRSI.

Relief Pitching against the Yankees, Red Sox and Indians

It’s kind of a big deal. Those are the teams you’ll be facing in the postseason. Those are the ones you’ll have to get out to have another parade. Those are the ones that are killing you.

In their 50 innings against those three teams the Astros pen has given up 28 runs. That’s a 5.04 ERA. Not sure what the FIP is. Don’t care because I saw with my human eyes that they weren’t good against them, that they gave up huge runs late that cost the Astros wins.

Over the next month and a half the schedule eases up drastically. It’s full of the Rangers, the Royals, the A’s and Rays. The Astros could and should be 25 plus games over .500 by the All-Star break. The bullpen should right the ship, bring their numbers down and look good again. But it’s not good enough.

And here’s the thing stat guy: Jeff Luhnow knows it.

He knew it last year when he tried to get Zach Britton at the trade deadline. He knew it this offseason when he brought in Hector Rondon and Joe Smith.

He knows it now. I’m telling you he will trade for a closer this deadline.

So I wonder stat guy, if he does, does that mean you were wrong? If he does it means that Jeff Luhnow didn’t think the bullpen was good enough even though you said it was.

Are you going to disagree with Jeff Luhnow?

I would imagine for stat guy Jeff Luhnow is a god, a sabermetrician who actually won the World Series. He’s got to be on their Mount Rushmore.  

Billy Beane is George Washington.

Theo Epstein is Abraham Lincoln.

Jeff Luhnow is Thomas Jefferson.

Andrew Friedman is Teddy Roosevelt*

*I’ve never considered Brian Cashman a sabermetrician. He just had more money than everyone else so he bought great players.

It’s all a guess though. I don’t know. I’m not a nerd.

But not even stat guy can think he’s smarter than Luhnow. Well, maybe because he’s stat guy. Stat guy knows all.

If Luhnow doesn’t do anything this trade deadline I’ll eat crow. I’ll admit I was wrong. I’m not like you stat guy. I can admit when I’m wrong.

But if he does trade for a closer or if this bullpen blows up in the postseason and costs us a parade this year you better be ready because you’re gonna need my favorite button.

Mute.


 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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