FG on Fox: Matt Williams Screws Up

There is so much more to managing a baseball team that what we see during the games. We only see the line-ups, the batting order, and the pitching changes; we don’t see the human interactions, the coaching, and all of the work that goes into keeping so many large personalities pointed in the right direction. Managing a baseball team is about a lot more than just in-game strategy.

But in-game strategy is part of the job, and on Tuesday night, Matt Williams failed at that part of the job in the most important game of his team’s season. And while we cannot know what would have happened if different decisions had been made, we do know that maybe the best team in baseball just got bounced in the first round in part due to a series of decisions that strain credulity.

Let’s just walk through the pivotal seventh inning. Bryce Harper had just tied the game in the top half of the inning, so the score was tied at 2-2 with the top of the Giants order coming up. The Giants #1 and #2 hitters both bat left-handed, so Williams countered with Matt Thornton, the team’s only remaining left-handed reliever. Perfectly logical.

Thornton got a groundout from Gregor Blanco, then gave up a single to Joe Panik. That put the go-ahead run on base for Buster Posey, the Giants best hitter. The Giants best right-handed hitter. Here is what Buster Posey has done against left-handed pitchers in his career.

631 at-bats, 210 hits, 53 doubles, 2 triples, 32 home runs, 61 walks, 77 strikeouts.

That’s a .333/.393/.578 batting line, which when you account for his home park, translates to a 168 wRC+, meaning that Posey’s vs LHP performance has been 68 percent better than a league average hitter. Do you want some context for that? In 2012, when Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown, he had a 166 wRC+. Posey’s performance against left-handers has basically been the equal of the game’s most feared hitter, when he’s having a great year, even by his own standards.

Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.

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Uninterested Cat
Guest
Uninterested Cat

Just about everything Dave writes in this article is correct, of course. Yet Williams made yet another mistake in the fifth inning, with the bases loaded and one out and Pablo Sandoval due up. Williams allowed the right-handed Roark to pitch to Sandoval, who (as Dave points out) bats much better left-handed. At that point, the left-handed Blevins was already warming up, and in fact Williams would bring him in to face the next batter, who was also left-handed.

The Nationals dodged that bullet when Sandoval popped out on a 2-0 changeup, but unfortunately, when you keep playing Russian Roulette, you’re bound to shoot yourself at some point.

hookstrapped
Guest
hookstrapped

Williams on which relief pitchers would work the seventh inning: “During the seventh inning? Because those are our seventh-inning guys. That’s how we set this up. We had to two lefties at the top of the inning and if we got the righties, we were going to go with Barrett. That’s what he’s done for us all year long. We are certainly not going to use our closer in the seventh inning, so that’s why we went with it.”

tz
Guest
tz

Nats got #Yosted last night at an almost unprecedented level.

David
Guest
David

I count at least seven counts of criminal bullpen negligence:

1) Leaving Roark in to face Panda as a LHB when Blevins was ready (worked out…minor fail)
2) Leaving Thorton in to face Posey (MAJOR fail)
3) Bringing in Barrett (MAJOR fail)
4) Letting Barrett face a 2nd batter when he was clearly rattled (MAJOR fail)
5) Bringing in Soriano to clean up Barrett’s mess (worked out…minor fail)
6) Letting Soriano pitch the entire 8th (worked out…minor fail)
7) Running out 5 innings of relief work without even getting your two best relievers (Clippard, Storen) warmed up. MAJOR fail.

cs3
Member
cs3

1B) Never allowing the best available arm, Strasburg, to throw a single pitch all night in a game where the starting pitcher lasted only 4 innings

Hieronymous
Guest
Hieronymous

Funny, that’s the exact same reason Ausmus gave for using Chamberlain and Soria instead of Alburquerque. Quite the coincidence that Williams and Ausmus will both be watching the rest of the playoffs from their couches.

Andre the Angels Fan
Guest
Andre the Angels Fan

THIS.

Let’s not forget Scoscia’s bullpen crimes, going with the Angels’ worst relievers after yanking CJ Wilson in the first inning of their elimination Game. As both a Nats and Angels fan…FML

ralph
Guest
ralph

Reporter: “Did you have a scenario in mind when you were going to [Strasburg]?”

“It’s irrelevant,” Williams said. “Doesn’t matter. He didn’t pitch.”

(From here: https://twitter.com/Tom_Schad/status/519729169756741632 and http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/giants-score-late-wild-pitch-top-nationals-advance-nlcs-article-1.1966956 )

haishan
Guest
haishan

I mean, technically, the Nats’ season being over, it is irrelevant at this point.

But yeah, even if Williams was absolutely unwilling to make Clippard and Storen deviate from their roles, there’s no reason not to go to Strasburg in the seventh, with a runner in scoring position and the season on the line.

David
Guest
David

Strasburg is the harder sell actually. He allegedly takes a considerable amount of time to get warmed up, and an appearance would have to be planned more than a batter or two in advance. He was the “in case of extra innings break glass” option only.

That being said. There was no excuse for not having a RHP warming up the moment Thornton went in. There was no logical reason to use Barrett when there were three RHPs more trustworthy than him in the pen (Clippard, Storen, Stammen), and even if you like Barrett you have to plan for the possibility of failure and be warming up a replacement immediately.

It wasn’t the 9th inning, but with a man on and the heart of the order coming up that 7th inning was about as high leverage as you’re ever going to see.

ncb
Member
ncb

Even if we forget the asinine “7th-inning guys” rather than “out guys”, Matt Williams didn’t even follow his own plan. When Posey came to bat, the Nationals didn’t even have a righty warming in the pen (Side note: did Barrett even have enough pitches in the bullpen to get fully warmed? It seemed really rushed.)

How in the world do you not get a righty ready for Posey when the plan is ” if we got the righties, we were going to go with Barrett” and Posey is up 3rd in the inning?

I’ve come to three conclusions:
1) Matt Williams forgot to tell anyone the plan.
2) Matt Williams forgot when Posey (and Pence) were due up.
3) Matt Williams thinks Posey is a switch hitter.

I give up. Spend millions on players, facilities, and their development, and then you fail in BOTH managerial planning AND execution when no one is even trying to stop you.

Sportsball is stupid.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb

The other conclusion is that Williams was lying in his interview after the game and there was some other reason for using Barrett.