Inheritance Tax

by on June 22, 2011 · 0 comments

In baseball, walks are far more frustrating than hits.  In walking a batter, the pitcher removes all possibility for the defense to play a role in potentially preventing the hitter from reaching base safely.  The walk creates an additional burden for the defense, and the person responsible for the walk might not even stick around to help dictate the final outcome involving the player who was walked.  That responsibility may fall to a completely different pitcher who just happens to inherit one or more runners.  The new pitcher is then charged with addressing the problem created by the previous pitcher while not creating any additional problems of his own making.  It doesn’t always work out as planned, and last night was one of those nights where the best laid plans were scuttled about 15 minutes into the 8th inning.

Oh, there is plenty of blame to go around.  Let’s start pointing fingers at the man in charge, though.  Kyle McClellan was pulled from the game in favor of a reliever after throwing 90 pitches last night.  Was that a season high or something close to it?  Hardly.  He threw 106 pitches in a 1-run gem against Milwaukee on May 8th.  Did TLR see something in that 7th inning that nobody else did?  He must have, because K-Mac giving up a few hard hit balls is still better than Miller’s 1.571 WHIP any day of the week.  Of course, that’s probably only me talking, because in came Uncle Trev and that 1.571 WHIP right on cue.

If you saw the game, you know exactly what happened next.  Trevor Miller went with the lineout, single, and walk approach for his brief, efficient appearance.  Naturally, TLR opted to bring in Jason Motte to face Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco.  This move makes complete sense with 2 on base, because he obviously wanted a RHP versus left-handed power hitter matchup.  [/dripping sarcasm]  Facing Polanco with the bases loaded was an even smarter move, because Polanco strikes out with great frequency.  [/heavily laden with sarcasm]  The truth is that it made little sense to bring in Miller to face Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Chase Utley to begin the inning.  If he was going to use Motte, it made more sense to have Motte start the inning, especially if he didn’t have faith in Miller to get Howard anyway.  Why?  Let’s just say that Motte’s track record for allowing inherited runners to cross the plate this year isn’t what it has been in recent years.  Actually, 13 of 27 inherited runners have scored, and that’s a significantly higher fraction than he allowed previously – 9/34 (2010) or 8/36 (2009). 

Looking even more closely at Motte’s numbers shows something else about the fuzzy, bearded one.  TLR has used him a lot more this season than he has in previous years.  Motte has already pitched 30 innings and is on pace to easily eclipse his career high of 56 2/3 he set in 2009.   Looks to me like Motte is one of the few guys in the bullpen that TLR actually trusts.  It’s just too bad that he fails to realize that Motte is best used to start an inning with a clean slate.  Maybe part of the reason for this is Motte’s not-so-subtle change in pitching style which has produced more ground balls than fly balls this season (1.16 GB:FB).  He can still get strikeouts, but he’s not getting them at the same pace he did in 2010, and he’s not the same swing-and-miss pitcher that Eduardo Sanchez is.  Still, the game was by no means out-of-reach when Motte left the game last night.  That didn’t happen until Miguel Batista had time to start throwing darts….big, fat, fluffy darts.

Games like the one last night are bound to happen, especially against a team like the Phillies.  When they happen, there is bound to be an overreaction to the bull”pain” from a segment from the fanbase, and I highly encourage everyone to separate fact from fiction.  Motte had a bad night, but he’s still a useful reliever with a .270 ERA, 1.100 WHIP, and a salary just over $400K.  He’s not part of the problem.  The Cardinals may need to be realistic about a few other guys, though.

At first blush, those ERAs for Batista and Miller don’t look too bad, but consider that Miller has allowed 8 of 29 inherited runners to score in just 13 2/3 innings pitched.  Batista has only allowed 2 inherited runners to score all year, but he’s had the good fortune of only inheriting 9 base runners.  It seems that he already had a reputation for an inability to prevent other people’s property from rotating 90 degrees at-a-time around the diamond.  Try 19 of 48 in 2010 on for size.  Once someone turns on the spigot, the Cardinals have a tough time turning it off right now.  It’s not like they don’t have “shutdown inning” kind of pitchers, but Fernando Salas is the closer, Eduardo Sanchez is injured, and Kyle McClellan only pitches every fifth start. 

It looks like someone else is going to have to step up, or the Cardinals are going to have to cough up some cash to pay that “inheritance tax” for the remainder of the season.

TIDBIT:  I don’t have a specific success/failure line for inherited runners being allowed to score, but I’m thinking that the number of innings pitched has a lot to do with it as well.  A pitcher who allows 8 of 29 inherited runners to score over 50 innings has outperformed a pitcher who has done the same over 25 innings, if their other stats are effectively the same. 

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Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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