November 19th – UCB Roundtable Question

by on November 20, 2012 · 2 comments

The UCB roundtable question of the day for November 19th involved some alternate universe baseball, because why not have it involve alternate universe baseball?

Courtesy of some guy eating a burrito…

Good morning.  Please take a moment to suspend disbelief and logic in favor of playing a bit of “alternate universebaseball”.  Allow the theoretical baseball physicist in you to come out and conjure ideas.  In an alternate reality where Tony La Russa did not retire after the 2011 season and Dave Duncan had been able to stay on for another year, what do you think would have happened differently in 2012 for the Cardinals?

Dan Solzman from Redbird Rants

In said alternate universe, does Pujols still stay or does he leave?

I think the Cards make the postseason and most games are bullpen games.  I think maybe even a World Series.  TLR would have pulled a pitcher the moment the bases were loaded and before the damage was done.

Daniel Shoptaw from C70 At The Bat

Honestly, I’m not sure how much would have changed.  After all, I think we’ve come to the conclusion that the system that Matheny used was pretty much the same that TLR left, just with more bunting.  (As much as La Russa could infuriate, I don’t think he’d ever bunt with a runner on second in the first inning.)

The biggest thing that might have happened, which would have most likely affected the whole season, is that the Cards would have probably been more likely to sign Roy Oswalt in the spring when Carpenter went down instead of pushing Lynn in the role.  I don’t know that it would have happened–Mo might have stood his ground there–but we saw what Oswalt did with Texas and it wasn’t pretty.  Could playing in St. Louis and having Dave Duncan around helped him?  Maybe, but there’s no way he’d have turned in the season (or at least the first half) that Lynn did.
Mark Tomasik from Retrosimba

If Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan had been manager and pitching coach of the 2012 Cardinals, the following would have occurred:

_ Reds and Cardinals would have engaged in at least one beanball war.

_ Post-Dispatch would have broken the story that Tony was emailing Albert Pujols every other day and trying to help him adjust to life as an American Leaguer. Tony would have denied it. We would have had two weeks of Tony-gate, ending with Tony lecturing media, bloggers and fans on why he can be loyal to both the Cardinals and Albert.

_ Tony and Dave would have leaked the word to bloggers that Jaime Garcia needs to toughen up if he is going to remain a Cardinal. Media has field day, asking, “Has Garcia replaced Colby Rasmus as Tony’s whipping boy?”

_  Against the advice of management, family and friends, Tony would have attended political rallies associated with the 2012 elections and alienated a segment of the team and fan base. “Too bad,” said La Russa to critics. “I’m much more than a baseball guy.”

_ Tony would have jammed at multiple charity concerts featuring Rush, REO Speedwagon, Journey and Carlos Santana.

_ Cardinals would have qualified for the postseason as one of the two wild-card teams.
Chris Mallonee from Birds On The Bat 82
Fun question. In this alternate universe:-Pete Kozma probably never touches the field
-5 different pitchers would have been used at closer throughout the season
-Would have seen a lot more lineup shuffling late in games
-I think the team would have experimented with a 6-man rotation at times in August/Sept with all the youngsters.
-Beltran would have played a lot of 1B and Craig RF to keep his knees rested
-Tony would have been pushing hard for a couple bats off the bench when Berk and Furcal went down
-Scrabble would have been cut in August
-Dunc may have been able to navigate Wainwright through his early season issues better than Lilly (even though I think Lilly did a tremendous job this year)I’m of the belief that good managers can create 3 to 4 extra wins throughout a season over league average managers…hey there’s a stat my fellow Sabes can start tracking…MWAR. I think the biggest advantage would have been seen in the playoffs, where I’d take this years Cardinals against anyone, with TLR and Dunc…I don’t think he would have helped them get past the Reds for Division crown with all the injuries suffered.
Actually Chris, that study has already been done. (Find the Hardball Times links a few paragraphs in, here: )
As such, I’d venture that the Cards would’ve won 2 or fewer more games or 2 or fewer less games.  The less wins scenario is the interesting one, being that would’ve put them in the Dodgers’ sights.
Now, if we could play in an alternate universe where the Cardinals have injury repellent, we might make up some ground…
Dathan Brooks from Cards Tied For First
It’s an interesting question, that’s for sure.  I tend to agree that we wouldn’t have likely seen as much Kozma with TLR still at the helm.  On the other hand, maybe the Deacon could’ve guided the arms as in years past…course, maybe not even Dave Duncan can help Garcia.  Fewer bunts?  Almost certainly.  More pitching changes?  Probably so, yeah.  I suppose the day-in, day-out stuff would’ve varied, and after a decade and a half, we can all imagine how this or that might’ve turned out.  Grand scheme?  Who can say if the Cardinals would’ve found themselves one Zito away from returning to the World Series or not?
Dustin McClure from Welcome To Baseball Heaven
In the not so distant past someone asked Keith Law on twitter how many wins a ‘great’ manager could give a team over another, I guess a replacement level manager in a given season. His response was three at the most which falls in line with what Nick posted. With that in mind the Cardinals would have still found themselves in the exact same position in the standings give or take a couple wins and losses.As most have stated it’s very unlikely Kozma would have seen the field as much as he did if at all as Descalso and Schumaker would have been the middle infield for the most part. Jim Hayes would have been yelled at more postgame. TLR and Dunc would have had the bullpen roles assigned sooner. Less bunting probably. Would Pujols have possibly stayed? Highly doubt it. The biggest thing that definitely could have happened would have been an in season trade for a veteran arm. Or possibly the signing of Roy Oswalt as some have stated. To be honest everything worked out just fine. TLR and Dunc deserved to ride off into the sunset on a positive and this made the transition for Mike Matheny so much smoother than if he had inherited a disaster.
Wes Keene from Keene On MLB
I doubt the result of the season would have turned out too much differently. I’m an ardent TLR supporter, but it’s hard to imagine the Cards’ season going much better than it did.We would have likely seen more aggressive bullpen management, for sure. We didn’t see too much of the pitcher-per-batter routine TLR got us accustomed to this year. I think we would have seen starters pulled earlier in the game when they struggled, too. Still, Motte would have been the closer all year, I can’t see him not being the guy. From an offense standpoint, I might have expected slightly bettter pinch-hitter matchups, but not much else different. Duncan could possibly have worked struggling pitches out of a tad faster.As mentioned earlier in this thread, it’s tough to imagine the sum of all these changes amounting to more than a couple wins the Cardinals missed this season. It’s also hard to believe TLR could have done anything to prevent the final collapse of the team in San Francisco. Matheny did a good job this year, and the lack of a difference I see between a TLR 2012 and Matheny’s 2012 should be construed as a big compliment to Mike.
Pip from Fungoes

Even within that possible four-win swing that a manager can effect, I don’t see that a La Runcan-led team in 2012 would’ve been materially different from the Matheny-led one, including the bunting. How quickly we forget what a sac-bunt aficionado TLR was! In his final two years at the helm, TLR averaged 106 total sacrifice bunt attempts (including 55 non-pitcher attempts). But in his rookie campaign Matheny ordered “only” 104 (and 47). Given that the team’s OBP was approximately the same over those periods, TLR was every bit (and possibly more) the bunt advocate as Matheny.

Oh, and TLR certainly did bunt with a runner on second in the first inning — seven times in 2011 alone — and once with Allen Craig! Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


Good stuff.  Alternative universe baseball nearly always makes for interesting discussion.

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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