I was gonna write a nice long analysis of the job Felipe Alou has done this season, after reading about last night’s horrific ninth-inning meltdown. This team has had several of those type of bullpen collapse’s over the last season and a half, and regardless of whether you think Alou’s righty/lefty pitching decisions are more trouble than they’re worth (they are), or whether things would be different in the bullpen if Benitez hadnt gotten injured (they would), the reality of the 2005 Giants is such that it is just this shy of pointless to argue about managerial decisions.
This is a team that features five regular players with slugging percentages below .395, the mark posted by their best hitting pitcher, Noah Lowry. Randy Winn has been with the team for 17 games, and has collected 11 extra-base hits in just 66 at-bats. JT Snow and Edgardo Alfonzo each have 16 extra base hits all season, each in more than 250 at-bats.
The Giants feature just two pitchers who have been with the team for any length of time with ERA’s below 4.00, while running out 8 different pitchers with ERA’s above 5.00. The relievers have combined to throw a staggering 377 innings of mediocrity, earning just 236 strikeouts while walking 150, a terrible 1.5 K/BB ratio.
I find it hard to imagine Alou feeling confident in anybody, and he probably believes he has no choice but to make every possible effort to stack the odds in his favor, even if it’s only the tiniest of edges he’s seeking. Munter and Eyre have been his only truly reliable and consistent relievers, while virtually everyone else has either been effective or a complete disaster. And that seems to be the main problem he’s been dealing with.
There’s no small deviations in production from his relievers. They either get the job done, or they burn the whole building down, nothing in between. The Giants don’t blow a 3-1 lead, they blow 7-1 leads, they blow 4-0 leads. The pitchers don’t just struggle to find the strike zone, they walk four guys and give up the grand slam.
Listening to Jason Christiansen complain about Alou, I wonder just why the hell he’s still on the team? I mean, seriously, which member of Sabean’s family does he have locked up in his basement? Here’s a lefty who is posting a stellar 3.54 K/9IP, along with his 4.87 ERA. His career ERA is 4.26, in 429 innings of work. In 2001, after Sabean got him from the Cardinals, he posted a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings of work. That’s it. That’s his whole career, right there. In 2002, he blew his arm out and only pitched in 5 innings, and since then, he’s posted ERA’s of 5.19, 4.50, and this season’s 4.87, and now he’s complaining?
Fantastic, maybe he and Woody can get together and talk about how much fun it’s been cashing their million dollar paychecks while combining to strikeout 50 guys in 250 innings of work. Yet Sabean can’t seem to give these stiffs enough money.
What is Alou supposed to do about that? Herges, Christiansen, Brower, I mean, these are not talented pitchers. These are waiver wire cast-offs. So Alou’s sitting here with maybe three relievers he knows can get outs, and so of course, he’s using them up like Kleenex. He’s still trying to win. Trouble is, his team is 15 games under .500. There’s no point in trying to win at all costs.
The only reason I would like to see him allow some of these guys to go an inning at a time is to see whether they can do it at all, for next season, because that’s all that’s left. Let these guys play, stop micro-managing, and see what happens. ’05 is over. ’06 needs to be he focus of everyone on the team, management and players.
UPDATE: Iain, who always has something to add to the debate, today decided to add some Guatamalan insanity peppers. ;-)
To suggest that the season isn’t over because the Giants have the best record in the division since June 1st is nothing short of absurd. On June 1st, the Giants were 23-28. Since then, they’ve gone a robust 30-41. Not for nothing, but that’s a bunch of craptacular baseball, regardless of whether the rest of the teams in their division are doing worse. The Giants are 16 games under .500, 12 games back of the Wild Card leader, with all but two teams in the entire NL having worse seasons. The season is over.