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Email Call
2003-09-04 14:51
by Mike Carminati

Here are a few recent emails of interest:

Regarding Joe Morgan's .001 ERA, Ken Zeitung writes:

9000 innings is about 6-7 teams worth. So that .001 ERA is really something! Joe Morgan (as a sports reporter) is truly a national treasure.

I guess even a 0.10 ERA wouldn't do it for Joe. I also guess that Nolan Ryan (in 86 or 87) was just a loser with a sub 3.00 ERA.

Good point with Ryan's 1987 season (league-leading 2.76 ERA, 42% better than the park-adjusted league average, but 8-16). Joe would probably just say that he forgot how to win that year. After all he lost seven games by two or fewer runs. Joe would have just said that he pitched well enough to lose. When he lost 1-0 to Floyd Youmans on July 8, it was his fault that the 'Stros had just one hit off Youmans.

Three times he lost games when he left in the fifth of a close game (losing 1-0, 3-0, and 2-1), he left once after six trailing 2-0, and in the third in a 1-0 game. Of his 12 no decisions that year, all but one would qualify for a "Quality Start" (and that one was 5.1 IP with one earned run). He had three NDs with 0 ERs and at least 7 IP. He had a 9-inning, 1-earned run ND. His ERA in NDs was 1.88! But in Joe's book, he was a loser.

Re. my criticsm of the estimable Lawrence Bowa, Mike Roca writes:

You wrote:

So where do the Phillies go from here? It would have been best for them to have parted ways with Bowa before this season. They are underperforming as compared to their expected win total by four games, the lion's share of which is Bowa's responsibility. Some would say that the Phils are lucky to be in the playoff hunt after the offensive dearth in the first half and their pitching debacle in the second half and that they have Bowa to thanks for it.

Huh? What has Bowa done to make them underperform their pygathorian projection? That's luck, not the manager. He might do things that make their runs scored/allowed worse than it should be (such as playing bad players) but way they go together to create wins has nothing to do with him.

To examine Bowa's situation I think it would be useful to look at Billy Martin, Leo Dorousher and other high pressure managers. Were they detested by their players? Did it matter? Frankly I don't think Bowa makes a game's worth of difference to the Phillies one way or the other. Being unpopular doesn't automatically make him ineffective. If you want to roast him explain how his managerial moves are bad.

You asked for it, you got it, Toyota:

Sept 1 vs. Boston: Bowa used three pitchers to get out of the fifth, thinking that he needs to finish the inning with the Phils leading to make the game official before rains prematurely end it. This strategy causes the Phils to go to Jose Mesa and Turk Wendell in the disastrous ninth. The fifth includes an appearance by Dan Plesac, who pitches to and eventually walks two left-handers, Johnny Damon and Todd Walker, to load the bases. First, Damon hits equally well against lefties and righties (.746 vs. 764 OPS). Second, Plesac even though he is left-hander, pitches much better to righties than lefties (.520 with no homers vs. .633 and two homers). He went to Williams to save the lead in the fifth.

Aug. 26 at Montreal: The Phillies lead 10-4 at the start of the seventh. They have men at the corners and no outs with the pitcher Vicente Padilla up. Bowa pinch-hits lefty Tyler Houston for Padilla. The Expos bring in lefty Joey Eischen. Bowa counters with right-handed Jason Michaels, who strikes out and the trailing runner is tagged out going into second. The Phils fail to score, the bullpen collapses, and they lose 14-10.

July 13 at New York: The Phils and Mets are tied in the bottom of the ninth. The Mets have men at the corners with one out. The Phils intentionally walk Jeff Duncan to load the bases, which allows get to J.R. Phillips to win the game with a single to right over a drawn-in infield on a 2-0 fastball. Duncan is batting .196 with a .567 OPS. He was 0-for-4 on the day with two K's. But Duncan is a left-handed hitter, right-handed Terry Adams was pitching, and right-handed J.R. Phillips was on-deck. Never mind that Phillips was 2-for-4 with a RBI on the day already.

Is that enough or do you want more? Look, Bowa is a poor situational tactician but so is Bobby Cox, and Cox is one of the best managers of his era. I don't care a whit of Bowa is unpopular with the players or more fiery than Earl Weaver at his base-flinging best. I don't care if he can't perform a double-switch.

My problem with Bowa is that he has caused unrest in the clubhouse. I agree that most often a manger makes very little difference in a team's outcome. However, when is as caustic as Bowa while making very poor decisions about the team, it's a disastrous combination.

Bowa threw 280 leadoff at-bats to the incredibly overrated Jimmy Rollins and his electric .314 on-base percentage (as a leadoff man). Rollins also has 96 at-bats with a .269 OBP as the #2 hitter. I see this as more of a problem than any one tactical error that he committed.

As far as "underperform[ing] their pygathorian projection" being "luck, not the manager", I think you're wrong. I projected the expected win-loss percentage for all managers who won at least 100 games. I then summed all whose actual wins exceeded expectations and then those whose actual wins were less than expected. Here's what I found:

Group       W     L  PCT
W>Exp W 97935 91046 .518
Exp W>W 69396 72006 .491

Good managers tend to exceed expectations. Bad ones tend to fall short of expected win totals. By the way, Bowa falls in the latter category but Billy Martin, another fiery manager had teams that exceeded expectation. So much for fieriness being an issue.

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