Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Bochy’

The 1980 NLCS: Houston

October 19, 2015
The Express

The Express

Over all the years I’ve watched baseball, the 1980 NLCS is still the most exciting playoff series I’ve seen. There have been some other fine series’ and a number of very good World Series contests (especially 1991), but for sheer sustained suspense there’s nothing to match this set of contests between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Astros finished second in 1979, but in 1980 managed to tie the Los Angeles Dodgers for the West Division title. A one game playoff sent them on to the NLCS. Manager Bill Virdon, the old Pirates center fielder, was in his sixth (fifth full) season at the helm. With him in charge, the Astros (with a one season hiccup in 1978) managed a steady climb to a division title. The 93 wins was a team record.

The infield consisted of former utility man Art Howe (later A’s manager and a major figure in both the Money Ball book and movie) at first, Hall of Famer Joe Morgan at second, Enos Cabell at third, and Craig Reynolds at short. Howe’s status as a utility man meant he only had 77 games at first (and just over 30 at the other three infield slots). He hit .283 with 10 home runs (his only season with double figure homers), 46 RBIs, a 129 OPS+, and a 1.8 WAR. Morgan was at the end of his career. he hit only .243, but had 11 home runs and 24 stolen bases (with six caught stealing). As usual he walked a ton (a team leading 93 walks), had a good OPS+ (115), and fifth on the team (fourth among hitters) with 3.6 WAR. Cabell contributed 21 home runs and hit .276, but only had a 90 OPS+ and a -0.2 WAR. Additionally he wasn’t much of a third baseman. Reynolds, on the other hand, was a pretty good shortstop. In 135 games he managed only 17 errors (about dead in the middle of the league). He hit only .226 with neither power nor speed, but did manager a positive WAR of 0.5. From the bench Danny Heep, Denny Walling, and Dave Bergman spelled Howe at first. Walling got all three homers the trio provided, 29 of 38 RBIs, and led the group at .299. Their combined WAR was 2.9 (with Walling leading the pack at 0.9). Rafael Landestoy did most of the backup work for the other infield positions, hit .247, but stole 23 bases (and was caught 12 times), and produced 1.4 WAR.

The heart of the offense was the outfield. Terry Puhl held down right field and led the team in WAR with 6.2. He hit .282 with a team leading 13 home runs (it was the Astrodome after all).His 55 RBIs tied for third on the team, as did his 27 stolen bases. He had a 124 OPS+. Cesar Cedeno patrolled center field and led the starters with an OPS+ of 147 (5.0 WAR). He hit .309, had an OPS of .854, 73 RBIs, 154 hits, 48 stolen bases, and 10 home runs. The OPS, average, and stolen bases led the team. Jose Cruz was in left field. He hit .302, had 11 home runs, a team leading 91 RBIs, 36 stolen bases, and managed to led the team with 185 hits. His OPS+ was 127 and his WAR topped out at 4.8. The 24 year-old backup was Jeffrey Leonard. He hit only three homers and had 20 RBIs to go along with a .213 average. He was not yet the slugger he became at San Francisco.

Alan Ashby did the bulk of the catching, logging 116 games. He hit .256, scored 30 runs, and knocked in 48. His backup was Luis Pujols who hit all of a buck 99. Way down the list of everyday players was current Giants manager Bruce Bochy who, at 25, caught 10 games.

They caught a staff that was supposed to be the strength of the team. Joe Niekro was the ace. He went 20-12 with an ERA of 3.55 (ERA+ 93). His WHIP was 1.355, and he gave up more hits than he had inning pitched. His WAR was 0.9 (hardly inspiring for an ace). Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan had a standard Nolan Ryan year. His record was one game over .500 (11-10), his ERA was in the mid-threes (3.35) with an ERA+ of 98. He walked 98 and struck out 200. He finished second in strikeouts (in the previous eight years he’d finished 1st seven times). The 200 strikeouts were second on the league (by 86 to Steve Carlton). Ryan’s WHIP was 1.297 and his WAR 1.5. Verne Ruhl was 12-4 with a 2.37 ERA (ERA+ of 139), a 1.111 WHIP (3.2 WAR), but only 55 strikeouts in 159 innings. Ken Forsch had a losing record at 12-13, but a 3.20 ERA (103 ERA+). He’d also given up more hits than he had innings pitched, helping result in a 1.219 WHIP and 2.6 WAR. Which brings me to J.R. Richard. He should have been the ace, maybe the best pitcher in baseball, but his health caught up with him. On 30 July he collapsed with a stroke, effectively ending his career. Any speculation as to how much he might have helped Houston in the rest of the regular season (or playoffs) is just that, speculation. Swingman Joaquin Andujar took his place, starting 14 games. He put up a 3.91 ERA (ERA+ of 84) with a 1.434 WHIP and 0.0 WAR.

Joe Sambito held down the closer spot. In many ways he was a typical reliever of the era. He had 17 saves in 64 appearances and pitched 90 innings (just under one and a half per outing). His ERA was 2.19 with an ERA+ of 151 (2.0 WAR), and he struck out 75 with a WHIP of 0.963.  Both Dave Smith and Frank LaCorte picked up double figure saves with Smith posting an ERA+ of 171. At 2.6 his WAR was actually higher than Sambito’s and by the end of the regular season he was doing as much closing as Sambito.

Although a good team, the 1980 Astros were flawed with a weak hitting infield and few quality pitchers. They’d taken an extra game to win the West and few chose them to win the pennant. They faced Philadelphia in the NLCS>

 

 

 

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A Few Thoughts on the 2014 Postseason

October 30, 2014
Giants logo

Giants logo

Here’s a few random thoughts on the just concluded 2014 postseason.

1. Congratulations to the Giants. Yuck! Do you have any idea how hard that is for a Dodgers fan to type? I’m trying to figure out whether “dynasty” is the right word for them. I tend to think of a dynasty team as having won at least two in a row and a couple more around it. By that definition (which is strictly mine) the Giants aren’t a dynasty but most closely resemble the 1942-46 Cardinals who win in ’42, ’44, and ’46 (and lose in ’43). But if it isn’t a dynasty, it’s something very close and I won’t argue with people who want to label the Giants a dynasty.

2. Congratulations to the Royals. They gave us a feel good story for the postseason and a chance to root for a true underdog (I had my money on the Giants, but rooted for the Royals). I hope they aren’t a fluke but, like last year’s Pirates, are a team that will be in contention for a while.

3. As Bumgarner has been around for a while, this year’s break out player may be Lorenzo Cain. I admit I’d never heard of him until late in the season, but he was a revelation in the playoffs. He hits, he runs, he catches everything in center field (and in right). Hopefully he isn’t a flash in the pan who got hot late in the season and drifts back into obscurity.

4. What is it with the National League. The last five pennant winners are the Giants, Cardinals, Giants, Cardinals, Giants. Do we note a pattern here? If so, you might want to get your money down on the Cards for the 2015 NL pennant.

5. The American League appears to be more wide open than traditionally. Their last five pennant winners are the Rangers, Rangers, Tigers, Red Sox, Royals. So I got no pattern here. Best guess is that Bloggess will get her Orioles in next season (but that’s strictly a guess and no one has ever favorably compared me to a prophet). Whatever happens, Buck Showalter is one heck of a manager, isn’t he?

6. Madison Bumgarner is one heck of a postseason pitcher. Before we deify him, we might want to give him a few more years on the mound. He looks like the real deal but a lot of “real deal” types have ended up in oblivion. And while we’re at it, how much does the 3-4-5 combination of Buster Posey, Pedro Sandoval, and Hunter Pence scare you? They don’t scare me a lot in the regular season, but they really come through in the postseason (OK, Posey had a lousy Series) and that does scare me.

7. With three World Series wins, Bruce Bochy should have just punched his ticket to Cooperstown.

8. Can we knock off with the Kershaw-Koufax comparisons for a while? Don’t be doing things like that to Clayton Kershaw. He’s a heck of a pitcher and, depending on injuries, should end up with more wins and strikeouts than Sandy Koufax. But he’s never going to reach SANDY KOUFAX!!! (Said in Charlton Heston/James Earl Jones voice of God tones with trumpets in the background) status. Koufax was a really good pitcher. KOUFAX!!! (now with drums added) is damned close to God in his mythology. He has a greater peak than Kershaw will ever have because they simply won’t let Kershaw pitch enough innings to reach that peak, so there will always be those who will go “Well, Kershaw was good, but at his peak KOUFAX!!! (maybe now we add bagpipes doing “Amazing Grace”) was a whole lot better.” And of course Kershaw got shelled in the playoffs (He’s 0-4 against the Cards in postseason play) and Koufax only gave up six earned runs in 57 innings pitched in the World Series and KOUFAX!!! (the 1961-66 version) only gave up five in 48 innings. Kershaw gave up that many in two innings. Enough already, let Kershaw be Kershaw.

9. All in all the World Series was a mixture of fun and drama, but some of the games were really boring. Five of the games were won by at least five run margins. That’s nice if it’s your team, but I kinda want the Series to be a set of close games. Didn’t get that this time.

10. Having said that, I enjoyed the postseason except for one small thing. Would the powers that be quit dividing up the playoffs so I have to wander all over my TV remote control trying to find the games? Fox, Fox Sports 1, MLB TV, TBS, ESPN all did at least one game (and don’t get me started on the quality of the broadcasters). Come on, guys, knock that off. Put them on just a couple of channels so we know where they are going to be and leave them there.

Feel free to disagree with anything above (you have the right to be wrong 🙂 ). Now on to the Hotstove League and next season.

2012 Awards Season: Managers

October 29, 2012

The first NL Manager of the Year winner: Tommy LaSorda

The playing part of the 2012 season is now over and congratulations are in order to the Giants. We now begin the second part of the season, the awards and honors section. This part of the season lasts until January and includes all the postseason awards plus the two Hall of Fame votes. I’m going to take some time to voice my opinion on the awards by letting readers know both who I think will win and who I think should win. Frequently those aren’t the same people. I start with the Managers. Let me remind you that all awards voting is done before the playoffs begin so nothing that happens in the playoffs can affect the awards.

AL–I presume Buck Showalter will win. The Orioles hadn’t won in the 21st Century, lost one of their best players (Nick Markakis), battled the Yankees with their overwhelming salary advantage, and made the playoffs as a  wildcard team. That’s worthy of Manager of the Year in the American League. But let me remind you about Oakland and Bob Melvin. The Athletics last made the playoffs in 2006, then wandered through a wasteland with one semi-winning  season (2010 when they finished at exactly .500). They hired Melvin with about 100 games left (actually 99) in 2011 and this year they won the AL West. In doing so they put up the second best record in the AL (one game better than Baltimore, one game less than New York. They also had to take on the reigning AL champion (Texas) and won the head-to-head matchup that propelled them to the division title (remember Baltimore won a wild card, not a division). I think Showalter will win, but I wouldn’t be upset if Melvin (my choice) won the award.

NL–I presume this is Davey Johnson’s award. He took a team that had never won a thing, led it to the best record in baseball, had to put up with the Strasburg circus, and still found a way to win. Certainly nothing wrong with those credentials and ultimately I’d probably vote for him, but take a look at the following candidates. Bruce Bochy saw his ace, a two-time Cy Young winner, fall apart, replaced him with pitchers who were over the hill (Zito), or had twenty total wins going into the season (Bumgarner), or whose claim to fame was that he was pretty good in Japan (Vogelsong) and had only one decent year in the US. Then he has a team that finishes dead last in power (only two players available for the Series had double figure home runs). Finally, his best player and All Star game MVP (Cabrera) is banned for 50 games. The result of all this is a first place finish. Also take a look at Mike Matheny. I know he manages the reigning World Champions, but it’s not the same team as last season. Three quarters of his infield  is new. Pujols is gone replaced by Craig who isn’t a first baseman, Furcal goes down and is replaced by a rookie, Descalso has moved from third to second (but at least is still in the infield), Craig is on outfielder moved to third. That’s messing with half the starters. Top that off with losing his ace (Carpenter) and still the Cards made the playoffs. Not bad for a rookie manager.

I think that Showalter and Johnson will win and if they do they won’t be bad choices, but don’t forget the others. They deserve a lot of  credit for the success of their team.

Picking the Winners: Managers

November 12, 2010

The final of my thoughts on the next round of postseason MLB awards. I’ve said before that I have little idea how to evaluate managers, so this post is more in the nature of who I think should win rather than who I think will win. As to the latter, I have no idea.

NL-Bud Black. I think deep down inside that Dusty Baker will probably win this or maybe it will be Bobby Cox or yet again Bruce Bochy. All of them led their team in the playoffs and that’s generally rewarded. Baker took a team that wasn’t supposed to win and took down the favored Cardinals. For Cox it was his last season and he got the Braves to the wildcard. Sentiment alone might get him the award. Bochy took a team that didn’t hit a lot, but pitched well and won the division on the final day of the season (remember the voting is done before the playoffs begin so the writers don’t know Bochy’s team is going to win the World  Series). As I said, Bochy won on the last day of the season. He did it by beating the Padres, Bud Black’s team. The Padres were picked dead last in an already weak division. With good pitching, decent enough hitting to win close games, and a reasonably decent defense, the Padres took it to the last day. Baring that horrendous 10 game losing streak, they would have won the west. The manager of the Padres, Bud Black, gets my vote for the manager of the year. He had almost nothing to work with and came within an ace of knocking off the pitching rich Giants. He’d get my vote, but if pressed to pick who I think the writers will choose, I guess I’d go with Baker.

AL-Terry Francona. He has no chance, but you have to give him credit for the Red Sox successess this season. Do you know how many of the Red Sox first line everyday players played at least 130 or more games? Exactly four (Marco Scutero, Adrian Beltre, JD Drew, and David Ortiz). That means that half the team was out of the lineup for long periods of time and they still ended up 89-73. Only Drew started more than 50 games in the same outfield position (McDonald and Hall started 50, but not in the same position). A manager has to get some credit for keeping a team like that in contention until late in the season. Only Jon Lester and John Lackey started 30 or more games. Try winning with 60% of your starters getting into less than 30 games. Frankly, as I stated earlier, I don’t think Francona has a chance of winning, but he probably should. Francona is using mirrors and sitll winning. Not bad. And speaking of mirrors, the other guy I’d look at seriously is Buck Showalter. He was there a third of a season in Baltimore and that will surely hurt him. But he won with that team; something no one’s done for a long, long time. I keep asking myslef, “Did he really win with those guys?” Again, if pressed, I’d probably say the writers will pick Joe Maddon, but I wouldn’t. I’d also love to see Ron Gardenhire finally get the credit he deserves.