05 July 2007

Joe Girardi, Manager At Large

This is a few weeks late, but, eh, he is still on the market and he'll probably be facing the O's next year as Joe Torre's replacement (for some reason Don Mattingly has been knocked around a bit in the front office). Girardi was one of those not hit, some glove catchers who miraculously was allowed to be a full time player for the Cubs and Yanks, predominantly. He won some rings and is held highly within Steinbrenner's inner circle. He also performed well for Andy MacPhail's Cubs and somehow got an All-Star spot, though he never got in. It wasn't like he was the Cubs only rep either as Sosa was voted in. The team had 4 catchers on the squad. Not sure what was going on there. Anyway, he became the Marlins coach. He took a young squad to a fourth place finish, 19 games behind the Mets in the Nl East. This was so impressive that he won the Manager of the Year Award and is the only manager to win that award with a losing record. It was also noteworthy that he had an open feud with Jeffrey Loria, which pretty much led to his dismissal.

So are the Marlins wasting away again without their beloved captain? Not really. They are a little worse, but not too much. Their hitters are hitting, but their pitchers have underperformed. Hmmm and some are battling injuries. Oh my . . . I wonder if this is a case of pitcher overuse from last season. I wonder if deep sixing Girardi may have been easier to do because he killed a bunch of their pitchers.

Subject 1: Dontrelle Willis
Overrated might be a good word to use. A lot of people consider him to be an ace when he really only had elite numbers for one year and the others come in about average or below for a typical number one pitcher (115 ERA+ is typical for a team's no. 1). His 2005 season (1.13 whip; 2.53 ERA) was so extraordinary in comparison to his other seasons, I would expect there to be some craziness to the data. Over his career, Willis has usually given up 19% (18.9% - 19.5%) line drives which suggest a BA/BIP of .310 . . . which is exactly what we get . . . except for 2005.
In 2005, his line drive percentage bounced up to 23.8%, but his BA/BIP went down to .290 . . . weird. He also cut his walks down to 2.2/9 innings and kept in the 6s for k/9. Somehow he dropped his HR/Fly ratio nearly in half from his career values . . . which is weird. Now, what this tells me is that he learned to pitch . . . somewhat. He went longer into games by not walking guys, but keeping his K/9 up. Plus, he threw a lot of balls that died in the outfield . . . he plays in the NL East. Anyway, that season looks like nothing he is currently doing. So what about Joe?

2006 Willis looks in line with 2004 Willis. In '04 Willis was about a 100 pitch/game pitcher. In '05 he became a 110 pitch/game pitcher. Girardi used Willis at age 24 as a 118 pitch/game pitcher. These outings add up. This year he is a 100 pitch/game pitcher. I think he is injured. He has been their workhorse and they are just killing him with this routine. They are not even holding him back this year. They are trying to get what they can, but he falls apart at the end. He doesn't have the stamina he had a year or two ago. I think he has been misused since he came out in '05. Girardi didn't help things, but he certainly didn't start it. I just don't think he was smart enough to stop it. Willis workload increased as the season progressed in '06, which suggests that Girardi was really trying to win no matter the long term cost.

Conclusion . . . kind of bad management.

Subject #2: Scott Olsen

Not too many pitching prospects look as good as Scott Olsen. At 19, He killed the Salley League. At 20, he obliterated the FSL. At 21, he held his own at AA. So, hey let's call him up. He held his own, but didn't fair too well. The next year, Girardi liked him enough to put him in the rotation. There isn't a lot of data to go on here, but he certainly is getting hit . . . strangely a lot are line drives . . . but few homers. As opposed to Willis' '05 . . . these are actually falling in for hits. He has also lost 2 strikeouts per 9 innings. His peripherals do not suggest the 1 run difference in ERA is real . . . they suggest a 0.50 decline. So what about Joe?

The kid was kept to about 100 pitches/game. Never having pitched above AA . . . Joe upped his workload by 80 innings over the previous year. Not too smart. Typically, you want to stretch your guys about 30 innings up per year. And . . . that is all I got.

Conclusion . . . Joe did alright with him except pitching him way way too much. Scott's current problems probably do not stem from that overuse . . . though they might. We'll know more in a couple years because he is so young (23). He may have been exceptionally lucky last year or not so lucky this year. He still has some big K games . . . who knows. Scott had not suffered the excessive use Willis has been subjected to.

Subject #3: Josh Johnson
A marginal, but promising prospect (think a shinier version of Garrett Olson), who broke out big last year. His increase in workload was appropriate. He threw about 105 pitches per game. He started out well and was actually a bit lucky . . . then tailed off, but finished with a 3.10 ERA. Looking at peripherals . . . it was more accurate to call him a 4.00 ERA pitcher. This year he began on the DL and has proceeded to get knocked around. He has pitched in 4 games this year and only yesterday made it to 5 full innings. Control has never been his strong suit, but he is just walking so many people right now. Taking about 20 pitches to get out of an inning.

Conclusion: Nothing really hits you to pin this on Joe. 105 pitches per game just feels wrong to subject a 22 year old to in the majors. This isn't Dusty Baker killing the Cubs with 120 pitch outings . . . but . . . it's marginal. Definately not a smart thing to do if you are worried about your future.

So Blame Joe:
I just do not see enough evidence to say he buried his pitchers. Willis was being misused before. Olsen should not have been given so many innings. Johnson should not have been made to throw so many pitches. Oh, and Annibel Sanchez isnt that good to begin with. I guess we would have to see a few more years and just throw some more conjecture up there. Also, none of these guys falling to where they did is all that surprising. The difficulties Olsen and Johnson faced toward the end of their seasons could have been fatigue or it could have been the other teams figuring out their scouting report. Willis is close enough to his career norms and I wouldn't be shocked to learn he is hurt. Sanchez is a 4 or 5 guy, nothing more. Remember Bud Smith threw a no hitter.

Would I want Girardi?
I think he is overpriced in comparison to what he has done. I don't know why people think he is such a good manager. His team is playing just as well with the same components. The hitters are all doing well if not better. The pitching is a notch down, but lots of them look to have been lucky last year. It is similar to the ChiSox pitching during their World Series run and then the following year.

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