Wednesday, October 13, 2004

More On McClendon

There's a discussion of Lloyd McClendon's managerial tendencies over at Honest Wagner. My position, as I stated over there, is this:

I see him make moves every day that reduce the Pirates' odds of winning - bizarre sacrificing decisions, strange uses of pinch hitters, strange lineups. Abe Nunez is his favorite pinch hitter, for pete's sake, and it seems like the Pirates kill rallies every day with sacrifices, even though their attempts at sacrifices often don't work in advancing the runners they're supposed to advance.

It's kind of like watching a poker player who constantly puts in his money when the odds are against him - and loses. Yes, there are some factors that we don't know about in both situations - both guys might be thinking about things I'm not aware of when making their decisions. But they still both bet against the odds, and they both lose, which makes me think they don't know what they're doing.


McClendon ignores the odds when his players sacrifice. The sacrifice is almost never a good percentage play unless a pitcher is doing it, and yet McClendon orders it constantly. As the Stats Geek shows, the sacrifice is rarely a good play even when it's successful, and the Pirates also often attempt to sacrifice and fail.

McClendon has used Abraham Nunez as a pinch hitter nearly 150 times in the past three years, even though there were better options available (read: anyone). During that time, Nunez has posted an incredible .429 OPS as a pinch hitter, as well as a meager .637 OPS overall.

McClendon constantly embraces righty-lefty platoon matchups on both sides of the ball, even when the resulting talent matchups have placed his team at a disadvantage.

McClendon has kept promising young talents like Craig Wilson on the bench in favor of mediocre veterans who haven't helped the team win in the short term or the long term.

McClendon's decisions have directly hurt the Pirates' chances of winning games. Here's one example. Here's another. And another. And another.

There are more: there's this game that the Pirates somehow actually won, in which McClendon ordered sacrifices with no outs in the tops of the 9th, 10th and 11th innings in a tie game... at Coors Field. The Pirates didn't score in any of those innings, and Jason Bay and Rob Mackowiak laid down two of the sacrifices. And then there's this game, in which McClendon ordered Kris Benson to sacrifice in the sixth inning of a game they were losing 4-0 (why not just pinch hit for Benson?). McClendon then (justifiably) removed Benson from the game in the bottom of the inning.

McClendon is not the only reason why the Pirates lose. They simply don't have the talent to win 90 games. But he's not helping them win all the games they can, either, and is probably just as responsible for the Pirates' poor performance as any single player. He constantly stacks the deck against himself, and has no track record of winning to reassure us that there's something about the game that he sees and we don't. And if some miracle happens and the Pirates are able to cobble together a good team in McClendon's tenure, my guess is that fans are going to start noticing what an awful tactician he is.

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