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A winning streak and an original thought
by Hubert Huang on May 27, 2005
An original thought
For a manager with a career mark that fell 60 short of even during his 10-year stint as Expos skipper, Felipe Alou certainly earned the respect of a number of people around baseball. Perhaps it was his strong major league bloodlines -- himself, a nephew, two brothers and a son -- that contributed to his league-wide endorsement. Perhaps, many felt his ability to manage a household of ten children translated well to running a major league clubhouse.
What it could not have been was his consummate comprehension of baseball strategy. For despite 13-years as a manager and a sweet 16 as a ballplayer, he frequently demonstrated a less than vise-like grasp of the game's nuances (walks, pitch counts, etc.).
But in season number 29, this old dog showed he could learn a new trick.
Holding a 5-3 lead with three outs to go in the opening game of the Giants-Dodgers series, Giants' closer Tyler Walker began making his way to the mound to try and earn the save. But with left-handed Ricky Ledee scheduled to hit, Alou called his closer back and allowed southpaw Scott Eyre to remain in the game.
Had Alou elected to bring Walker in at that moment, few would have noticed the managerial misstep. On the other hand, forcing Ledee -- whose OPS since 2002 is 233 points lower versus lefties than righties -- to hit against a southpaw provided the Giants a significant advantage.
As it turns out, the scenario played out as intended, with the tandem of Eyre and Walker setting the Dodgers down in order. However, one wonders how critical the media would have been of Alou had Eyre failed to do his part and the Giants went on to lose the lead. Either way, Alou deserves credit for conjuring a creative solution when many managers would have simply called their closer out of habit.
One question remains unanswered though: Would Alou have taken the same action had the Giants held a three run lead, since leaving Eyre in for the extra batter could have costed Walker the save?
Speaking of the Giants bullpen…
After a year of bullpen misery a season ago, no one could reasonably expect a great deal of improvement when six of the same faces showed up for opening day 2005. The lone ray of light shone from Armando Benitez and his 1.29 ERA from 2004.
That glimmer of hope was quickly replaced by dark shadows though when Benitez hobbled to the 60-day disabled list with a torn groin. But over the past month, Tyler Walker has shown an aptitude for taking care of outs 25, 26 and 27. Over the past month, since taking over the duties, Walker has converted all seven of his save opportunities and posted a 2.53 ERA.
Even more impressive than his May performance, however, is that seven of the eight runs he's surrendered this year have taken place in two outings. Discounting those two games, Walker's statistics would read quite impressively: 19 appearances, 20 IP, 0.45 ERA. In addition, Walker has demonstrated an explosive fastball that can hit 96 MPH and a tight slider to accompany it.
Still, if one looks closely at the horizon, dark clouds are evident. Despite the velocity of his fastball, it still doesn't make a whole bunch of hitters miss. His strikeout rate per nine innings of 5.85 certainly does not indicate overpowering stuff. And when this number is put up for consideration next to his 12 BB, the performance begins to look downright flukey. His K/BB ratio of 1.08 is what Double-A pitchers are made of.
Lest we forget Walker has pitched but 20 innings, which is just a tad over two full games. Two good outings by a starting pitcher doesn't mean we should start talking about the next Warren Spahn any more than 20 appearances should evoke images of Rollie Fingers.
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by Hubert Huang on May 27, 2005