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LDS Previews

7 October 2009

My League Division Series previews are now up at YESNetwork.com. Includes predictions for all four series.

The lead item in the column discusses the Yankees’ ridiculous decision to start Jose Molina over Jorge Posada in Game 2 of the LDS. The decision is supposed to be about A.J. Burnett’s perceived greater comfort pitching to Molina. But I think it’s something more than that.

Managers love players that remind them of themselves when they were players. They can’t help it. When Tony Muser managed the Kansas City Royals, he’d often favor slick-fielding first baseman over guys who could hit. Those decisions hurt the team’s performance. But Muser was himself a good-field, no-hit first baseman. He simply stuck to what he knew.

Mike Scioscia is an excellent manager in many ways. But his Jeff Mathis fetish has become stupefying. Mathis can’t hit at all. Meanwhile Mike Napoli has grown into one of the top power-hitting catchers in baseball. In his playing days, Scioscia wasn’t as bad a hitter as Mathis was. But he was still primarily known for his defense. So the Angels manager plays the guy who gives his team less overall value (Mathis’ purported defensive edge doesn’t come close to matching the added value Napoli’s bat offers), because he’s going with what he knows.

Girardi could easily overrule Burnett’s bellyaching and play the guy with AN OPS OVER 1000 in Yankee Stadium this year, instead of the guy with AN OPS UNDER 600 in the Yankees’ home park. But Girardi was a good-field, little-hit catcher himself. In fact, the Yankees’ decision in the mid-1990s to go with the glove guy over the better (and much younger) bat was a rare chink in the Bombers’ armor in those days.

The offensive-minded catcher on those Yankees teams: Jorge Posada
The defensive-minded catcher on those Yankees teams: Joe Giradi

Plus ca change…

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