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Monday, May 03, 2021

Spare Parts: The first whispers of Tony La Russa-related discontent

Some of Tony La Russa’s in-game decision-making has confused White Sox fans greatly, and well within the boundaries of knowledge mere fans possess. It’s hard to say he’s making moves on information only the clubhouse knows when Lucas Giolito tells everybody his fatigue went undetected by La Russa. Similarly, it doesn’t pass basic transitive logic when he subs in a player defensively, but doesn’t replace that player in situations where a bat is needed.

In his own monthly review of baseball — not to be confused with Month in a Box, exclusive to supporters of Sox Machine on Patreon — Jeff Passan highlights the key failures and says “patience in some parts of the White Sox’s clubhouse is growing thin.”

The latest came last week, when, trailing by three, with runners on first and second and one out in the eighth, La Russa allowed Billy Hamilton and Leury Garcia to hit, even though Robert was available on the bench. La Russa’s explanation after the game was that he was “looking for a single there.”

It wasn’t the only mistake he made that game. After an awful start in which La Russa let his best pitcher, Lucas Giolito, languish for seven runs in one-plus innings, Giolito had bounced back with a solid six innings. La Russa sent him back out for the seventh. Giolito wasn’t going to ask out of the game. That responsibility fell on La Russa, who after the game said he didn’t realize Giolito was gassed.

I’d caution against drawing wider conclusions based on this report. Passan isn’t particular enamored with La Russa and hasn’t been for the better part of a decade. It’s also tailored to feed the fears that many White Sox fans harbored since Jerry Reinsdorf arranged this marriage in a way that might exploit credulity.

Yet it’s definitely worth filing away, at least for starters.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 03, 2021 at 06:01 PM | 46 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: tony larussa

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   1. The Duke Posted: May 03, 2021 at 09:02 PM (#6016729)
Everybody hates their manager. All managers manage too much - the cardinals manager inexplicably hands out IBB like candy. Tonight in the 2nd inning ! Who gives an IBB in the second inning ? Shildt has already issued 6-7 IBBs almost all to catastrophic effect. I’ll take La Russa if I have a choice
   2. Rough Carrigan Posted: May 03, 2021 at 10:06 PM (#6016744)
I can't say there wasn't still some grumbling, but after Terry Francona showed in the 2004 postseason that he knew *exactly* what the optimal percentage move was, there was usually a distinction drawn between sagely "Playoff Tito" and let's see if this guy can do this "Regular season Tito".
   3. Howie Menckel Posted: May 03, 2021 at 10:25 PM (#6016751)
and then Francona gave it all back with his 2016 postseason efforts for Cleveland

he sure seemed to forget "exactly what the optimal percentage move was" - highlighted by the last out of Game 7 being made by Michael Martinez, he of the 37 career OPS+ in 621 inexplicable PA in MLB.

why does Francona love Boston yet hate Cleveland so? his dad played for the Indians, for heaven's sake
   4. TomH Posted: May 04, 2021 at 07:51 AM (#6016785)
#1, YES, so I should be cautious in piling on, but....

Many of us saw this coming, and said so; it is certainly possible that 2021 Tony LaRussa will be evaluated in hindsight as a man who was hired based on past experience and success, but whom the game passed by, who couldn't manage the players he had in 2021, who was more reliant on his inherent smarts he once had and not aware that what he "knew" wasn't true or relevant anymore. I predicted a 3rd place AL Central finish, .500ish or maybe a tad better, for the pale hose, and I'm sticking with that. I believe he was not a good choice for the job he was given.
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 04, 2021 at 09:07 AM (#6016789)
Speaking as someone who can't stand Tony LaRussa, this Giolito stuff looks like somebody is trying to blame LaRussa for Giolito's shitty pitching. He hasn't been over used. Asking your ace to pitch the 7th with a 2-1 lead is bog standard. If you can't get Niko Goodrum out, that's on you.
   6. The Duke Posted: May 04, 2021 at 09:45 AM (#6016798)
The managing in 2021 has been bad across the board. I think everyone is rusty. Players, umps, managers.

Like I said in the other thread, didn’t Giolito tell the pitching coach he was gassed when he went out to visit?
   7. Rally Posted: May 04, 2021 at 10:23 AM (#6016802)
Speaking as someone who can't stand Tony LaRussa, this Giolito stuff looks like somebody is trying to blame LaRussa for Giolito's shitty pitching. He hasn't been over used. Asking your ace to pitch the 7th with a 2-1 lead is bog standard. If you can't get Niko Goodrum out, that's on you.


I'm sure he never thought twice about sending Dave Stewart or Chris Carpenter out there in that situation. Looks like Tony is going to have to recalibrate his expectations since the typical starter usage has changed quite a bit in the last decade.

It's weird but I'm at the point where I'm thinking "the bullpen will get a break tonight" if all the starter does is complete 5 innings.
   8. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 04, 2021 at 10:31 AM (#6016805)
The latest came last week, when, trailing by three, with runners on first and second and one out in the eighth, La Russa allowed Billy Hamilton and Leury Garcia to hit, even though Robert was available on the bench. La Russa’s explanation after the game was that he was “looking for a single there.”
I mean...how...I just...
I can't even.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 04, 2021 at 10:49 AM (#6016812)
I'm sure he never thought twice about sending Dave Stewart or Chris Carpenter out there in that situation. Looks like Tony is going to have to recalibrate his expectations since the typical starter usage has changed quite a bit in the last decade.

The first incident Giolito was at like 80 pitches through 7. Nobody pulls him. If you never let your SPs throw 110 pitches, they won't be able to.

MLB need to severely restrict reliever usage, yesterday. Max 11 pitchers on the roster, you get sent down you have to stay down for 30 days. Baseball dominated by relievers sucks, and is unwatchable.
   10. Nasty Nate Posted: May 04, 2021 at 11:09 AM (#6016819)
I don't know how to compare the data, but I don't think LaRussa has been pushing his starters deep into games compared to other teams. They do lead the league in complete games with 3, but one was a no-hitter, one was a 7-inninger, and the other was a 114-pitch outing by Lance Lynn who has led the league in batters faced 2 straight years. Other than that, I think they have only had 1 or 2 games in which the starter even begins the 7th.
   11. greenback used to say live and let live Posted: May 04, 2021 at 11:17 AM (#6016820)
Looks like Tony is going to have to recalibrate his expectations since the typical starter usage has changed quite a bit in the last decade.

It's still pretty much 100 pitches and done, isn't it? La Russa understood that ten years ago. Actually I tend to think modern pitcher usage is more La Russa-like, if anything, because the man essentially wanted to run a very simple python script to drive who pitches when. In this case that means TLR is reluctant to pull a gassed starter at <80 pitches even if the guys in the Uecker seats can see the extent of the starter's decay.
   12. Itchy Row Posted: May 04, 2021 at 11:51 AM (#6016827)
I don't think Stathead has pitches per start figures for team splits, but Sox starters are sixth in the major leagues and second in the AL with 5.32 IP per start, but 26 of the 30 teams are basically between 14 and 16 outs per start. The Dodgers lead with 5.95 and the Blue Jays are last at 4.37.

By batters faced, Sox starters are 12th in MLB and fourth in the AL with 21.84. The Phillies lead at 23.48 and the Blue Jays are last again at 18.37.

Sox starters have a 3.13 ERA, which is fourth behind the Giants (leading with 2.34), Dodgers, Padres, and Mets. The Cubs are last at 6.00.

That's all assuming I didn't #### up the Stathead search or the Excel formatting.

   13. McCoy Posted: May 04, 2021 at 03:36 PM (#6016907)
At this point this is a hit piece plain and simple.
   14. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: May 04, 2021 at 03:41 PM (#6016909)
Can a fan blog really run a hit piece?

Of course, he's still an easy (and probably deserving) target.
   15. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 04, 2021 at 03:52 PM (#6016914)
The piece is quoting Jeff Passan, and couching it as Passan of having an axe to grind with LaRussa, but also "let's remember this just in case."
   16. Bull Pain Posted: May 05, 2021 at 04:07 PM (#6017121)
I'm shocked everyone's on the LaRussa bandwagon here considering the recent scandals/casual racism at his animal charity and his continued issues drinking and driving. He's pretty clearly a bad person at this stage of his life.

Nevertheless, just now he seemingly didn't know the rules for the 10th inning baserunner and ended up double switching into Liam Hendriks starting the 10th as the runner on 2nd when I know there's a rule that prevents the pitcher from having to be that baserunner. He followed it up by letting Billy Hamilton bat for himself in the 10th with runners on 1st and 3rd (Hendriks) and one out which ended with an easy CS at 2nd base where we could have thrown the runner out followed by a Hamilton K. The Reds then put it away quickly in the bottom of the inning.

That's at least 3 games now where he's made very shaky decisions/non-decisions where he didn't seem to be in tune with the rules or what was happening in front of him. The White Sox fan base hated the move to begin with and he's done nothing to prove them wrong.

Edit: He didn't know the rule. The Athletic beat writer had to explain it to him.
   17. Rally Posted: May 05, 2021 at 06:26 PM (#6017164)
I’m not sure how you get to “everyone here is on the LaRussa bandwagon”.

I most definitely am not. I reread my earlier comment and don’t understand how you get that. Perhaps my take on the situation was too mild. In the future I’ll try to work in the obligatory comparison to Satan or Steve Garvey.
   18. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: May 05, 2021 at 09:43 PM (#6017213)
The celebrity manager model should have died long ago, along with the positional batting lineup. I've never really seen any particular evidence that LaRussa is a great manager -- he's a manager who's had great players, as are most "great managers." These days? He's just another ####### boomer occupying a job that someone who isn't 20 years out of touch ought to have.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 05, 2021 at 10:04 PM (#6017218)
The celebrity manager model should have died long ago, along with the positional batting lineup. I've never really seen any particular evidence that LaRussa is a great manager -- he's a manager who's had great players, as are most "great managers." These days? He's just another ####### boomer occupying a job that someone who isn't 20 years out of touch ought to have.

Why? The "I don't know the names of two-thirds of the faceless drones that run MLB teams today" model is much less interesting. There are no great managers anymore, just errand boys for the front office. Baseball is supposed to be a fun sport, not an exercise in quantitative maximization.

   20. Brian C Posted: May 05, 2021 at 11:36 PM (#6017233)
So not only did TLR not know the rule, but there's no bench coach or anyone else in the Sox dugout that could say "Uh, Tony?"

That's obviously damning of La Russa, but it's not only damning of La Russa.
   21. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: May 06, 2021 at 01:11 AM (#6017241)
Rosenthal at The Athletic has his own version of this piece. Well, I assume so since I haven't read the article linked above. It's, shall we say, a balanced piece. For any La Russa mistake that's cited there's a countered positive. Example: He made mistakes, but he was accountable for them.

La Russa stuck too long with reliever Matt Foster on April 7 and starter Lucas Giolito on April 27, mistakes for which he took public responsibility. He has authored curious lineups and raised questions with his choices of hitters in the late innings.
Early stumbles, though, were to be expected. Some of La Russa’s issues might simply stem from his unfamiliarity with his new team.

“It happened with St. Louis. It happened with Oakland. You’d like sooner rather than later to know what guys can do and maybe where they should be used,” La Russa said. “You don’t want to lose games while you’re learning that. We’re a month into it, plus a whole spring training. And I’ve got an outstanding coaching staff. So, no excuses.”


As La Russa often presents himself, he exists on a different plane. The end of the piece:

La Russa, meanwhile, maintains that he is his own harshest critic. As in the past, he is willing to take on any comer, answer every question. “I have never had a problem with saying, ‘Look, I thought I should have done something different,’ when I thought about it later,” he said. “One of the best lessons I learned early on was that you could be immune to criticisms from fans and media and your own organization if you’re harder on yourself than they are on you. I practiced that as long as I could, and I continue to.”

He had reason to be hard on himself at certain points in April, but five months remain in the season. Growing pains in a new job can be forgiven. Blowing an opportunity with a team as talented as the White Sox would be more difficult to accept. He’s Tony La Russa, polarizing as ever. And under scrutiny like never before.


Paywall: Tony La Russa, under scrutiny, justified some of his critics’ skepticism in April
   22. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: May 06, 2021 at 09:32 AM (#6017273)
So not only did TLR not know the rule, but there's no bench coach or anyone else in the Sox dugout that could say "Uh, Tony?"

That's obviously damning of La Russa, but it's not only damning of La Russa.


No but he's in charge so he gets the blame. Good managers in any walk of life encourage ideas and inspire their employees to speak up even if it's to disagree with the boss. Based on this either LaRussa hired someone (Miguel Cairo seems to be the bench coach) who didn't know the rule either or created a system that Cairo didn't feel comfortable speaking up.

Ultimately though the buck stops with LaRussa.
   23. Rally Posted: May 06, 2021 at 09:55 AM (#6017276)
These days? He's just another ####### boomer occupying a job that someone who isn't 20 years out of touch ought to have.


No he is not. Tony is too old to be a boomer. He's of Biden's generation, whatever you call that one, not the generation that spawned Steve Garvey. Is that the one they call the silent generation? That name certainly doesn't seem to fit with this hall of fame baseball person.
   24. Buck Coats Posted: May 06, 2021 at 12:22 PM (#6017301)
I'm with Tony, I refuse to learn the rules to this stupid extra-innings thing too
   25. asinwreck Posted: May 06, 2021 at 05:17 PM (#6017409)
Sox now a perfect 0-3 in extra innings.
   26. The Mighty Quintana Posted: May 06, 2021 at 06:52 PM (#6017429)
Can I hate both LaRussa and the stupid extra-innings rules?
   27. cardsfanboy Posted: May 06, 2021 at 07:13 PM (#6017435)
.... just curious, if he is this bad, how come they are in first place?
   28. Bret Sabermatrician Posted: May 06, 2021 at 09:55 PM (#6017459)
3. Howie Menckel Posted: May 03, 2021 at 10:25 PM (#6016751)
and then Francona gave it all back with his 2016 postseason efforts for Cleveland

he sure seemed to forget "exactly what the optimal percentage move was" - highlighted by the last out of Game 7 being made by Michael Martinez, he of the 37 career OPS+ in 621 inexplicable PA in MLB.


This got me wondering, is Martinez the worst player to ever make the last out in a game 7 in World Series history?

I made it back to '79 and so far the answer is a resounding yes, with I think Marty Barrett being a distant second.
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 06, 2021 at 10:03 PM (#6017461)
Can I hate both LaRussa and the stupid extra-innings rules?

Yes! I do. And you can also hate modern "manager as lackey" model.
   30. Bret Sabermatrician Posted: May 06, 2021 at 10:09 PM (#6017462)
To follow up on my thought, Tommy Byrne was the batter when the last out was made in game 7 of the 1957 World Series. Being a pitcher, you would assume he was a worse hitter than Michael Martinez.

Byrne was actually with 4.7 BREF WAR as a hitter with 14 HR (6.1 WAR as a pitcher), so even he dwarfs Martinez.

Final research, Tom McBride in 1946 with the Red Sox is probably the 2nd worst player to make the final out in a game 7.
   31. My name is Votto, and I love to get Moppo Posted: May 06, 2021 at 10:14 PM (#6017464)
Put it this way: I am an Indians fan, and I didn’t know who Martinez was.
   32. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 06, 2021 at 10:33 PM (#6017472)
I don't understand what's so terrible about Martinez making the last out of the Series. In the bottom of the tenth of a winner-take-all game, you expect the manager to have already fired all of his bullets.

Would it have been better managing if Rajai Davis had made the last out, rather than singling to bring Martinez to the plate?
   33. Howie Menckel Posted: May 06, 2021 at 10:37 PM (#6017475)
you can put in a not-good offensive player for defense (which iirc is how he got into the game), and there is a risk there.

but Martinez was quantum leaps worse than a bad hitter. he shouldn't even have been on an MLB roster, much less a pennant winner's one.
   34. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 06, 2021 at 10:42 PM (#6017476)
That's the GM's fault, not Francona's.
   35. SoSH U at work Posted: May 06, 2021 at 10:45 PM (#6017477)
It would appear he replaced Coco Crisp in the top of the ninth with the go-ahead run on third and one out, presumably because he had a better arm. Obviously, as Tom notes, the bigger problem was his presence on the roster, rather than the fact he was the guy who came to the plate in the situation he did.

Tito's terrible handling of his pitching staff in that series was done without the GM's assistance (I think, but who knows these days).

   36. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: May 07, 2021 at 12:53 AM (#6017504)
16. Bull Pain Posted: May 05, 2021 at 04:07 PM (#6017121)
I'm shocked everyone's on the LaRussa bandwagon here considering the recent scandals/casual racism at his animal charity and his continued issues drinking and driving. He's pretty clearly a bad person at this stage of his life.

Nevertheless, just now he seemingly didn't know the rules for the 10th inning baserunner and ended up double switching into Liam Hendriks starting the 10th as the runner on 2nd when I know there's a rule that prevents the pitcher from having to be that baserunner. He followed it up by letting Billy Hamilton bat for himself in the 10th with runners on 1st and 3rd (Hendriks) and one out which ended with an easy CS at 2nd base where we could have thrown the runner out followed by a Hamilton K. The Reds then put it away quickly in the bottom of the inning.

That's at least 3 games now where he's made very shaky decisions/non-decisions where he didn't seem to be in tune with the rules or what was happening in front of him. The White Sox fan base hated the move to begin with and he's done nothing to prove them wrong.

Edit: He didn't know the rule. The Athletic beat writer had to explain it to him.


This looks bad as is, but it gets worse. La Russa didn't know the rule:

if the player in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter is the pitcher, the runner placed on second base at the start of that half-inning may be the player preceding the pitcher in the batting order.


But obviously his coaches didn't know it either. Or didn't speak up. Or were ignored. And in the other team's dugout is David Bell, who said, "Yeah, we did know that. The league made it really clear that was going to be a new rule in spring training.

I won't say La Russa should't have come back or should be fired because of this, but a mistake like this is greater managerial negligence to me than a move like Cash removing Snell. At least the Rays had a logic that didn't pan out. La Russa/White Sox just had ignorance.
   37. Rally Posted: May 07, 2021 at 08:06 AM (#6017510)
Honestly, I don't know the rule here.

Did Tony err by letting Hendriks go out to 2B when he could have sent Abreu?

Or did he err by double switching in Hendriks for Vaughn? Does this pitcher-can't-be-zombie-runner work when you replace a position player like that?

I could see someone taking advantage of the rule here. For example, Yadier Molina makes your last out, with Harrison Bader being the batter before him. Next inning you double switch your pitcher into Yadier's spot, and then you get a fast runner on second instead of a slow catcher.

I didn't watch the game but wasn't sure that the Hendriks move was the wrong one. Some pitchers are fast, I don't know where he ranks. But I do know Abreu is slow. Did Hendriks make a baserunning mistake out there? He got to 3rd with one out on the force, then Garcia was thrown out trying to steal 2B, with Hendricks staying put. You don't expect Abreu to be stealing home with one out, do you?
   38. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: May 07, 2021 at 08:48 AM (#6017515)
I made it back to '79 and so far the answer is a resounding yes, with I think Marty Barrett being a distant second.


I'll brook no criticisms of Marty Barrett! (I loved the guy). Not disputing that Marty was not um, quite at Troutian levels with the bat but he was a decent player and had actually just been ALCS MVP (I think his hit record for that series might still stand). His career OPS+ is 86 and it was 100 in 1986. He had no pop whatsoever but for a few years was a pretty decent on base guy.

Here's every final out. Mark Lemke looks pretty objectively worse than Barrett even in the time period you went through. Orlando Palmeiro and Keith Lockhart were not exactly world beaters.

Oh I could be here all day now. I'm regretting finding that list.
   39. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: May 07, 2021 at 08:52 AM (#6017518)
So it appears that Boss Schmidt is the only person to make the final out in successive World Series as a hitter. However, Aaron Ward made the final out two years in a row also, in 1921 on the bases apparently going first to third on a groundout and then by flying out.

Like I said, all day.
   40. Bret Sabermatrician Posted: May 07, 2021 at 09:28 AM (#6017522)
Yeah, I only went through game 7s. My wife would have divorced me if she rolled over in bed and saw me still scrolling through retrosheets at 3 AM.

Obviously, there's a 1 in 9 chance (more or less) that your worst hitter will be at bat for the last out, but it's fun to see that even all time greats like Ruth, Robinson and Yaz failed at the most important moment of the year.

Also, no one has been the hitter for the last out in 2 game 7s, but the previously mentioned Tommy Byrne was the only one I could find who was the hitter for the 2nd out of the 9th in one game 7 and the last hitter for the 3rd out in another.
   41. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: May 07, 2021 at 09:33 AM (#6017523)
I believe Goose Goslin and Edgar Renteria are still the only two players to both make the final out of a World Series AND have a walk off hit to win a World Series.

Renteria had the interesting experience of making the final out of successive Red Sox seasons; he was the final out of the 2004 WS then as a member of the Sox the final out of the 2005 ALDS.
   42. Howie Menckel Posted: May 07, 2021 at 10:07 AM (#6017530)
Renteria had the interesting experience of making the final out of successive Red Sox seasons; he was the final out of the 2004 WS then as a member of the Sox the final out of the 2005 ALDS.

I happened to attend the end of the Red Sox regular season in 1986 in Boston (against the Yankees) - and the end of their postseason that year in NY Game 7 of the World Series against the Mets, of course). always wondered how many spectators could say that.
   43. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: May 08, 2021 at 12:34 PM (#6017775)
.... just curious, if he is this bad, how come they are in first place?


It's May, and he's a half-game up on a team that's collectively batting .206. Let's not roll out the ticker tape parade just yet.
   44. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: May 08, 2021 at 01:52 PM (#6017785)
Honestly, I don't know the rule here.

Did Tony err by letting Hendriks go out to 2B when he could have sent Abreu?


Correct. He could have sent Abreu because there's an exemption for if the runner would be a pitcher. Which makes your hypothetical also correct.
   45. gef the talking mongoose, peppery hostile Posted: May 08, 2021 at 02:17 PM (#6017789)
So it appears that Boss Schmidt is the only person to make the final out in successive World Series as a hitter.


My native Arkansas' own!
   46. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 08, 2021 at 02:55 PM (#6017793)
I didn't watch the game but wasn't sure that the Hendriks move was the wrong one. Some pitchers are fast, I don't know where he ranks. But I do know Abreu is slow. Did Hendriks make a baserunning mistake out there?

Is speed really the biggest consideration here? Abreu has run the bases in an MLB game roughly 1500 times. Hendriks has one walk in 3 career plate appearances, so he has run the bases once or twice.

Abreu's sprint speed isn't horrible. I'd prefer Abreu.

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