If There Was Ever a Case Where a Line Score Didn’t Tell The Story…

I watched the first five innings or so of last night’s game, and wasn’t able to catch the rest live. (I’ve since seen what happened, of course). Since I left the game with Clayton Kershaw pitching a one-hitter, and woke up to see that the Dodgers ended up losing 7-5, my morning predictably started with quite a few expletives.

When I looked at the box score on my phone and saw that Jonathan Broxton picked up the loss after walking two and allowing three runs in 1/3 of an inning, it got even worse. Had he really blown a second game in a row? Was I going to have to deal with all of this again?

Well, not quite. Because it turns out that one of those walks was intentional, the one hit he allowed was an infield single and not a single one of the runs scored while he was on the mound. Not that he’s blameless – but that the line score is horribly misleading. Let this be yet another reminder to you about the dangers of ERA, especially for relievers, friends.

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Alright, lets get to it, in classic “I’m short on time, so let’s bullet point out the burning, burning stupid” form:

1) Don Mattingly. Growing up in NJ as a Yankee observer, if not really a fan, Mattingly was always one of my favorite players. Seeing him in a Dodger uniform has always been a particular thrill, but – even before last night – we’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with the idea that he’s the immediate successor to Joe Torre. Part of that is because I just don’t like Torre as a manager very much and the idea that Mattingly is learning at his side is a little scary, but part of that is because Mattingly has zero managerial experience.

Why Mattingly and not, for example, ABQ manager Tim Wallach, as many have suggested? It’s not that Mattingly will be a terrible manager, it’s that we just don’t know due to his total lack of experience, and last night’s debacle directly led to the loss. (I mean, say what you will about Broxton, but going from him to a cold George Sherrill in a high-pressure situation is pretty much the largest step down you can make in baseball.)

I mean, look at the quotes from Mattingly admitting things he wasn’t aware of:

I turned to walk away, and James said something and I just kind of turned around. He asked me the depth that I wanted him, didn’t even realize that I was off the dirt, and obviously I was.

I’m not quite sure of (why they cut Sherrill off at eight warmup tosses). Again, Honey and I talked, and pretty much turned around and George is ready to go, so I figure he’s ready to go. At that point I didn’t realize they cut him off at eight.

This is not engendering confidence for the future.

2) The umpires, part one. The umpires made the correct call on Mattingly’s second trip; that’s his fault, not theirs. But Rob Neyer comes up with a great piece that suggests that Broxton should have been allowed to remain in the game. It’s far too long to quote the entire thing, so here’s the link, but here’s the highlight:

In a case where a manager has made his first trip to the mound and then returns the second time to the mound in the same inning with the same pitcher in the game and the same batter at bat, after being warned by the umpire that he cannot return to the mound, the manager shall be removed from the game and the pitcher required to pitch to the batter until he is retired or gets on base. After the batter is retired, or becomes a base runner, then this pitcher must be removed from the game. The manager should be notified that his pitcher will be removed from the game after he pitches to one hitter, so he can have a substitute pitcher warmed up.

Since Mattingly’s “two” trips happened with the same pitcher and the same batter, the rule states that Mattingly should have actually been removed (which, with Torre & Schaefer already gone, probably would have made Vin Scully the manager) and Broxton allowed (or required) to face the next batter. But Broxton was instead asked to leave, immensely hurting the Dodgers’ chances. (This doesn’t look good for Mattingly again, not pointing out this rule.)

3) The umpires, part two. But wait! There’s more. In the Mattingly quotes above, he said that he wasn’t paying attention to how many warmup pitches George Sherrill was making. Steve Dilbeck explains why that’s important:

Instead, Sherrill was quickly summoned from the bullpen. Mattingly said he asked crew chief Tim McClelland if, as in replacing an injured pitcher, his reliever would get as much time as needed to get loose.

“I asked McCelland, ‘Can he warm up?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I won’t do that to him. I won’t take a chance on a guy getting hurt,’ ” Mattingly said. At that point, Mattingly said, he was talking to pitching coach Rick Honeycutt “and not really realizing how many throws” Sherrill was getting.

Sherrill also thought he would be allowed as many warm-ups as he needed. Until he learned otherwise from home-plate umpire Adrian Johnson.

“After seven he said, ‘One more,’ and stood behind the plate and called for Torres,” Sherrill said. “And that was that.”

I don’t want to pretend that Sherrill would have been any more effective had he gotten his full compliment of pitches, because, come on: it’s George Sherrill. Again, the umpires screwed the Dodgers, but again, management should have been paying closer attention. Just a mess all around.

4) The umpires, part three. I said this as soon as it happened on Twitter; I cannot stand the way the umpires manage the game when things start to get a little testy. In the 5th inning, Tim Lincecum was very clearly throwing at Matt Kemp; after brushing him back, the next pitch hit him in the back. Home plate umpire Adrian Johnson warned both benches, as though the Dodgers had done anything to deserve it.

The next inning, it continued as Denny Bautista brushed back Russell Martin twice, earning bench coach Bob Schaefer an ejection as he was yelling for Bautista to be ejected. Remember, at this point the Giants have thrown at Dodger hitters four times, yet it’s LA who received a warning and an ejection.

This immediately came back to bite the Dodgers when Clayton Kershaw stupidly plunked Aaron Rowand to lead off the 7th – meaning that  Torre was automatically ejected, because the bench was already under a warning which was unfairly dished out.

5) “Pride”. You may have been confused to see Kershaw bat to lead off the bottom of the 6th, as he was over 100 pitches and had badly struggled in the 6th, allowing three runs on three hits. You may have been more confused if you’d noticed, as Jon points out, that Garret Anderson had been initially on deck to bat for Kershaw, but was pulled back after Schaefer was tossed. And then you’d probably have been throwing things at the TV when Kershaw hit Rowand with the first pitch of the 7th, which was clearly done to send a message.

So all in the name of “pride”, the Dodgers 1) put on the tying run to lead off an inning, 2), gave a guy with a .284 OBP a free base, 3) got their manager ejected, and 4) threw away an out by allowing Kershaw to bat when circumstances dictated he be hit for.

This is the kind of crap you end up with when you read one too many Bill Plaschke stories about how guys like Chad Billingsley “have no heart” because they’re not busy throwing at guys in a playoff game. You don’t think the outcome may have been different if this stupidity didn’t lead directly to the four effects I just outlined? I don’t care how many points this won Kershaw in the clubhouse; you’re on a five game losing streak, and you need to not only win a game but win against a club that’s ahead of you, not deal in this ridiculousness.

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I’m already seeing people say that the Dodgers should be sellers at the deadline. There’s enough there to make an entire post of its own about that, but there’s three very large reasons it’s not going to happen: 1) They’re 3.5 games out of the wild card, which is basically a good weekend away from the playoffs. 2) If you do become a seller, you generally don’t want to destroy the 2011 team, so none of the young core would go, or useful vets like Rafael Furcal. Which means you don’t have a lot to sell. Who’s going to want Casey Blake? Or injured Manny? Or just about anyone in the bullpen, Hong-Chih Kuo aside, and taking him away from the Dodgers medical staff would be a risk no one should take. You’re looking at maybe Vicente Padilla and Hiroki Kuroda, and neither are exactly game-changers. And 3), the last thing Frank McCourt wants to do is drive down the value of the franchise and have it look like his personal issues have affected the product on the field.

Besides, just two years ago, in Torre’s first season, the Dodgers had an eight game losing streak that dropped them to five games below .500 at the end of August. They still made it to the NLCS. It’s ugly, but all is not lost yet.

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  1. [...] that blown save, he didn’t deserve the one that got hung on him two nights later – the infamous Don Mattingly “double visit” game: When I looked at the box score on my phone and saw that Jonathan Broxton picked up the loss after [...]