Remember, back in Spring Training, when I presented a Daily Hillmanism? Just random nuggets of knowledge from our fearless leader. It had pretty much run its course and I was prepared to let it go. Then he unleashed a doozy.
Asked by the traveling reporters if he considered bringing closer Joakim Soria into Tuesday’s seventh inning, Hillman offered this:
“There’s a thought there but, No. 1, it’s a very unusual time for Joakim Soria to pitch in a ballgame. No. 2, you’ve still got those same bats coming up in the ninth in a higher-leverage situation — because it is the ninth, even if there are no runners on base.”
I added the emphasis because Hillman’s use of term “high leverage” is impressive. It would be more impressive if he knew what the hell he was talking about.
Following his logic, the higher the inning number, the higher the leverage. Sometimes, it actually works that way. Other times, like Tuesday, not so much.
To prove this, I’ll present to you the game log, courtesy of FanGraphs. The bars at the bottom of the graph represent the leverage of that particular plate appearance. The larger the bar, the greater the leverage. The red bar means WARNING! high leverage situation.
You’ll see the inning with the highest leverage index was the seventh. When the bullpen spit the bit. The top of the ninth had some decent leverage, but it wasn’t even as high as the eighth inning leverage. This is because in the eighth inning the Royals had more chances to win the game. There were still six outs remaining. By the time the ninth inning rolled around, the leverage index dipped just a bit because there were fewer outs, meaning fewer chances for the Royals to take the lead. Fewer chances meant less pressure on the Tigers to close out the game.
Hillman’s assertion that the ninth inning brings the highest leverage because it’s the ninth inning is just absurd. Even when Soria nails down a save, the ninth inning doesn’t always bring the highest leverage. Case in point, Wednesday’s game:
Again, the seventh inning brought the highest leverage. It was Miguel Cabrera’s at bat with two runners on in a 5-3 ballgame. He grounded out to end the threat. The leverage was lower in the eighth in a similar situation because the Royals tacked on another run in their half of the inning. Leverage is fluid and is dictated by the score and situation of the game. Two things Hillman has shown an inability to grasp. No wonder he couldn’t discuss it properly. Unfortunately, to the casual fan, it probably sounded intelligent. Kind of like when Dayton Moore says he values on base percentage.
Soria faced a high leverage situation the first week of the season, protecting a one-run lead. Even then, it wasn’t the highest leverage of the game. The highest leverage occurred in the eighth, when the Royals rallied for two runs off Hideki Okajima and Daniel Bard thanks to a Rick Ankiel single.
There were two outs in the inning when Ankiel came to the plate and the Sox were nursing that one run lead. I wonder if Terry Francona considered bringing in Jonathan Papelbon?
Maybe I should be concerned that SABR Trey doesn’t understand the concept of leverage. What does it say about my opinion of him when I’m not the least bit surprised he doesn’t get it. He just doesn’t get it. And there’s plenty of evidence he never will. He’s more concerned about Scotty Pods laying down a sweet sac bunt in the first inning, than he is about leverage.
This brings me to a great side point: The Royals bullpen is currently stocked with eight pitchers. Eight! Do you have any idea how absolutely insane that is, to have a total of 13 pitchers on a 25-man roster? And only a handful of them are worth anything. It’s almost as if GMDM and SABR Trey realized they don’t have the quality, so they went with the quantity. Exactly how is that a solution?
“Hey, most of our relievers suck, what should we do?”
“I know… Let’s add more!”
Finally, I’ll again point this out in defense of the manager: Hillman had no idea that what conspired in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game would turn out to be the highest leverage situation of the game. No one did. We certainly knew it was important, and quite possibly pivotal to the outcome of the game. But we couldn’t know that a similar situation may evolve in the ninth inning – because we can’t see the future.
However, this is the trap too many managers fall into – they don’t manage the moment, the manage for the future. They give up outs and sacrifice a big inning for a single run. Or they keep their closer in the bullpen just in case they need him in the ninth.
Hillman is worried he’ll burn Soria in the seventh (and probably eighth) inning and nursing a one run lead in the ninth, he’ll look to his bullpen and see… Kyle Farnsworth. Yeah, that should scare the hell out of you.
More from Dutton (who has to thank the newspaper gods everyday for covering the Royals, and not some boring team like the Astros): Jose Guillen says he almost died from blood clots in his legs last winter.
This is an amazing story, but I have a couple of questions.
— Why did he develop these blood clots? Were they related to his other injuries from last year? Clearly, this isn’t something that normally happens to an athlete in his mid 30s.
— Guillen didn’t return to the Dominican until late December and his weight dropped to 180 pounds. He’s listed at 215 pounds and reported to camp on time at the end of February. I’m assuming he needed a little time to recover before he started what would amount to a rehab. He didn’t hit for any power this spring, but what did he do to get in shape so quickly?
— Guillen says he was dying and says the doctor started talking about dying (Derrick Thomas is invoked in the story, which is indeed frightening) but I’d like some more context. I’m sure Guillen felt like he was dying, but was he really on death’s door? In other words, do we need to look at 2010 as Guillen’s “miracle season?”
I don’t doubt Guillen was ailing and had blood clots. And I don’t doubt the situation was serious. It’s just his version of the story just seems… dramatic.
Just another off day for the Royals.