Friday, April 6, 2007

Be Fast, But Be Smart

Joe Maddon's thoughtfulness was evidenced last night during a pregame interview with the YES Network's Kimberly Jones. Jones, discussing the team's athleticism, asked the manager if everyone had a green light to steal at all times. Maddon was careful to point out that if a team is going to base their game on speed, they had better do it intelligently.

In the recent book Baseball Between the Numbers, Baseball Prospectus' James Click analyzed the value of base stealers. He pointed toward John Thorn and Pete Palmer's finding that in order for a base stealer to avoid costing his team runs, he must be successful at least sixty-three percent of the time. Any more bungled attempts than that negate the value of speed.

A less careful manager could be romanced by the incredible speed on this year's Devil Rays, and run himself out of rallies every night. Maddon, displaying typical fidelity to data and rational thought, actually holds his team to a higher standard than Palmer and Gillette would: he told Jones that he wanted the Rays to be successful stealing seventy to seventy-five percent of the time.

Now, the reality of speed and youth: in the second inning last night, the Rays had the bases loaded againt Andy Pettitte, threatening to explode early in a close game. Jorge Posada, having trouble holding onto pitches all night, lost his grip on one, which skipped a few feet behind him.

B.J. Upton, on third, got all excited and dashed home. He was, of course, out, and the rally was dead.

Maddon's long-term project is to merge the team's youth with his intelligence. If he was frustrated by Upton's over-eager sprint, the emotion did not show on his face. Patience, or course, will be as important for him as intelligence.

1 comment:

Ray said...

Baseball is a cerebral game. You can manage by instinct, but it takes strategy too. Maddon is a bright guy that makes the most of what he's got on the team.