Ray Ratto

Ratto: Giants' blueprint has no precedent

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Ratto: Giants' blueprint has no precedent

June 28, 2011

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CSNBayArea.com

What with the Giants scoring three days worth of runs in three innings Tuesday afternoon, this seems an odd time to bring it up.So what the hell? Lets do it anyway.When day dawned Tuesday, the Giants were the worst offensive team in baseball in the only category that truly matters runs scored. This would seem to eliminate them from postseason play just because the inability to produce runs ought to render your team Octoberifically useless.In fact, though, there are two models for success the Giants can cling to in this, their year of living Amish-ly. They are the 1985 Kansas City Royals and the 1973 New York Mets.

Going back to 1960, before the first expansion, only 15 teams have reached the World Series while having run support below the league average. Thats in 51 years and 102 league competitions. Most of those were near the league average, so the margin of error would seem to take care of them.But the 85 Royals, who beat St. Louis in seven games, ranked 13th in runs scored (of 14 teams), and the 73 Mets, who ranked 11th of 12, were bad by any measure, and as such become the templates for whatever dreams you might have about a repeat in the Thing on King.The Mets also hold the worst record of any team to make the postseason 82-79 so it can truly be said they achieved what they did by dealing directly with Satan. Indeed, they had no hitting, ranking last or next to last in every sensible metric, from batting average to OPS-plus, but their pitching was surprisingly uninspiring as well.The rotation started well enough, with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack, and fourth starter George Stone went 12-3 with a 2.80 ERA. The bullpen, though, was even more problematic, with closer Tug McGraw being set up by the magnificent group of Ray Sadecki, Harry Parker, Phil Hennigan and Buzz Capra.In short, we can say that the 73 Mets essentially cheated all logic, which would be a harsh analysis when applied to the Giants.So lets consider instead the 85 Royals, who averaged 4.24 runs per game (almost .85 runs more per game than the Giants), were above average only in steals and almost never walked. They did play in a spacious ballpark, but were still average in extra base hits and only slightly below in home runs. So it can be said the Royals were better offensively than the Giants, even after you factor in the designated hitter.But the Giants, who arent even the best pitching team in the NL this year (Philadelphia and Atlanta have better numbers), had a similar starting staff and less inspiring bullpen.Bret Saberhagen went 20-6 in his second year in the big leagues, which is dominantreminiscent of Tim Lincecum, and the rest of the rotation was equally comparable. Charlie Leibrandt would be the Matt Cain, Danny Jackson the Madison Bumgarner and Buddy Black the Jonathan Sanchez, which all due respect to Black. After all that, Mark Gubicza outranks either Barry Zito or Ryan Vogelsong reputation-wise, making the starters roughly even.Dan Quisenberry is surely Brian Wilsons equivalent, if not his superior, but the setup men Joe Beckwith, Mike Jones, Steve Farr and the redoubtable Mike LaCoss dont compare with San Franciscos. Some of that is due to the fact that bullpens are constructed more completely than they used to be, but only Farr, who pitched in just 16 games, had presentable numbers. That may explain the 27 complete games (slightly above league average for 1985), two less than the Giants have had since 2006.Comparing statistics in this way is a fairly dodgy way to go, because the baseball of 26 years ago is, well, the baseball of 26 years ago. But as there is no recent parallel for the Giants excelling this way, one has to go well back to find teams that might.So until we get furtherbetter evidence, lets say the Giants have the rotation of the 85 Royals, the hitters of the 73 Mets, and the bullpen of neither. If that helps. Which it probably doesnt.

Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy

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USATI

Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy

Dusty Baker’s face tells a lot of different stories, but there is only one it tells in October.

Disappointment. Deflating, soul-crushing, hopeless disappointment.

With Thursday night’s National League Division Series defeat to the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals have reinforced their place in the panoply of the capital’s legacy of failure.

But Baker’s agonies extend far further. His 3,500 games rank him 15th all-time, and only one manager above him, Gene Mauch, is not in the Hall of Fame. His 105 postseason games ranks seventh all-time, and his nine postseason appearances ranks sixth.

But his postseason record of 44-61 and no World Series titles curse him. He has been on the mailed backhand of eight series losses in 11 tries (plus a play-in game loss in 2013), and been marked by the media-ocracy as an old-school players’ manager who doesn’t wrap himself in the comforting embrace of statistical analysis.

He is now Marv Levy and Don Nelson – the good manager who can’t win the big one.

Only Levy and Nelson are in their respective halls of fame, and Baker probably won’t be. Having no World Series titles (his bullpen dying in 2002 being as close as he ever got) dooms him as it has doomed Mauch, although Mauch made his reputation as a brilliant tactician with bad teams.

But even if you take Baker’s worst metric – the postseason record – he still ranks in the 90th percentile of the 699 managers in the game’s history, though even then there’s the caveat of the 200 some-odd interim managers who you may choose not to count.

This is not to claim he should be in the Hall of Fame. This is to claim he should be discussed, if only to determine if reputations in the postseason are the only way managers are allowed to be evaluated. Because if that’s the case, Dusty Baker’s world-weary October face makes that conversation a very short one.

 

U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance

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AP

U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance

So Bruce Arena resigned as the U.S. National soccer team coach Friday. Big damned deal.

Oh, it is to him. He probably liked the job, and might have wanted to keep getting paid.

But whether he’s there or isn’t doesn’t matter. In fact, whether the people who hired him are there or not doesn’t matter either. U.S. Soccer is the definition of sporadic interest and patriotism-fueled frontrunning, of imbedded self-interest and general indolence, all born of inexcusable arrogance.

Bruce Arena didn’t bring that to the job, nor does he remove it by leaving. He’s just another head on a spike, like Jurgen Klinsmann was before him, and Bob Bradley before him.

But that would also be true if the head of U.S. Soccer, Sunil Gulati, quit or was fired too. Even the people bleating that the U.S. shamed itself by losing to Trinidad and Tobago display the same kind of blinkered ignorance and arrogance that dogs this sport in America.

Being in CONCACAF is a gift from the heavens, and the U.S. has decided as a national collective to replace that with actual achievement. Beating Germany in friendly is proof of long-term worth. The fact is, we don’t know how to evaluate America’s place in the soccer world except as an audience, let alone how much massive structural change is required to change that.

And change must be massive, and can’t be evaluated by the next cheap win or the next galling loss, or television ratings. America is good at watching soccer, good enough to catch on the actual chasm between its national team and development structure.

But that’s where it ends, because knowing what’s bad because you just watched it, or what is actually good (like, say, a UEFA or CONMEBOL qualifier) is light years from knowing how to fix a system built on the flawed concepts of work rate without creativity and money as a solution to crippling organizational problems.

So Bruce Arena does the decent thing given the circumstances, falling on a sword that should actually be a kebab skewer. But it makes no difference. The American soccer structure needs to get what it needs before it can get what it wants, and there are no more shortcuts to take in a short-attention-span world.