Monday, October 23, 2006

Cardinals Don't Want to Win

The Cardinals did not want to win tonight.

That's about all that can be said about the decisions to let Preston Wilson and Yadier Molina bat tonight with the tying run at second base and two outs in the ninth.

In John Rodriguez, Chris Duncan and Gary Bennett, Tony La Russa's bench had two lefties who have peformed quite well against right-handed pitching and a backup catcher to replace the pinch hitter for Molina. The Tigers had a soft-tossing righty on the mound and no one warming in the bullpen. This is the easiest pinch-hitting decision ever.

And La Russa blew it.

Yadier Molina was the worst-hitting regular catcher in the majors this year, which basically makes him the worst-hitting regular overall.

It's not unreasonable to suggest that letting Molina bat over Duncan or Rodriguez halved the Cardinals' chances of winning this game, taking them perhaps from 16% to 8%. (The historical percentage is 13%, but Jones is a below-average closer and Duncan and Rodriguez represent above-average hitters against a righty.) Anything that costs you 8% of a win is a huge boneheaded move, perhaps equivalent to starting your number 4 over your ace in a game 7 when both are on full rest.

Letting Wilson bat was equally dumb. Wilson was released outright this year from a contending team due to ineffectiveness, and it's not like the Astros had a great outfield. Replacing him with Rodriguez represents no real defensive downgrade, Rodriguez is clearly the better hitter against a righty, and bench depth was not an issue at this stage in the game.

Why these players were put on the roster to not be used is beyond me, though they'll likely see more playing time in the series than Neifi Perez, who was put in over Chris Shelton AGAIN, perhaps because Leyland needs Neifi's bat to pinch hit in the games at Busch.

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