Monday, October 12, 2015

Manager moves: Review in-game decisions from Norio Tanabe and NPB managers

Bunting has been one of many staples in NPB.

We watched our first full season of NPB for 2015. With time and more hours watching, we've noticed certain trends and moves that both Norio Tanabe and other NPB managers make.

Here we will take a look at each move that either Tanabe or most managers would do in NPB, which is something you wouldn't see as much at the MLB level. I'll write my take on each move.


Tanabe: Bunting with Ginjiro Sumitani when there's less than two outs and a runner on base. 

The Lions use Sumitani to bunt nearly every time.
It's a very conservative approach and knowing that Sumitani is a .200 hitter who is starting for his defense, I understand part of it. I disagree with this when there is one out and the runner is not on third base. They should only bunt with him if the leadoff man is on and he is batting next, or for an obvious safety squeeze in my opinion.

The Lions need to take a few more risks with him because sometimes he could deliver. Every once in awhile I enjoy it when Sumitani shows bunt but pulls back and swings away, occasionally getting a single here and there.


Tanabe: Playing Russian Roulette on who to pinch hit. (Randomly selecting a guy to pinch hit in a given situation).

I feel like this is a move done for unpredictability just so the opposing pitchers don't have a scouting report on a given player. We've seen numerous times where Wakiya, Watanabe, Saito and previously Yuji Onizaki get an at bat in a crucial situation. Only Watanabe deserves at bats out of that group I listed above.

However, Tanabe showed he would play the matchup correctly and pinch hit the catcher and shortstop positions knowing there are already holes in the lineup.


Tanabe: Playing Tomoya Mori in right field for interleague games away from the Seibu Dome

Mori's bat was too valuable and I'm fine with a partial liability on defense when his bat is a threat. He brought protection for Mejia when batting sixth and it's worth having him in the lineup. There was only been one disaster lowlight against Chunichi where he failed to scoop a hard hit single and it rolled to the wall by my count.

The Lions are willing to sacrifice range just so his bat can be used. Mori would be a spell OF while Ryota Wakiya moved to 1B and Ernesto Mejia could DH. They also had him in OF so Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura could be the designated hitter.


 Tanabe: Playing the outfield in for high leverage situations when a runner is on second-base

I understand that the team wants their pitcher to allow a short line drive so they can hold a runner, but I'd prefer a no doubles defense before anyone gets on base. This is a gamble I'm not willing to take. Couldn't help but notice they also play the infield in when a runners is on third. It's too aggressive, but they trust the pitcher.


Tanabe: Aggressively stealing when Yuji Kaneko, Hideto Asamura or Shogo Akiyama are on base

I disagree with stealing when Asamura is on, feeling they need to reduce that. Kaneko and Akiyama are also tempting which is understandable, but this needs to be reduced just a little bit as I've seen too many caught stealings on the season. There were also quite a few times they would fail to hit-and-run. Execution was off, but hit-and-runs are more productive than trying to steal.


Universal: Bunting, bunting and more bunting with less than two outs and a runner on base

I don't mind it when a leadoff guy is on and a below average hitter is up after him, but the bunting has gone to the wrong level as a whole. Why bunt with 1 out and putting all your faith in the next guy? I've seen numerous times where they give outs away and they're down by more than 1 run.

The good news is, the Lions don't bunt with Asamura, Takeya Nakamura, Ernesto Mejia nor Tomoya Mori. They actually bunt the least of all NPB teams. It's often done with the bottom of the order, which I can understand.  Just don't do it with 1 out.


Universal: Using the setup man and closer in a tie game for the eighth and ninth inning

If you're the home team, this makes sense because you can't get a save and it's a way to preserve the tie. I don't like it that the road team is doing this though because the closer should be saved for when the team is up, or the 12th inning.

We've seen the Lions have multiple tie games that have gone the full 12 innings, but the pitchers downgrade as the game goes on. An average pitcher gets a high leverage situation in the 12th, knowing they can't win and only get a tie in the event they don't score in the top half of the frame. We had some heart attack games as a result. 


 Universal: Having the starter remain in the 9th inning to finish a game with a one or two run lead 

 If a pitcher is on a roll, I get it since he's the hot hand. In the event the closer is mediocre, there is even more reason to do this. However, if I have a reliable and nearly automatic closer, I don't see the reason to put in the starter for the ninth if his pitch count is high. Sure, they only play once a week, but I'd have faith my closer to take the last three outs. 

Unfortunately, I don't like that the manager leaves a person in for the individual accomplishment, because it feels like they're playing fantasy baseball rather than caring about the win. Some starters had no business going for the accomplishment when things should be about the team first.


Universal: Attacking the lead runner on a ground ball, even with two outs

The aggressive throws to third base or even second base on a bunt make sense in a counter to any sacrifice bunts. Obviously every play is different, but it does prevent a team from having an automatic runner advancing 90 ft (27 meters) on a ground ball. 

The one part that doesn't make me happy is when infielders will throw to second base when there's two outs and a simple ground ball. Every once in awhile, the runner on base will get a good jump and the batter running from home plate most likely is slower, meaning they should go to first base with two outs. The only time I don't mind attacking the lead runner with two outs is when the ground ball is next to the bag and you step on it or it's literally guaranteed.

However, I'm seeing some throws from a distance to second base with the logic that it's closer, but also creates a bang-bang play at the base because of the occasional leadoff runs. This has to be a coaching theory that second base is closer than first base in throwing distance, but they keep this mindset at the wrong time when there's two outs.


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