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Don Mattingly willingly takes the bat out of Matt Kemp’s hands

May 9, 2012, 9:13 AM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves Getty Images

Look, I’m not saying I would be a better manager than Don Mattingly. I know I wouldn’t be. I’d screw up every single double switch, I’d forget to warm up guys in the bullpen, I’d drop F-bombs on my local radio show and the first time my clubhouse got a little out of control I’d handle it poorly and have a revolt on my hands that even A.J. Hinch would mock.

But I do think that, if I managed the Los Angeles Dodgers, I’d do everything in my power to make sure the bat was never taken out of Matt Kemp‘s hands if it could be helped.  This is something Donnie Baseball did not do last night.

The scene: eighth inning of last night’s Dodgers-Giants game.  Bobby Abreu on second base, Dee Gordon on first, Mark Ellis at the plate. No one out. Mattingly has Ellis bunt and he’s “successful.”  That success, however, ensures that Kemp — who was on deck — would be walked because it put runners on second and third with one out and first base open.

So Kemp was walked, Bruce Bochy brought in lefty Javier Lopez to face lefty Andre Ethier (and behind him were two more lefties, so it was certain that Bochy would bring in Lopez).  Eithier hits into a double play, ending the last best chance the Dodgers had to win the game.

Mattingly defended the move after the game, saying that Ethier led the league in RBI and he had confidence in him and all of that.  But really: wouldn’t you rather have Matt Kemp in a position to where he could do some damage rather than have him given the inevitable free pass? And that’s before you figure in what Ellis giving away an out does for your scoring chances.

I don’t usually second-guess like this, but man, there is no one hitting like Matt Kemp right now. I think I’d let the man hit.

  1. mybrunoblog - May 9, 2012 at 9:19 AM

    Not a conventional move by Donnie baseball but over 162 games most managers will do something not considered “by the book” from time to time.
    Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but hey ” that’s baseball Susan”(Yankee fans will understand my last sentence)

    • AlohaMrHand - May 9, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      Not a Yankee fan but I know exactly what you mean.And let me add”OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS!”

      • mybrunoblog - May 9, 2012 at 9:31 AM

        I guess while we are at it how about the classic ” it is high it is far it is…..caught by the right fielder..or is it…did he get that Susan? Hard to tell from this angle. Ah well, that’ll bring up….”

    • 5thbase - May 9, 2012 at 12:41 PM

      Actually, it was 100% conventional. You have your best two hitters coming up and rather than taking a chance at having an inferior hitter (Ellis) hit into a double play, you give up the out and get two guys in scoring position … with the guy at second being extremely fast. If they decide to walk Kemp (and of course they will) Ethier can sit on a fastball with the bases loaded. It’s a game of percentages and I don’t believe any real manager would dislike those percentages.

      This isn’t basketball where you can put the ball in one guy’s hands and ask him to win the game for you. You can’t risk Ellis hitting into a double play there because you’re so obsessed with Kemp that you think he’s the only one that can do something positive.

      Lastly, you could be a fool with how you handle Ellis and they could still walk Kemp. There is no magic that stops him from getting walked just because you failed to move the runners over. I remember when the Giants were down by 2 and had the bases loaded and Bonds got intentionally walked and the Giants lost by one. Kemp has been hitting well enough I think I would walk him with one out and runners on first and second.

      • tomemos - May 9, 2012 at 1:49 PM

        But you’re missing that the “percentages” include Javier Lopez’s great line against lefties, and Ethier’s dismal line against lefties. Thus, hitting into a DP is exactly what Ethier did, because–surprise surprise–he was facing a ground-ball inducing lefty specialist. (Dave Cameron puts it well here.)

        You would walk Kemp with THIRD BASE open?? Not only is this stupid on its own–it sets up the sac fly without setting up any double play possibility that wasn’t there already–it directly contradicts what you said earlier (“I don’t believe any real manager would dislike those percentages”). Either it’s good to face Ethier in that spot or it’s bad. If it’s good, Mattingly screwed up. If it’s bad, you’re wrong that Kemp should be walked with third base open.

  2. nategearhart - May 9, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Nice pic, looks like he’s making “Who farted?” face.

  3. DJ MC - May 9, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    I caught part of “Little Big League” the other night and I swear this sounds very similar to the scenario the coach gives the kid to prove he knows how to manage. Billy handled it a bit differently, too.

    • hasbeen5 - May 9, 2012 at 9:33 AM

      Exactly what I thought while reading this.

      • hansob - May 9, 2012 at 9:52 AM

        Jonathan Silverman would have made the right call, then figured out how long it took to paint a house with 5 guys.

  4. icanspeel - May 9, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    Does Mark Ellis hit into a lot of double plays? Maybe that was on his mind because a runner at 3rd and 2 outs is worse than 2nd and 3rd with 1 out since either way Kemp is not getting pitched to. Lots of other scenarios.. but having Eithier up there with bases loaded and 1 out doesn’t sound like a bad one, it just happened to have a bad result.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 9, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      I was just about to say this exactly, but probably with more typos. Well done.

    • skids003 - May 9, 2012 at 12:06 PM

      And even though runners could have been on 1st and 3nd, they might have pitched around him.

    • tomemos - May 9, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      Ethier hits a lot of ground balls against left-handed pitching. The Giants have a lights-out lefty specialist. So the “bad result” was actually pretty predictable. (Again, Dave Cameron.

  5. yahmule - May 9, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    On the other hand you gotta give Donnie Baseball credit for switching closers a scant five weeks after any sane person would have done it and months before it would have occurred to Robin Ventura.

  6. beefytrout - May 9, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    No one hitting like him in the NL, you mean.

  7. crali - May 9, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    Don’t mess with “The Captain”

  8. evanhartford - May 9, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Craig,

    You’ve second-guessed Mattingly on several occasions at this point. At the same time I don’t recall you questioning any other managers in-game decisions more than once. Maybe Girardi, but that was early on.

    Why are you singling out Mattingly? His team holds first place by 4 games despite having an INSANELY distracting ownership situation. I’m guessing it has something to do with Mattingly not speaking Sabermetrickese. Saying things like, “my RBI guys” and using the sacrifice bunt, probably makes Sabermetricians puke. Well, you started to allude to it Craig. Managing a team is more than just raw numbers and I think Mattingly is doing one heck of a job considering the circumstances.

    • Utley's Hair - May 9, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      Um…queries about Chuck’s use of the bullpen have arisen several times…

  9. Marty - May 9, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    The Dodgers were lucky to even have Abreu in scoring position. Vogey had him out on a missed call.

    On a side note, did Dee Gordan steal first twice last night?

  10. mgflolox - May 9, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    Sorry Craig, I gotta call you out on this one. That is the worst kind of bullshit second guessing possible. Absolutely worthy of AM radio level drivel.

    • willsolo - May 9, 2012 at 2:45 PM

      You mean like Murp and Mac on KNBR 680 here in SF?

      • Gamera the Brave - May 9, 2012 at 3:47 PM

        God, I am so sick of listening to those two… Murph is sometimes funny, but often an insufferable boor who always has to be right, and Mac is just kind of an lunkhead- and I don’t think they like each other very much. And they are both inveterate (almost used, “invertebrate”) second-guessers…

  11. embinoratsicus - May 9, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    The sacrifice bunt works well in about one or two situations, and otherwise is a weenie move just like the IBB and the shift. I guess when you have pitchers that don’t hit well, or when you need one run to win the game and you have less than two outs, but seriously guys: just play the game. Ellis has been known to hit the ball, and Kemp might just as easily hit into a double play, but the main thing is that “strategy” of this kind only works if you have a level of certainty that borders on the ridiculous.

    Just send everyone up there to hit, and pitch to the dangerous batters, and have your pull hitters bunt the ball to the opposite field until the put the players back where they belong.

    And outlaw The Wave as well, because that is the crowd equivalent.

  12. acerob2002 - May 9, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    Craig, either way there was still a base open and they were going to walk Kemp anyway. I guess that I don’t get your point.

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