Conference Call with Terry Collins
I had the pleasure of participating in a conference call with Mets manager Terry Collins on Tuesday night. I didn’t get home in time to record the entire call, so you may want to check out MetsBlog, which has posted an abbreviated transcript if you’d like to hear the full Q & A.
My planned question was whether Collins planned to use Francisco Rodriguez in high-leverage situations earlier than the 9th inning, since the Sandy Alderson regime includes sabermetrics in their evaluation and there is SABR-conducted data suggesting that such application could be better use of a lights-out closer. However, my friend Matthew Artus of Always Amazin’ beat me to it (nicely done, Matt). Collins’ answer to it was , “I doubt you’ll see Francisco in the seventh inning”. Collins went on to explain that, essentially, he would mostly use K-Rod in the traditional role of pitching the ninth inning. Though, he did admit that sometimes Rodriguez might be considered for an out or two in the 8th inning, and might be used for two innings at a time on occasion — though that would be rare and an “inning and a third might be his maximum”. He also referred to Tony LaRussa’s plan of using a closer strictly in games when he had a lead — so we’ll see if Collins follows that pattern.
With that answered, I scrambled to think of another question; it and Collins’ answer follow.
Me: I have a question about the Mets’ offensive strategy this season. You have a couple sluggers who can hit the ball over the fence, but you have a big home park that is not conducive to the long ball, you have a lot of speed at the top of the lineup, so I’m curious to know your philosophy and strategy is, as far as utilizing stolen bases, bunts, small-ball type strategy, and how you’re going to approach that this year.
Well obviously every game is different, Joe, and you’ve got to manage the game according to the situation, according to where you’re playing. I mean there’s days not only in Citi Field but you’re playing in Chicago with the wind blowing in where fly balls are routine outs, and so you have to change some of your philosophies. We had a situation today where we ran the bases, we created some runs, and yet we ran ourselves out of an opportunity to score an extra run. But we’ve got to be smart about it, we’ve got to use Citi Field to our advantage — we’re the team that plays there. We have to understand that look, that double in the centerfield gap can score as many runs as perhaps a solo homer can do once in a while — but it’s a heckuva lot easier to hit balls in that gap than it is to hit the ball out of the ballpark. So you know we’ve got to adjust according to conditions on certain days. Do I? Yeah, small ball, yeah, I truly believe in sometimes playing some small ball. I think that you know, you keep putting that pressure on that defense, if they have to make a play, and eventually they’re going to make a mistake and you’re going to score an easy run. But I still believe that it’s all about, all according to what the game situations are, and perhaps where you’re playing, and the conditions under which you’re playing them.
A mildly interesting answer, considering that Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta, and J.P. Ricciardi supposedly eschew the risky, out-throwing tactics of small-ball. Personally, I agree with Collins — sometimes small ball is necessary, no matter what the statistics suggest, specifically in the non-DH National League and particularly in the post-PEDs environment, where pitchers are gradually re-gaining some of the advantage they enjoyed before Bud Selig wound the ball tighter, shrunk the strike zone, eliminated inside pitches, encouraged short fences, allowed steroids, and did everything else possible to unnaturally increase home runs and batting averages. With homeruns and hits less frequent, sometimes a manager has to take some risks and be more creative to get players to cross home plate. That doesn’t mean you bunt every runner to second base, but it also doesn’t mean you completely eliminate bunting, stealing, and hit and runs, either.