LaRussa Picks The Wrong Time To Undermanage

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Tony LaRussa bristles at the suggestion that anyone can manage a team successfully as long as they adhere to the numbers. The Moneyball school of thought set out to mitigate what a manager could and would be allowed to do and used LaRussa as the example of the type of manager teams should avoid.

The dichotomy is striking because LaRussa was one of the more cerebral, numbers-oriented managers long before it became trendy.

So it is puzzling when LaRussa—known and criticized for his penchant to overmanage and make pitching changes just for the sake of making them—doesn’t make a pitching change when it’s clearly the correct move.

In the Phillies 11-6 win over the Cardinals in game 1 of the NLDS in Philadelphia, the Cardinals led the Phillies 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning with Kyle Lohse on the mound for the Cardinals.

Normally, LaRussa would’ve had it in mind to get Lohse out of the game as soon as it looked like he was getting in trouble.

But he didn’t.

In fact, he left Lohse in the game long enough to give up two homers and six runs.

Jimmy Rollins led off the inning with a single; Chase Utley struck out; Hunter Pence came to the plate and singled to put the tying runs on base. With Ryan Howard due up, where was a lefty specialist? Why leave Lohse in to pitch to a hitter who destroys him?

You can make the argument that it happened so quickly and yanking the pitcher at that point would’ve been jumping the gun, but this wasn’t Chris Carpenter on the mound; it was Lohse who isn’t a pitcher who’s earned the benefit of the doubt in most situations and definitely not in a playoff series with the Cardinals having zero margin for error.

Naturally Howard homered to right to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead.

But that’s not all.

LaRussa stayed with Lohse, Shane Victorino singled…and Raul Ibanez homered as well.

Ibanez has spent his career ripping Lohse too.

Pence, Howard and Ibanez all kill Lohse—stats.

LaRussa knows this. He has two lefties in the bullpen, Marc Rzepczynski and Arthur Rhodes. Where were they?

It was inexplicable and none of the career-long bouts of pomposity, condescension and blatant intimidation tactics employed by LaRussa are going to absolve him from this horrific gaffe.

The Cardinals wound up getting blown out in a game they could’ve won—a game they had to win.

In order to win this series—or to even get it to a fourth game—the Cardinals have to be perfect. They executed the correct strategy early in the game by coming out swinging against Roy Halladay and took a 3-0 lead on a Lance Berkman homer; but they let the lead slip away with an uncharacteristic and mistaken decision by LaRussa to undermanage.

The small chance the Cardinals had in this series disappeared along with the strategies that LaRussa has used for over 30 years but suddenly decided to abandon for no reason whatsoever.

And I don’t understand why.


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