Myers to the Bullpen and Luhnow’s Betrayal

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It must’ve been a kick to the gut of the hard core stat people who felt that they finally had one of their own running a club in the way they would run a team if given the opportunity when the GM of the Astros, Jeff Luhnow, okayed the move of Brett Myers from starter to closer.

The reactions ranged from anger to bewildered to non-answer answers in trying to “protect” Luhnow because they don’t want to put forth the impression of infighting in the mostly monolithic “this is how to do it” world of hardline stat-based theory.

Luhnow doesn’t need your protection and obviously, he’s not going to follow a specific set in stone blueprint in running his club.

The underlying sense I got from the responses I saw on Twitter were indicative of righteous indignation and the feeling of betrayal as if a spouse had cheated on them.

(Insert your stat guy/spouse joke here.)

“But, but, but…you’re one of us!!!”

In truth, the shifting of Myers to the bullpen can be argued both ways.

He was a good closer with the Phillies in 2007 and enjoyed the role, the adrenaline rush and the game-on-the-line aspect of doing to the job.

He’s a durable starter who can give a club 200 innings and, at times, pitch well.

The Astros need a closer because they don’t trust Brandon Lyon and the other candidates—David Carpenter and Juan Abreu—are inexperienced.

What you have to do in trying to understand the Astros’ thinking is examine what the long-term strategy is.

They’re not going to be a good team either way and when they are, Myers is not going to be on the roster in any capacity, so how would having Myers for 2012 best help expedite their rebuilding project?

Myers’s contract pays him a guaranteed $14 million with $11 million for 2012, a $10 million club option for 2013 and a $3 million buyout.

Teams have frequently overpaid for good relievers as opposed to mediocre starters in trades in recent years. The Nationals got Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps; the Rangers gave up young talent for Koji Uehara, Mike Gonzalez and Mike Adams; the Rangers got Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco and got David Murphy for Eric Gagne.

What would be the most lucrative return on Myers at mid-season? It depends on whether he’s pitching as he did last season as a starter or as he did in 2010; either way, he probably wouldn’t be a contributor in the post-season for a team that gets him in that role. But as a reliever he would be more attractive to teams with their eyes on post-season help.

It’s cold reasoning not in the Astros using Myers for themselves on the field, but using him to get a few pieces to make themselves better in the future.

Moving Myers to the bullpen could end up being seen as a smart move.

At least there’s an argument for it.

But stat people are reacting as if Luhnow has betrayed them and it displays the lack of in-the-trenches understanding of how to run a team that led them to relying on stats rather than intuitive, subjective interpretations of circumstances to begin with.

They’re a crutch.

Crunching numbers, reading and regurgitating lines off a stat sheet and steering an organization by rote is not how a successful team can and should be run.

Jeff Luhnow knows that.

Do you?

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2 thoughts on “Myers to the Bullpen and Luhnow’s Betrayal

  1. Willing to name names? Most people I saw on the topic were pretty indifferent to the move. I really don’t think it matters at all where he pitches. If they were contenders, sure, he’s more valuable as a starter, but as non-contenders it really makes no difference. It’s not like this is a long term strategic move that sets the agenda for the team for now and years to come or anything.

    And there’s TONS of infighting amongst the ‘stat people’.

    1. You’re missing the point. The bottom line isn’t bickering over negligible and arguable moves, but like the nonsense with Billy Beane and Moneyball and those who still attempt to defend him and his “process”, they don’t come out and say he was wrong about much of anything without a caveat similar to the idiotic, “well, the man must know what he’s doing”.
      It’s all to the end of saving the basic theory without splintering into factions and showing weaknesses that can be exploited.
      David Schoenfield came out with a “disappointing” tack against Luhnow as if he were Tom Bosley shaking his head at Richie taking the DeSoto without permission.
      As for examples, just search Twitter for “Brett Myers Jeff Luhnow” and you’ll find all you want.
      Specifically, here’s Keith Law (interviewed and possibly offered a job by those same Astros—or not):

      keithlaw ‏ @keithlaw Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
      I really don’t get it. RT @Louie101: @keithlaw How awesome is the Astros decision to move Brett Myers to closer?

      Now, what would Law say if it were someone other than Luhnow working for a team not named the Astros? Would he be so wishy washy? Or would he have responded with the type of snark that would invite a smack if he did it in front of his target?
      Look at the big picture and the agendas of those involved.

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