Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wing Commander

Within every season, losing streaks are to be expected. A team with a .500 percentage would have a 3% chance of winning (or losing) 5 consecutive games if each game had independent and identical probability of a given outcome. Of course, injuries and slumps just happen in baseball and other sports.

Earl Weaver used to say that "momentum lasts as long as the next game's starting pitcher." And unfortunately for the Sox, with a few notable exceptions, the pitching staff has gone cold.

Learning the game of baseball involves more than showing up every day and putting in some time. We can only hope that Wing Commander Curt Schilling opens up the notebook to review the science and art of pitching with the Papelbons, Delcarmens, and Lesters of the organization. How does the hitter's stance affect his plate coverage? How does the game situation and count affect your pitch selection? What really makes the difference between winning and losing in The Show?

As a practical matter, you cannot replace everyone on the team, offensively or defensively, when the team struggles. All of which tends to make the manager the scapegoat. Unfortunately for the Sox, both the offense and pitching seem to have come off the tracks simultaneously.

What are the alternatives? Much like a military battle, you cannot deploy your best forces from one location to reinforce another without cost. Moving Papelbon just amounts robbing Peter to pay Paul. As is usually the case, production most commonly results more from players playing better than better players playing. The element of chance, along with fatiuge, and general psychology can't be entirely dismissed.

The best teams from management on down put the players in the roles that give them the best chance to succeed. Neither Francona or John McGraw would win without more reliable play from both sides of the diamond. Manipulating the tail end of the roster pales in comparison with the accountability and responsibility of the foundation of the team, the core that currently struggles, but so often has produced.

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