Okay, so... what the hell, Lou?
I'm a firm believer that most of the time, the players - not the manager - are the ones that decide the outcome of the ballgame. But Lou wasn't exactly on his game last night, and it may have cost the team a win that, if not exactly essential to our postseason chances, would have been fan-freaking-tastic for my emotional well-being.
The biggest strategic blunder was probably making Soto put down the sacrifice bunt. The sacrifice bunt is almost always a bad play, unless:
- It's the pitcher, who is going to make an out anyway.
- You have somebody with a combination of bat control and speed that he can bunt for the base hit or the reach on error.
That's... just about it. In a key situation like that, you have one of your best hitters at the plate. That's the guy you want hitting in that spot. And Lou threw it away.
The second play is not the failure to intentionally walk Cesar Izturis. C'mon, you were all here in 2007, weren't you? You remember the Ballad of Cesar The Wonder Out, don't you? Meanwhile, Skip Schumacher can hit MLB pitching. In that spot, if I'm the manager, I don't care if you have a gun to my head and you're going to pull the trigger if I lose the game. If Cesar Izturis wants to touch first base then he's going to have to earn it.
No, I'm upset about the top of the sixth. Why let Dempster hit in that spot? You've got the bases loaded, one out. This is a great opportunity to cash in some runs. You have a career .089/.108/.114 hitter at the dish, so essentially if you let Dempster hit you're looking at basically handing the Cardinals a way out of the inning.
In fact, Dempster is probably a worse hitter in an RBI spot than his triple-slash stats would indicate - nearly half of his at-bats end in a strikeout, which is pretty typical for a pitcher. Also he doesn't make a lot of solid contact - you're unlikely to coax a sac fly out of Dempster.
Two other issues present themselves. Dempster has thrown 190.6 innings so far this season. Compare to the rest of his tenure with the Cubs:
- 2004: 20.6
- 2005: 92.0
- 2006: 75.0
- 2007: 66.6
If we want to have Dempster available in any meaningful capacity later on in the season, it might be a good time to stop treating him like he's C.C. Sabathia.
But you want to keep your best pitcher on the mound, right? At that point in the game, Dempster is not your best pitcher available! Check out his splits. During his first time through the batting order, hitters are batting .208/.285/.301 against Dempster, which is phenominal. Second time through the order, they're batting .210/.293/.324. Third time through the order, folks are hitting .254/.332/.388 against Dempster. Like all starters, the more Dempster throws in a game, the less effective he is.
And with expanded rosters, we have the players available to pinch hit for him - use Hoffpauir, or Ward, and you still have one of them for later! And we have a full bullpen - we had just called up a fresh arm in Randy Wells that day.
There was no reason to let Dempster hit there. And it may have cost us the game.