Michael Pineda and the mystery of the shiny dark spot

Last night Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was tossed from a game against the Boston Red Sox after a sticky substance was found on his neck. In his previous start against the Red Sox, Pineda had caught some attention for a similar patch on his palm. After the last start, Major League Baseball even warned the Yankees who then in turn warned Pineda. Apparently it didn’t work. Perhaps surprising everyone was when Boston manager John Farrell actually requested the umpire check him, unlike last time.

Now media members and baseball writers will tell us all that breaking the rules and cheating are two different things, he’s just getting more grip and it’s not an advantage, and that everyone applies something and Pineda’s only crime is doing it blatantly. Pineda says he used it because he couldn’t feel the ball and didn’t want to hit anyone. Many will hold him up as a hero, protecting his fellow players.

But more grip is an advantage for a pitcher. More grip equals more spin. More spin equals a later and tighter breaking pitch. A later breaking pitch equals a harder to hit ball. A harder to hit ball means more strikeouts and more ground balls. More strikeouts and more ground balls mean more outs, which are what the pitcher is trying to get.

I find it funny that as more information comes out about this over the last year, I now watch pitchers perform their routine ticks on the mound to see if I can spot which trick they’re using and where they’re hiding the good stuff. On most pitchers you can spot it if you’re paying attention. And if you get caught, you deserve everything that you get (and probably more).

That does not mean what you think it means

“It’s never a game we’re doing this with anybody — not with the players, not with the fans, not with the media,” Matheny said. “The potential negatives (of confirming the start) outweigh the positive. It’s just the less information is more for our guys. I didn’t want their initial trip to the big leagues (to be) where everyday there was some rumor going on.” Source

Well, if Mike Matheny‘s plan was to eliminate the rumors circling the bullpen and starter choice for today and to avoid making Jorge Rondon and Eric Fornataro feel like they had a future demotion hanging over their head, I’m pretty sure it has been a complete failure. In fact, since the call up, all I’ve seen is one of those guys is probably going to be demoted for Lyons on Monday. And guess what happened today.

To explain your decision that way you are basically telling Rondon and Fornataro that they aren’t smart enough to figure out what’s going on.  If they didn’t have it figured out on the plane ride to Washington to catch up with the team, I’m sure they figured it out as they sat in the bullpen and went unused this weekend.

Generally, your players are smart enough to figure these things out on their own. The fact that the team feels like they can, or should, hide this information from their players doesn’t seem to be a smart decision to me. Let the players know what’s going on, be honest with them about what their roles are, and let them be in a position to buy in to the plan. Players are usually intelligent individuals who can figure out if you’re BSing them. And if they don’t, you risk alienating them when the truth does finally come out.

I’d love to know what the negatives of confirming that Tyler Lyons would be starting Monday were. Leaving things vague, like what Matheny and the Cardinals did, is what creates rumors. Only the truth dispels them, like it did today. There are no rumors about who is being demoted or getting the start today.

Getaway Days

Perusing around Cardinals related sites tonight looking for something to write about today and I saw someone asking essentially this question on the STLtoday.com forums. I think it’s a very valid question. Does the team using a “Getaway Day” lineup after clinching a series win during the series, hurt the team during the postseason?

Already a couple times this season, satisfied with winning the first two games of a three game series, manager Mike Matheny has employed a “Getaway Day” lineup where you rest a couple of your starting players and let your bench players get some playing time. The logic being, if you win enough series’ every year, then the standings will take care of themselves.

I’ve long believed that this kind of mentality makes it difficult for a team to win the final game of a series to close out the sweep because the manager is subconsciously saying the game isn’t important enough.  So taking it a step further, just how easy is it for players and teams just flip that switch and go from that mode to the killer instinct to close out a playoff series when they’ve been conditioned to relax that killer instinct over a 162 game season?

The commenters so far don’t think there’s anything to it. I’m not sure myself, team psychology is a very fragile thing and it’s hard to break habits. Maybe it’s just some food for though.