Friday, October 14, 2011

6 comments Bob Klapisch Believes Blaming Luck for Yankees Postseason Losses is Stupid When Everyone Knows They Lose Because They Don't Have a Killer Instinct

Let's split intangibles today (it's like splitting hairs, just with intangibles). That sounds like fun. Bob Klapisch is pumped because he gets a chance to throttle the Yankees for the horrific crime of not winning the World Series this year. He's a little tired of Joe Girardi blaming the Yankees postseason woes on small sample sizes and bad luck. He wants the Yankees to know they can't just cop out and try to explain their postseason problems with intangible bullshit reasons which have no factual backing. They should step up to the plate, drop the excuses, drop the imaginary "luck" reasoning for a postseason loss, and get to the obvious, more tangible source of the problems. That source is the Yankees lack a killer instinct and aren't clutch.

Joe Girardi spent a lot of time Tuesday talking about how much “luck” goes into winning a championship. It’s a popular anesthesia, meant to keep fans from feeling bitter about early round losses in the playoffs.

What Bob Klapisch really hates is the use of luck to explain something doesn't give him a narrative to follow and write about in his columns. If no one can be blamed for a loss, then how the hell is he supposed to do this job? Things just don't go wrong in sports, there has to be blame placed to explain why things go wrong. Otherwise, without fault being placed a person would have to accept that the cause for some events can't be placed neatly in a box. Frankly, that doesn't make for a very interesting column.

The Yankees have grown increasingly comfortable with this philosophy, having captured just one World Series in the last 11 years.

The Yankees over the past few years have shown a decreasing dedication to winning World Series titles, unless you discount the World Series title 2009 and every other year when they have acquired as many good players are possible in order to win a World Series.

It wasn’t bad luck that neutralized A-Rod in the ninth inning of Game 5 – it was a case of nerves.

I'm glad we got this straight. It was not only bad luck, it was also nerves.

What is most interesting about this column is Bob Klapisch takes Girardi's discussion of luck as meaning Girardi is blaming every negative thing that happened on bad luck. This isn't true. Girardi was saying a team needs to be lucky and have pitchers pitch well and hitters hit well, as well as have no unforeseen circumstances occur (like a crucial injury or a bad call by an umpire), which would help the team win the World Series. This is all encompassed in the whole bad luck discussion. Alex Rodriguez striking out in the ninth inning could have been nerves or it could be a case of good pitching. The overall loss by the Yankees was bad luck that Doug Fister pitched well, Delmon Young caught and turned into a right-handed Babe Ruth, and bad luck the Yankees hitters didn't hit well during the series. So the "bad luck" is more a macro issue rather than a micro issue.

The antiseptic manager doesn’t want to accept that three of his key players became skeletons in October; he’d prefer to think A-Rod, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher simply were the victims of small sample sizes.

This is very similar to how Bob Klapisch doesn't want to accept the three key Yankees players were simply beat by good pitching; he'd prefer to think they choked and don't have a killer instinct. It gives him a reason to complain the Yankees didn't do anything to win the game. Talking about how well the Tigers pitched is an unacceptable topic for the basis of this column apparently.

Why does Derek Jeter get off the hook? He hit .250/.280/.292 with 8 strikeouts in 25 plate appearances. Yes, Tex, A-Rod and Swisher were all terrible but Jeter struggled in the series as well.

But what other common-sense conclusion can one draw about Rodriguez, who's batted .180 in his last two post seasons, and Teixeira, who's hitting .170 as a Yankee in October, other than to say they've been overwhelmed?

The Rangers and Tigers pitching was very good?

Swisher, meanwhile, might’ve ended his career in the Bronx with another dismal playoffs. He has a 2012 club option of $10.25 million.

The price is tempting for the 23 homers and 85 RBI Swisher delivered in the regular season, but it’s fair to ask whether Swisher is a big-time player.

I understand the frustration of an entire group of good hitters not hitting the ball well in a short series. I would personally question whether Swisher is a big-time player as well if I didn't also wonder whether it is worth the Yankees having a "big-time player" for a maximum of 19 games in the postseason, when that player may not hit as well for 162 games during the regular season. Of course, knowing Klapisch's disdain for the introduction of small sample sizes I would imagine he would have no issue with a long-term downgrade in right field if it meant having a "big-time player" in the postseason.

Unless, of course, you believe there’s no such thing as clutch, a first cousin to the theory that players are prone to the same slumps in October as they are in July.

It's really not a theory, but actual fact. If only there were numbers kept which would back up that players are prone to the same slumps in another month of the season as they are in October...wait there is! Off to we go!

Nick Swisher in May 2011: .200/.330/.341.
Nick Swisher in October 2011: .211/.258/.369

Derek Jeter in April 2011: .250/.311/.272
Derek Jeter in October 2011: .250/.280/.292

Alex Rodriguez in August 2011: .176/.263/.353
Alex Rodriguez in October 2011: .111/.261/.111

So the idea players are prone to slumps in October just like they are prone to slumps in other months of the year really isn't unproven. The same could go for players who get hot in the postseason. These players are prone to get hot during October as well as a month during the season.

Robinson Cano in August 2011: .345/.377/.637
Robinson Cano in October 2011: .318/.375/.682

What if Cano struggled in the postseason? There would be no precedent for that, right? Wrong.

Robinson Cano in May 2011: .250/.305/.407

My point is that players are prone to the same slumps in October as they are in other months. It isn't a theory, but a proven fact.

The essence of the manager’s reactions to the upset loss to Detroit were, in no particular order: We never got the big hit. We did our best. Oh well.

What do you want him to do? Slit his wrists? Say he would have pinch-hit for Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game 5? Sure, there are things Joe Girardi could have done differently, but conveniently these things are realized AFTER the series is over. He made his choices and they didn't work out. Yankees fans hope he learns from them and is able to move on.

If you were hoping for a more visceral reaction, forget it; Girardi isn’t wired for public suffering. Even though team president Randy Levine called the loss a “bitter disappointment,” the manager stopped well short of calling the season a failure.

Because the season wasn't a failure. From a non-Yankees fan point of view they did a great job all season with a patchwork rotation. The Yankees needed AJ Burnett and a guy off the Rule-5 scrap heap to win Games 4 and 5 for them to win the series against the Tigers. To me, it is amazing the Yankees won as many games as they did when their rotation had guys like Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Ivan Nova in the rotation. These were guys who were huge question marks coming into the season. Sure, you want to win the World Series every year, but at a certain point some teams need to just realize they didn't have the horses to win the World Series. It sucks, but it is reality.

Why? Because Levine’s rhetoric aside, the Yankees have steadily de-emphasized their postseason outcomes.

It’s probably because these Yankees teams don’t have a killer instinct.

a rolling crapshoot, as Billy Beane once called it, where the best teams don’t always prosper, only the hottest ones.

There are some facts to back this theory up. I get the feeling Bob Klapisch doesn’t like any theories that may prove his point of view wrong. That’s why they are theories to him and he doesn’t look to see if they have factual backing. Since 1995, the “best” (meaning the team with the best record in MLB) team has won the World Series a total of two times. That’s two times over the last sixteen World Series. That doesn’t include this year with both the Phillies and Yankees eliminated. So it will be two times over the last seventeen World Series after this World Series when the team with the best record in MLB over the regular season also won the World Series.

In fact, over those sixteen World Series played a team that didn’t even win their own division won the World Series four times. So the playoffs are very much a crapshoot, unless you want to ignore history. For those of you doing math, the Yankees have won five World Series titles since 1996 and that means they weren’t the “best” team in the majors three of those five years. That is interesting to think about in the context of Klapisch believing that teams don’t get hot in the playoffs.

The past-era Yankees had a ferocious trait that couldn’t be quantified.

So if it can’t be quantified how do we know they possessed it?

Was this ferocious trait past-era Yankees teams had the ability to not be the best team in the majors during the season and still manage to win the World Series?

It was an intangible expectation of victory – even if that very term now is politically incorrect among baseball’s intelligentsia.

So if the Yankees expect to win, they will start to win postseason games? Of course, this “expectation of victory” when it fails will be painted by the New York media as a team that expects to win and doesn’t think they have to do anything to achieve this goal.

Girardi, who was part of the championship run from 1996-2000, is so brainwashed he suggested those four rings were influenced, in part, by luck. Try running that by Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill and David Cone.

Quite frankly, any championship by pretty much any team can be attributed to a small amount of luck. It is what makes sports so much fun to watch and it is also what is so frustrating. There is a lot of skill and talent that goes into winning a World Series, but there is also a certain amount of luck involved. I find it amazing Klapisch believes in “an intangible expectation of victory,” but doesn’t believe in a team receiving some good or bad luck on their way to this victory.

But that’s how the present-day Yankee family is making peace with their collapse against the Tigers – it was the wrong time, the wrong set of circumstances, just the wrong karma.

I think Klapisch is blowing this luck thing out of proportion. Girardi also knows his players didn’t play well when it counts. Girardi isn’t blaming the entire postseason series loss to the Tigers on bad luck, but to blame the Yankees World Series victory on a lack of killer instinct is just as inane as blaming their losses on bad luck.

“All we needed was one sacrifice fly,” Girardi said, and the score would’ve been tied.

So stating the obvious fact that the Yankees just needed to make contact to get a sacrifice fly is accepting karma was against them and this is an example of the Yankees not showing a killer instinct? Klapisch realized the Yankees lacked a killer instinct after the series was over of course.

But the breakthrough moment never materialized: A-Rod and Swisher struck out badly,

I guess this is as opposed to striking out very well.

Even though the Yankees led the American League in runs in the second half, their average with two outs and runners in scoring position was .225, or nine points below the AL average.

But Bob! Didn’t you say the following earlier in this column:

Unless, of course, you believe there’s no such thing as clutch, a first cousin to the theory that players are prone to the same slumps in October as they are in July.

So individual players aren’t prone to the same slumps in October as they are in July, but a team’s season-wide trend will be the same in October as it was in July because this shows a lack of “killer instinct.”

Bob Klapisch believes what he wants to believe when it is convenient for him to believe that. Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Tex are all chokers who lack a killer instinct in October …or they could be continuing a season-wide trend of poor hitting while runners are in scoring position. To say, “The Yankees struggled with men in scoring position,” is so much less sexy than saying, “This Yankees team lacks a killer instinct in the clutch.” Why use tangible evidence of the team’s struggles when you can use intangible evidence that can’t be proven?

Similarly, the Yankees batted .221, or 21 points lower than the rest of the league, in situations considered close and late – after the sixth inning, within one run.

So they don’t lack a killer instinct, they simply can’t hit with runners in scoring position. Why go fishing for a reason when there is an easily explainable one already available?

That would explain why the Yankees were just 4-49 when trailing after the seventh inning, and 2-50 when down after eight. Is that all because of bad luck, or can it be traced to a killer instinct that never was honed?

How the hell do you hone a killer instinct? Go for a team trip on an isolated island to hunt humans in the wild? What is the killer instinct that is suddenly missing from the Yankees and how do we go about honing this instinct?

Those are the questions Girardi should’ve been thinking about if he was open-minded enough.

I am sure Joe Girardi should have spent a lot of time thinking about this:

(Joe Girardi) “I’ve listened to your talk about the team lacking a killer instinct. What exactly do you mean?”

(Bob Klapisch) “It was never honed! This team doesn’t have the killer instinct that other Yankee teams had. I noticed this immediately after the season ended and thought that was the appropriate time to bring it up, after I was proven correct. If you were open-minded enough you would have thought about this as well.”

(Joe Girardi) “I did think about the team’s struggles to get runners in scoring position into score. This has been a season-long struggle and I thought the best thing to do would be to continue to give our supposed best hitters a chance to drive runners in.”

(Bob Klapisch pounding his fist on the table) “But you forgot about the killer instinct. It needs to be honed.” (Starts smoking two cigarettes at a time)

(Joe Girardi) “I don’t get your issue. I am open-minded, but being more open-minded about the lineup isn’t very helpful. The entire middle of the order was hitting poorly. You can’t hide 3 guys in a lineup of 9 players. Most of my best hitters were at the top of the lineup. If I did something about the order in the series that would involve moving Swisher, Tex, and A-Rod down in the order, which means Jorge Posada and Russell Martin would be moved up in the order. Let’s take your suggestion and move A-Rod out of the cleanup spot, move Gardner up to the leadoff spot and switch Swisher and Posada:










(Joe Girardi continues…) So Tex was hitting poorly and he is now in the cleanup spot and A-Rod is only dropped one spot. If I drop A-Rod one more spot then I will have to move Posada up or put Jeter/Martin in the 5th spot. If I had moved the lineup around then you would have criticized me anyway, so what was I to do?"

(Bob Klapisch begins stabbing his hand with a pencil) “That’s for you to figure out and me to criticize you endlessly for. (starts throwing rocks at children) I just write what I see and you should have moved A-Rod down in the lineup and moved Swisher down in the lineup.”

(Joe Girardi) “And just leave Tex, who was also struggling, in the cleanup spot?”

(Bob Klapisch starts carving potential lineups into his arm with a knife) “YES. YES. YES. You believe in fake things like luck and small sample sizes. You need to move the players I identified after the series was over as lacking in a killer instinct up in the lineup to get those who have a killer instinct more at-bats. Marcus Thames had a killer instinct. Why’d you let him go?”

(TJ Simers appears shirtless and wearing binoculars around his neck from an all-night stakeout outside of Marcus Thames house) “Why did the Yankees let Marcus Thames go? Because he can’t field and is useless in all other aspects of life. (Calls Marcus Thames’ son on the phone) You hear me, your father is a bum and he doesn’t deserve to live anymore. He’s a failure! Why is he too afraid to answer my questions about why he sucks at fielding? I'm just asking reasonable questions in a confrontational manner. What a coward!”

(Joe Girardi quits his job as Yankees manager and gets hired by Theo Epstein as the Cubs manager)

Give Girardi credit for being flexible with his starting rotation in the division series. And he was willing to call an audible with his bullpen, too.

Girardi had to be flexible with his rotation in the division series due to the Game 1 suspension due to rain. Girardi did a great job with his bullpen, but it isn’t as easy to be flexible with your lineup. Moving one player up or down in the lineup has an impact where another player is hitting in a spot he isn’t used to hitting in. For example, if Girardi had moved Gardner up in the order then he would have had to move him up to the #1 or #2 spot in the order for him to have the necessary impact with his skill set. Girardi could have moved him to #8, but that wouldn’t have had a huge impact. He could also have moved Gardner to #7 in the order, but then Swisher/A-Rod are hitting behind him, which impacts (even further) their ability to hit and feel comfortable. It sounds silly, but every move of a player in the order has an impact on another player in the order.

But Girardi is missing an important lesson if he thinks it was just bad luck that took down the 2011 season.

Bob Klapisch is missing an even more important lesson if he thinks a lack of killer instinct is what took down the 2011 season. It was the inability to hit with runners in scoring position, which is a problem that had plagued the Yankees much of the year, and the inability to get a lead on the Tigers that took them down.

Bad luck didn’t cause every player to hit poorly in the division series, but it was bad luck for the Yankees three of their best hitters all struggled at the same time. Rather than blaming a lack of killer instinct, figuring out why Swisher/A-Rod/Tex all hit poorly at the same time would be the best move for Bob Klapisch if he really wants to try to prove something interesting about the 2011 Yankees.


rich said...

The Yankees have grown increasingly comfortable with this philosophy, having captured just one World Series in the last 11 years.

Oh my God! One? That's it?

::looks at remaining teams in the playoffs::

Oh wait, that's as many as the remaining four teams have in the past 11 years combined

And why only go back 11 years, that sounds like an arbitrary number? It couldn't be that the Yankees have won 4 of the past 15 and 5 of the past 16, could it?

The price is tempting for the 23 homers and 85 RBI Swisher delivered in the regular season, but it’s fair to ask whether Swisher is a big-time player.

Ya, every team is wondering that about their 7th best player too.

a rolling crapshoot, as Billy Beane once called it, where the best teams don’t always prosper, only the hottest ones.

Here's what pisses me off about Selig. It's proven fact that in a best of 5 series, the inferior team has a high probability of winning the series... so why aren't the divisional best of seven?

You work your ass off for 7 months to get home-field advantage only to have chance of losing to an inferior team.

Selig used to say that it was a time thing, but considering: 1) the season already goes for 7 months and 2) Selig wants to add a wildcard round... what's the new answer to the question.

Five game series are fucking stupid.

But Girardi is missing an important lesson if he thinks it was just bad luck that took down the 2011 season.

Yes, because players love when their managers and owners call them pieces of shit. I mean, Carl Crawford feels fantastic after hearing that Hendry didn't want to sign him (seriously though: you've got him for the next couple years... why are you telling him you didn't want him? How dumb can the Red Sox front owndership actually be?)

Aron said...

How inane to chalk up a team's failure to comeback late in games to a lack of killer instinct. I'd be curious to know what the best record was when trailing after 7 or 8. Isn't that why set up men and closers make the big bucks?

Pat said...

Bob Klapisch is right about those late 90s Yankees. Who can forgot Derek Jeter and his killer instinct, willing Jeff Maier to the wall, and that same determination to win magnetically drawing the ball into the kid's glove, just above Tony Tarasco's head? What about that gritty determination Tino Martinez possessed which forced Rich Garcia to call a clear strike a ball. Without that will to win he never would have had the chance to intangible home four runs. And lest one forget the untested will shown by Tino, Derek and Scott Brousius who forced Bob Brenly to treat Byung-Hyun Kim like a breathing example of a punching bag. To bad the Yankees were repeatedly kept down by that gutless Mariano Rivera in 1997, 2001 and 2004.

Aron said...

I think my all time favorite ridiculous quote about the Yankees 1996-2000 run was by one of the ESPN cyborgs (either Stark or Kurkjian, can't remember which) when they celebrated the fact that none of their World Series winning teams had a player hit over 30 HR. Because the main reason they didn't win in 1995, 1997 or 2001was because Tino was so selfish, he hit 31, 44 and 34 those years. And thank goodness Bernie only hit 30 in 2000

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if these guys like Klapisch could identify the obvious lack of killer instinct and lineup problems BEFORE the playoffs begin.

He's just trying to come up with an interesting story, and Girardi's explanation, while accurate, isn't interesting enough for Klapisch.

And Jeter could go 0 for 30 and none of these guys would notice. Do they realize that Jeter had the team's single-worst performance in Game 2 offensively and defensively, including critical strikeouts in clutch situations?

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, if he didn't use arbitrary numbers then he really wouldn't have a point.

Swisher is the Yankees 6th/7th best player, so I think that's not a terrible guy to have as your 6th/7th best player. He has been terrible in the postseason, there's no doubt about that. I would blame small sample sizes but I don't want to piss off Klapisch.

I am starting to believe the divisional series should be 7 games as well. I am assuming it won't move to that many games b/c they are trying to add another WC team, so they don't want the playoffs to be 8 months long. I also think the season should be shortened to 154 games and I don't just say that b/c it would have been my favorite team who benefited from that this year.

Nothing shows great managerial leadership by pointing the blame at your players for the failures of the team. I know NYY fans may not want to hear this, but it is surprising they won as many games as they did b/c the pitching staff was very patchwork.

Aron, that is why closers and set up guys make big bucks. I would guess most teams haven't won many games after trailing a/f the 7th/8th inning.

If Tino weren't such a selfish player who insisted on clearing the bases and killing rallies the Yankees could have won 8 WS since 1996 at this point. He had too much of a killer instinct I guess and hit too many HRs which hurt the team.

Pat, I also remember all of those things. It was the killer instinct those teams had, which is why only one of those killer instinct Yankees teams had the best record in baseball and won the World Series. That's what I think is so funny, that Klapisch is basically saying, "The Yankees were the best team in MLB, they should have won," when history doesn't even begin to back this idea up with data that supports it.

That 2001 Yankee team which had the killer instinct to beat Kim on walk-off HRs didn't have enough of a killer instinct to put the D-backs away when NYY was leading 3-2 in the series.

Anon, I agree 100% with you on that. They need a story to go along with why the Yanks failed. Saying the Tigers pitched well enough to win the series just isn't exciting enough and doesn't thrash the Yankees enough either. He can't give credit to the Tigers b/c they would admit the Tigers actually won the series rather than the Yanks lost it. Sportswriters can never identify these problems before the season is over. It is usually after the season is over they do the post-mortem and tell us all the problem. If they were doctors, they would especially effective to tell us a patient died of a heart attack a/f the patient was already dead .

Jeter was pretty bad in a couple of games. He did hit better than other Yankees, but he still wasn't great. It is one of those things. I don't expect Jeter to hit HRs or do the things A-Rod, Tex, or Swisher do. I give him credit b/c he actually gave the Tigers credit for beating the Yankees.