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What Robin Ventura can learn from Game 5

Tony La Russa
Tony La Russa

It was awfully courteous of Tony La Russa and Ron Washington to showcase every one of Ozzie Guillen's bad managerial habits in Game 5 of the World Series. Now, Robin Ventura only has to go through about 3 1/2 hours of film instead of 162 games' worth in order to understand why many of Guillen's moves just didn't help.

Too many intentional walks

What Guillen did: In 2011, Guillen ordered 50 intentional walks, far and away the highest total in the American League (the Yankees were second with 43).

In Game 5: La Russa and Washington combined for a ludicrous six intentional walks, and the calls made less sense as the game went on. In the seventh inning, Washington called for an intentional walk on Albert Pujols ... with the bases empty ... and two outs ... after a 1-1 count. It nearly blew up in Washington's face, as Pujols went to third on a single to left-center, but after another intentional walk to Lance Berkman, David Freese hit a routine fly to center to end the inning.

La Russa's IBB turned out to be the base-giving straw that broke the Cardinals' backs. He called for Octavio Dotel to face a pair of righties after Michael Young's leadoff double in the eighth inning. Dotel struck out Adrian Beltre on three pitches, and he looked to be a great matchup against Nelson Cruz. Cruz is mediocre against righties, whereas Dotel is murder for them.

But La Russa took the ball out of Dotel's hands, Marc Rzepczynski botched a comebacker, and then, for some reason, faced Mike Napoli.

Too many sacrifice bunts

What Guillen did: The 2011 White Sox finished second in the American League in sac bunts with 52, three behind Kansas City.

In Game 5: In the second inning, the Cardinals had runners on first and second and nobody out. David Freese hit a flyout to right for the first out, but Yadier Molina came through with a single for one run, and Skip Schumacher drove in another run with a grounder to first. St. Louis grabbed a quick 2-0 lead.

In the third, fifth and eighth innings, La Russa called for sacrifice bunts. In each of the three innings he played for one run, the Cardinals scored zero runs.

Washington provided a helpful contrast here. In the eighth inning, Washington had a traditional bunting situation with a runner on second and nobody out. But Beltre was at the plate, so instead of making a bad bunter attempt to do something out of his skill set, he let Beltre swing away.

Beltre struck out, but the Rangers still found themselves with a runner on third and one out thanks to Rzepczynski's error-called-a-single, and Napoli sealed the deal with his two-run double. All six runs were scored without the aid of a bunt.

Putting runners in motion just because

What Guillen did: At 60 percent, the 2011 White Sox had by far the lowest stolen base efficiency rate in the American League (Cleveland was second-worst at 68 percent).

In Game 5: On two different occasions, Allen Craig attempted steals of second with Albert Pujols at the plate. The first one was due to some kind of communication and/or mental breakdown -- Joe Buck and Tim McCarver suggested that Pujols called the hit-and-run, but he didn't swing. Jon Heyman said it might've come from the bench. Nobody and everybody took responsibility for it, and as an end result, the Cardinals' best hitter was at the plate with the bases empty (not that Washington could turn down an opportunity to intentionally walk him).

The second was more costly. With a 3-2 count, Pujols took three swings and pitches that appeared to be a little out of the strike zone, possibly in order to protect Craig, who was running. When he swung and missed at the third one, Napoli was more than ready to make a throw to second, and he had Craig out at second in plenty of time.

The impulse to send Craig is understandable to some degree -- Pujols hit into a league-leading 29 double plays in 2011, and double plays look really bad. But Joe Posnanski put it best:

Even if you buy motive - and I don't - Pujols with a man on first has hit into 144 DPs in career. He's struck out 166 times.
Oct 25 via Twitter for MacFavoriteRetweetReply


La Russa effectively compromised his best hitter, who was representing the tying run, to stay out of a less likely double-play scenario. Wow.

The moral of the story

The Rangers gave up four bases in a close game with intentional walks; the Cardinals only gave up half as many. On the other hand, they bunted three times. Throw in the two caught-stealings, and they wasted five outs.

At least Washington stopped trying to force the issue. In the eighth inning, he let his good players try to win the game doing what they do well, while La Russa took the ball away from Dotel in the eighth, and then the bat from Pujols in the ninth.

Guillen became intentional-walk happy as a manager, and in 2009 and 2010, he led the league in "bombs" -- The Bill James Handbook's name for intentional walks that led to runs, plural. We'll see if that's the case when the newest edition comes out next week.

Likewise, his White Sox finished with the league's worst stolen base rate in three of the last five seasons -- and each time, they had a below-average team OBP. So not only did the White Sox struggle to reach base, but they felt like they could afford to lose the precious few baserunners they had.

From what Kenny Williams has said on the matter, he wants to make the job for Ventura as simple as possible. Don Cooper will provide plenty of help on the pitching side, but when it comes to strategy, Ventura can simplify matters by reacting to Game 5's lessons: 1) Allow your good players chances to make good plays, 2) don't make them do things they're bad at, and 3) don't give up outs.

Granted, there were a lot of things Guillen couldn't help, but his propensity to interfere often compounded issues. Ventura might have the same misfiring offense, so he shouldn't make it harder than it has to be. Otherwise, he might give himself a headache.