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September 19, 2013 / Nat Anacostia

Davey Johnson is no Earl Weaver

Davey Johnson played for Earl Weaver for five years and is often thought of as his protégé. Weaver’s teams, of course, are known for excellent pitching and three-run homers. Johnson definitely supports the three-run homer, but I don’t really see Weaver’s influence so much in their management of pitching staffs.*

* In an earlier post, I noted Davey’s strong tendency to try to let a pitcher work his way out of trouble and finish an inning, a strategy that was not characteristic of Weaver.

Weaver wrote an excellent book, Weaver on Strategy, which distills his ideas on  managing in a fun-to-read form. One section is titled, “How to tell if a pitcher is losing his edge.” Consider rule # 1:

Pay attention to foul balls. When a pitcher gets in a good groove, the hitters will usually foul his deliveries straight back. There’ll be plenty of foul tips. But if the hitters start making solid contact and belting the ball down the lines, watch out: they’re catching up with the guy on the mound.

The other rules are good too: Watch the catcher. See if the pitcher starts taking longer pauses between pitches. Beware of leadoff walks. Watch if weak hitters start pulling the ball. Watch where the pitches are going when they miss the strike zone. Watch the pitcher’s delivery.  Weaver then adds that a couple of hard-hit balls can tell you all you need to know about what a pitcher has left.

I’ve often thought of these rules, especially this evening. When Uggla clobbered Ross Ohlendorf‘s first pitch in the sixth inning for a deep home run, I was concerned, especially in view of Ohlendorf’s long-standing difficulties going deep into games. If I were managing and I didn’t have someone warming up already, I would have had them warming up immediately. But then, two batters later, when Terdoslavich pulled a ball down the line, only a few feet from being the second home run of the inning, I knew Ohlendorf was done. I was shocked that Davey left him in to face Upton.

I don’t blame Ohlendorf for tonight’s loss as much as I blame Davey. And listening to his post-game interview, it’s clear that Davey wasn’t paying any attention to Earl Weaver’s rules for when a pitcher loses his edge.

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