Brandon McCarthy: No “paralysis by analysis”

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The Diamondbacks recently wrapped up a series in the Bronx against the Yankees. Starter Brandon McCarthy’s struggles continued, as he allowed three runs in four innings during his start on Tuesday. The adversity prompted Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay to suggest the right-hander’s struggles are related to his use of statistics as opposed to a small sample size, slight mechanical issues, or anything else significantly more likely an explanation than a brain overload.

Via Nick Piecoro, here was the exchange on the YES broadcast:

Michael Kay: “You mentioned earlier the information that McCarthy has at his disposal and we’ve also heard this saying, which is true in a lot of sports, ‘Paralysis by analysis.’ Does he have too much information out there?”

Al Leiter: “Just for me — I prepared with video and would want to know some stats — but yes. Yes. In the end, you’re throwing a baseball. You know, identify that Lyle Overbay is a good low-ball hitter, whatever you come up with, looking at video, looking at swings. He mentions that he looks at heat maps, the velocity data, the movement data, all sorts of different Fan Graphs.”

Ken Singleton: “Heat maps?”

Leiter: “I didn’t even know there was a heat map.”

Singleton: “Does it have something to do with the weather?”

Leiter: “No, it has to do with pitches and velocities and how they vary …”

Piecoro followed up with McCarthy, who dismissed Kay’s theory:

“Whether or not he’s right or wrong isn’t the issue,” McCarthy said. “It’s that you don’t know if you’re wrong. The heat map part is what’s weird to me. If you don’t know what it is and you can’t speak about it, how can you say anything against it?

“I also laugh at the ‘paralysis by analysis.’ I analyze very, very little. There’s some self-analysis when I need little checks and balances, but I really don’t go in-depth with breaking down teams. There’s resources of information that I know how to get to, that I trust more than other things, but that phrase is never the case.”

McCarthy went on to say he has someone who compiles some stats for him and gives the relevant info to catcher Miguel Montero and pitching coach Charles Nagy, not to McCarthy personally.

It would be nice if more in the media would take the time to learn and understand the stats and various methods of analysis before offering opinions on them. At the very least, they could supplement the soliloquy with a “but I could be wrong” rather than speaking matter-of-factly.

Update: Upon review, it’s worth clarifying that Kay may not have been blaming McCarthy’s struggles solely on statistical analysis and was speaking more generally about how players utilize statistics. The ensuing discussion still deserves criticism, however.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.