Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Davey Johnson: Over Manager


If I'm Gonzalez today I'm having a serious conversation with my manager. Photo Joy Absalon/US Presswire via

A quote from MLB’s game recap of yesterday’s Nats 2-1 loss to the Cubs:

It’s just the way I manage,” Davey Johnson said of his decision [to remove Gio Gonzalez for a pinch hitter in the 7th]. “You can chalk it up to me. You don’t like it, chalk it up to me. It didn’t work out.

Well, this post is going to criticize that decision, because not for the first time this season Johnson removed a highly effective starter on a relatively low pitch count only to watch lesser pitchers blow the game.

If I was Gonzalez (or Ross Detwiler, whom Johnson did this too earlier in the season against the Braves and which I commented on in this space in mid April, or Stephen Strasburg, who got yanked on opening day after throwing just 80 pitches; a decision I defended at the time but now see as the start of a pattern), I’d be really pissed, and I’d be demanding a change.  Gonzalez was perfect through 6 innings, and was through 7 complete on just 85 pitches.  He had 7-8-9 coming up in the eighth inning.  What POSSIBLE reason was there to remove him from the game??

Johnson intimated that the reason he pinch hit for Gonzalez was because he “sensed an opportunity” to break open a close game.  What opportunity was that?  To bring up a cold, ineffective pinch hitter (as is most of the Nats bench right now) to feebly wave at 3 pitches instead of allowing Gonzalez to hit?  I can defend pinch hitting for your pitcher there … IF you have guys on base and if there’s a real scoring opportunity.  To lead-off an inning against a new, fireballing reliever??  No way.

Johnson’s job is to WIN GAMES.  Not to worry about whether the bullpen is getting enough work.  Hey bullpen guys; you want work?  Be better pitchers and become starters.  Or go play for a team with lesser starting pitching.  Otherwise sit in the outfield and wait your turn.

I’m tired of watching our crummy bullpen throw away golden starts, and i’m sure the starters are as well.  Yeah there was an error thrown in there.  Yeah there were bloop hits and some unlucky seeing-eye singles.  Doesn’t matter.  Johnson helped turn a W into an L.  That may not sound like much, but its only mid May and this has already happened more than once.  It only takes one extra loss to cost a playoff spot.

Written by Todd Boss

May 13th, 2013 at 10:06 am

13 Responses to 'Davey Johnson: Over Manager'

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  1. It’s strange how Davey comes to the decision to remove a starter. He has let Gio go deeper than this before and has let Zimmermann go deep multiple times. It would have been one thing if Gio struggled in the 7th the same way he did in the 6th but he mowed the Cubs down. It would also be another thing if the bench was hitting right now but they are stone cold. Gio had just as much chance to get a hit as any of them.


    13 May 13 at 2:43 pm

  2. AS the title of the post says, he “over manages” the situation. He seems to go looking for work for his bullpen.

    Todd Boss

    13 May 13 at 3:21 pm

  3. Couldn’t agree more. I thought last night that what Davey gave as his rationalization was pure formula, and reminded me of Justice Holmes statement that “to rest on formula is a slumber that, prolonged, means death.”. Which is what he will eventually do to this team’s season if he keeps relying on formulaic mantras like “I will not pull a starter in the middle of an inning” so you pull one who’s totally in command and put in one who you warmed up as a decoy, so you REALLY had Drew in the right frame of mind to come in or your lights-out starter.

    Or “I want an add-on run (more than leaving in my cruising starter on a season low pitch count.” So you pull a guy who’s hitting .200 with 5 total bases and only 2Ks in 10AB for a guy who’s hitting .143, with the same 5 total bases, NO XBH, and 12Ks in 36 ABs.

    If he wanted to manage by a principle rather than the game situation, why not go by “respect the streak”?

    Steady Eddie

    13 May 13 at 3:49 pm

  4. I like Davey, a lot, but i agree that his bullpen use has been questionable. It doesn’t help that most of them have sucked, but still.

    I also think ‘Wins’ factors in. In that, when a starter has pitched well, Davey doesn’t want to put him in a situation where he can get the ‘Loss’ so he pulls him early before that can happen.

    That is crap thinking, though, and I am surprised Davey follows it. He usually is better than that.

    As for Ryan Zimmerman, what the heck are we going to do with him? Can anyone recall a player where it has gotten this bad, and then they get ‘it’ back? I can’t, but haven’t tried to research it. What do you think they do if they make the playoffs? Can they really leave him in there?


    13 May 13 at 7:17 pm

  5. Davey Johnson, over manager? In a word, no. All managers make decisions from time to time that turn out to be wrong. That’s not over-managing. It’s managing. The buck stops here, and Davey took the blame. Next time, his decision may well work.

    Feel Wood

    13 May 13 at 7:19 pm

  6. If Davey is managing to get his starters “Wins” and his closer “Saves,” then we have a serious problem. Based on his use of Soriano in the same game in a non-save situation, i’m not entirely worried that he’s too “old school” to understand the value of using your guys in the highest leverage situation regardless of the statistic (as opposed to poor managers like Dusty Baker and especially Fredi Gonzalez, who are awful in terms of their tactics in this sense).

    Zimmerman: i do not know. Knoblock never got it back, neither did Sax really, and especially not the catcher who got the yips (name escapes me). Its bad. With LaRoche locked up for two years there’s literally no place to put Zimmerman. No place. They just have to wait it out.

    Todd Boss

    13 May 13 at 10:16 pm

  7. Agree to disagree here. I thought it was a poor decision all around and directly led to the loss.

    Todd Boss

    13 May 13 at 10:17 pm

  8. Feel Wood, I have to agree with Todd. Davey has been over managing the starters some this season. It isn’t every game as he has let Haren (1x), Gio (1x) and Jordan (4x)go more than 7 innings. I understand he was trying to take Gio out on a positive note to help build confidence but I do not like the fact that he went with Storen who has struggled all year “because he needed work”. Clippard has only allowed 1 run in his last 8 innings of work. I like Drew but if he isn’t getting the job done he needs to be removed from high leverage situations until he is ready for them again. He would be the one that Davey needs to build some confidence in not the starter who had dominated all game.

    I saw an interesting suggestion on MLB Network 2 nights ago. I forgot who it was but they suggested moving Zim to LF and Harper to 3rd. I by no means am saying that is a good plan but it was definitely interesting. Zim looked better last night on the throw to 2nd to get a force out on Kemp’s groundball in the 1st. If it was as bad as knoblauch or Sax he wouldn’t have been able to make that throw. The main difference between Knoblauch and Zim is Zim is coming off of a shoulder injury and Knobluach was 100% mental. I know some of what Zim is dealing with is mental but I also think it will improve as the arm fully heals. If pitchers take over a year to recover from shoulder surgery his shoulder can’t be completely right yet.


    14 May 13 at 9:06 am

  9. Last night was a perfect situation for Davey to build Drew up. A 4 run lead with Soriano available for back up. Not a 1 run game with no margin for error.


    14 May 13 at 9:08 am

  10. I think the catcher was Macky Sasser. He double and triple clutched before even throwing back to the pitcher. I don’t know if that is what is going on with Zim, but it just doesn’t seem like it can be all physical. And I go back to this: if he continues exactly as is, and we are leading 5-3 in the 7th inning of a playoff game, do you pull him for Lombo? Hopefully it gets better, but if that happened tomorrow, I think that you have to consider it.

    As for Davey managing to Wins and Saves, I don’t think he is doing it for saves, but it does seem like he is doing it for Wins, or at least loss avoidance. Too many quotes like this one after Gio’s start to make me completely dismiss it (“I don’t want him to lose a ballgame late in the game. Just the way I manage”).

    It isn’t crazy under ordinary circumstances to protect younger players and put them in positions with a high chance of success (call it the Rocky 3 approach). But I think that Davey needs to realize that starting pitching is this team’s strength, and these guys are far enough along that, rather than protecting them, he needs to use them until they are clearly spent.

    Protect the other guys, they are weaker.


    14 May 13 at 10:24 am

  11. Agree agree. This same thing happened after he took Detwiler out too early; the next week he let starters go longer and didn’t worry about matchups. Look, there’s going to be plenty of blow out games in which to give guys like Storen and Rodriguez the work they need.

    Todd Boss

    14 May 13 at 10:41 am

  12. Zim to LF: can’t see it; he runs soo poorly right now he’s just not going to be a good outfielder. you’ve seen him on the bases; he’s slow and hobbles constantly.

    The story on Zim’s recovery time keeps changing. You can google the timeline; when he had the surgery it was 6 weeks. Then he wasn’t ready for spring training. Then on opening day we hear “oh he ‘s still healing.” Well what is the answer?? What does the recovery time keep changing?

    Todd Boss

    14 May 13 at 10:43 am

  13. Yes Macky Sasser. I knew he had a weird first name. Yes I think you start pulling him for defense eventually.

    Studies show that MLB starters can safely go 120 pitches without immediate (i.e. next start) effects. I want to see my effective starters left in until they hit the 110 pitch frontier if they’re still effective. At the very least I want to see Gio Gonzalez take the mound in the 8th with perhaps the directive “you’re in until you give up a baserunner.” I’m ok with that.

    Todd Boss

    14 May 13 at 10:50 am

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