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Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Rangers' manager sits on hands (again)


I know I said I would lay off Ron Washington.

Really, though?

Washington's decision to start Matt Treanor in Game 5 was ... questionable, at best. But we might at least understand the rationale: Treanor began serving as C.J. Wilson's personal catcher in early July and since then -- including Wilson's two postseason starts -- he was 10-5 with a 3.21 ERA. Now, some pundits have attributed Wilson's second half to the presence of Cliff Lee. But Washington seems to think Treanor had something to do with it.

We know, from countless studies, that it's exceptionally difficult to find a connection between a pitcher's performance and who's behind the plate. But again, at least you can see Washington's rationale, and maybe this just falls under the heading of things that pointy-headed figure filberts like me aren't smart enough to understand.

In the event, the move didn't look good when Wilson struggled, but did look good when Treanor got the Rangers on the scoreboard with a solo homer in the top of the fifth inning.

A home run off CC Sabathia leaves a powerful impression.

Still, Treanor had earlier, over the course of seven seasons in the major leagues, left a significantly more powerful impression. In 978 at-bats, Treanor had hit 13 home runs. At 34, he sports a .310 career slugging percentage. His home run off Sabathia probably qualifies as the second-biggest fluke of this postseason, just behind Roy Halladay's no-hitter (maybe).

When Treanor came up again in the sixth inning, he'd hit one home run in this game. In his previous 101 games, he'd hit five home runs. Which of those groups of games do you think told us more about Matt Treanor's ability to hit home runs? One, or 101?

So he comes up again in the sixth inning. A few details:

  • The Rangers trailed by five runs,
  • there was one out, but

  • the bases were loaded.


  • Also, CC Sabathia was still on the mound and right behind Treanor in the lineup was left-handed-hitting Mitch Moreland. Lurking in the bullpen: Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera, both of them perfectly capable of pitching two full innings.

    Which is to say, if the Rangers were going to have a real shot at getting back into the game, this was probably it.

    And with his No. 8 and 9 hitters coming up -- a terribly weak right-handed hitter, and a left-handed hitter -- Ron Washington did absolutely nothing. Given a chance to improve his percentages, Washington sat on his hands.

    C.J. Wilson was already out of the game. The sole reason for Treanor's presence had disappeared (poof!) into the Bronxian dusk. Which should have sent Treanor off into the good night, too. And signaled the entrance of Bengie Molina, who (for all his faults) has a career slugging percentage exactly 101 points higher than Treanor's.

    Molina never got off the bench. Treanor drove in a run, with a weak grounder to third base, but the Rangers weren't really in a position to trade an out for a run.

    The rally died when Moreland struck out. You might wonder why Moreland was allowed to hit while Jorge Cantu was on the bench. Or you might wonder why Cantu was on the bench, if Washington has no intention of using him. Good questions, both.

    But the singular question is why Washington didn't use his power-hitting catcher at the exact moment that he needed, more than anything else, a power-hitting catcher.

    Joe Sheehan refers to pixie dust that seems to protect some managers from themselves. If the Rangers wind up in the World Series, Ron Washington should send flowers to whichever pixie has been hovering over his shoulder.

    The thing is, those pixies usually get bored and find someone else to favor. Washington might have to win the World Series without any help.