Forget Moneyball: La Russa has his own formula - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Forget Moneyball: La Russa has his own formula

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Posted: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 6:44 pm | Updated: 9:07 pm, Tue Oct 4, 2011.

Tony La Russa needs no sabermetrics formula to figure out where to play his outfielders.

Just in case no one knew he preferred personal analysis to cold calculations, the St. Louis Cardinals' manager made that clear Tuesday by jumping on a question about his reasoning for flip-flopping Lance Berkman and Allen Craig in Game 3 of the NL division series.

Craig started in right field in Games 1 and 2 at Philadelphia, with Berkman in left. The 35-year-old Berkman was the right fielder during the regular season and was back in his usual spot Tuesday at Busch Stadium.

"It's my tribute to Moneyball. I'm not a big Moneyball fan," La Russa said. "What we do is we take the square footage between the right-field line and center field and the square footage and from left field to center field, divide that by pi ... and then we pick the dugout. The field that's closest to the dugout, and that's where Lance plays. That's almost always true. Some places there may be, if it's spacious — probably not good. Here it's close to the dugout, that's where he plays."

Berkman and the Cardinals lost 3-2 on Tuesday, falling behind 2-1 in the best-of-five series.

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DEJA VU IN DETROIT: The Tigers pulled off a trade-deadline deal this year that helped them win a division title for the first time since 1987.

Detroit dealt young lefty Charlie Furbush to Seattle in a package that netted pitchers Doug Fister and David Pauley. Fister went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 10 starts for the Tigers down the stretch in a run reminiscent of what 36-year-old Doyle Alexander did when Detroit won the AL East 24 years ago.

Alexander was 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts for the Tigers, who got what they wanted by reaching the playoffs — at a hefty price.

The club gave up then 20-year-old minor leaguer John Smoltz, who had a 4-10 record at Double-A Glen Falls in 1987. Smoltz made his major league debut the next year with Atlanta and went on to have a stellar career with 213 wins and 154 saves over the next 21 seasons.

"Someone came up to me here and said, 'That guy we gave up for Fister better not turn out to be you,'" Smoltz said in Detroit with a chuckle before working Game 4 of the Yankees-Tigers series as a TBS analyst.

Furbush was 3-7 with a 6.62 ERA in 10 starts for Seattle, finishing his first season in the majors.

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MILWAUKEE MADNESS: Much is made of what a loose bunch the Milwaukee Brewers are, and the attitude extends to the team's "meetings." Players on most clubs dread the word that a team meeting is scheduled. For the Brewers, it's like joining the cast of "Saturday Night Live."

Manager Ron Roenicke said that he brought the idea of loose team meetings from his days with Mike Scioscia of the Los Angeles Angels. Scioscia, Roenicke said, learned it from the Dodgers' Tommy Lasorda.

"Mike Scioscia grabbed that and turned it into his own, not comedy show, but I can't remember a meeting where everybody wasn't rolling on the ground laughing," Roenicke said.

Roenicke said that when he was hired to manage the Brewers last offseason, he decided to bring the same zany team meeting atmosphere, but he needed some help, since he acknowledges he is not the wittiest of managers. The players on his team, though, were glad to take over.

Asked for an example, he mentioned pitcher Tim Dillard.

"We have Dillard on our team, he does great impersonations, does a great Harry Caray," Roenicke said. "So he came in and interviewed Zach Braddock, who — Zach Braddock was Arnold Schwarzenegger. So the conversation and that, it really was funny."

Besides that, "some dancing going on, we had a little singing going on," he said.

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TEXAS T-BONE: Rangers senior adviser Tom "T-Bone" Giordano will celebrate his 86th birthday on Sunday and the word retirement is still not part of his vocabulary.

"Like I've told my wife, friends and my boss, that when the time comes around, one of them will get a call from either a ballpark or hotel and they are going to say, come and get the body," Giordano said with a smile. "God willing, I don't plan on retiring. Just keep going."

Giordano is completing his 10th season with Texas and 51st year overall as a scout. He was part of the player development group that built the foundation for the powerhouse Oakland Athletics in the early 1970s.

"I compare what's happened here to that," Giordano said.

Giordano credits Rangers general manager Jon Daniels for continuing the building process started by former GM John Hart. The defending AL champs beat Tampa Bay 4-3 in Game 4 on Tuesday to advance to the league championship series.

"J.D. took over with his young staff and they have been outstanding," Giordano said. "J.D., his people, (manager) Ron Washington, with the help of (team president) Nolan Ryan."

As for Giordano's nickname, there is a logical explanation. His father owned a grocery store and made sure that his son had steak for lunch on days his high school baseball team played.

___

SCENE STEALER: The last time Roy Oswalt pitched a playoff game in St. Louis, he turned out the lights for good at old Busch Stadium.

The Philadelphia Phillies right-hander is set to start Game 4 of the NL division series against the Cardinals on Wednesday, with a chance at another closeout game at the new Busch Stadium, which is 6 years old.

Oswalt shut down the Cardinals in the 2005 NL championship series, sending the Houston Astros to their first World Series. Two days earlier, Albert Pujols' monster home run off previously untouchable Brad Lidge had put a screeching halt to celebration plans at Minute Maid Park.

Oswalt will oppose Cardinals trade-deadline pickup Edwin Jackson, set to make his first postseason start. Philadelphia leads the best-of-five series 2-1.

"It's funny, six years later I'm kind of in the same spot," Oswalt said. "Back in St. Louis trying to move on to the next round."

Jackson is eligible to become a free agent after the season and has helped himself in St. Louis, going 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA since joining the Cardinals. They appear to have a full rotation for next year of Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook.

"We all want to pitch to do well anyway, so it's not like I'm going out to try to do good to get paid," Jackson said. "I can't really be worried about free agency right now when we're trying to win games."

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WEARING IT ON HIS SLEEVE: Texas manager Ron Washington doesn't try to hide his emotions in the dugout.

"I'm not afraid to smile. ... I'm not afraid to give my coaches a high-five," Washington said. "That's me. That's who Ron Washington is. When my guys do something good out there, I'm just as excited about it as they are and I want them to know."

After meeting with reporters before Tuesday's game at Tampa Bay, Washington joked and gave a high-five to Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, who was sitting in a nearby chair.

"The bottom line, we just go out and do one thing ... play the game of baseball and try to play it the best we possibly can," Washington said. "And when you do something good, show your emotions."

___

SHADOW BALL: Maybe the Cardinals' players were right: Late-afternoon starts at Busch Stadium really are trouble.

Several Cardinals complained about the difficult combination of shadows and sunshine after a home loss to the Brewers in a late-afternoon game last month.

And seeing was clearly difficult for the Phillies and Cardinals in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Tuesday afternoon. Hitters struggled to pick up the spin of the ball in the early innings. It wasn't easy for fielders, either.

The Phillies threatened in the third when Carlos Ruiz bounced a ball over third baseman David Freeze, who took a step in when he should have backed up. Later, center fielder John Jay didn't see a soft and possibly catchable liner by Jimmy Rollins until the ball bounced. The Cardinals escaped the jam.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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