You might recognize the way winning managers think: it's the way we think sometimes, too.
I’ve got a power pitcher who can’t throw enough strikes because his mechanics are unrepeatable and I doubt he’ll ever be able to fix them. I have a DH with prodigious power but chronic and severe plantar fasciitis, so I can’t really use him in the outfield at all, which I had planned to do a few dozen times because I’ve got two guys out there who can’t hit righties. Now I’ve got to hope that they manage to hit them anyway, and also that they don’t break down under a 150-plus-game load since I can’t use my DH to spell them.
We’ve got what appears to be a viable second baseman just up from Triple-A, but you never know how kids will adapt and adjust up here. My solid no. 2 gap hitter has a great compact swing, never gets hurt, and shows up to play every day—but doesn’t get on base enough to take advantage of his speed (and isn’t a good bunter). My no. 1 starter is a superb control artist who’s finicky and will get surly if left alone during practice, which affects his performance. The season gets underway in three days and I still don’t know whether my slow-starting center- and left fielders will be ready for big-league action. They’re just skipping to their lou through spring training. The front office is supposed to be acquiring a lefty groundball specialist for me to use situationally, but I haven’t heard from the GM whether that deal has been green-lighted by ownership, and in any case we’re not even sure if his current club even wants to deal him.
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A testament to the importance of professional coaching from a player who's experienced it first hand.
Most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
C.J. Nitkowski has played baseball professionally for 19 years. A former no. 1 (ninth overall) draft pick out of St. John's University (NY) in 1994, he spent parts of 10 seasons in the major leagues with eight different clubs. In 2012 he played in the New York Mets’ minor-league system, where he was attempting to make a comeback as a left-handed sidearm pitcher. C.J. has also played in Japan and South Korea. He has been running his own website, CJBaseball.com, since 1997, and you can follow him on Twitter @CJNitkowski. Recently he played the role of Dutch Leonard in the movie 42, a major motion picture starring Harrison Ford and depicting Jackie Robinson's rookie season. The film is set to be released April 13th, 2013.
Your team's struggling star just made a mechanical tweak. Is a rebound just around the corner?
There's nothing worse than not knowing why something went wrong. Pinpoint a problem, and it immediately seems more manageable. At some point, you’ve probably caught yourself doing something silly like sitting in a certain position while watching a playoff game, suspecting that the slightest movement could cause your team to stop scoring. Jason Parks displays a signed portrait of Warwick Davis when he wants the Cowboys to win. Only a fool would discount the power of Warwick Davis, but no team triumphs every time, even with Wicket on its side.
We know this, but we perform these little rituals anyway, because they give us the illusion of control. The unsettling alternative is accepting that we can’t do anything to affect the outcome. There’s a famous prayer that starts, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” Sports fans aren’t seeking that serenity. They’re too busy trying to hold their heads at a 45-degree angle to keep the rally alive.
Exploring a hidden factor in college pitcher performance: coaching quality.
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Why the next big step for baseball teams might not be learning something new, but making better use of the information they already have.
“The management and analysis of data, whether it be scouting reports, statistics, medical information or video, is a critical component of our operation. We look forward to developing a customized program that utilizes the most advanced and efficient technology available in the marketplace today to facilitate quicker, easier and more accurate access to all the sources of information we use to make baseball decisions.”—Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, January 2012
“[Statistical analysis] helps but doesn’t tell the whole story of the game. There is a lot of gut feeling you got to make. If you have a stat and see a flashing number and you see that this guy is doing very good against this other guy, you can use that in a game during a key situation. Yes. But we cannot just depend on stats alone. You got to depend on many other things… I don’t like to become a fantasy manager. The goal for a good manager is to have players who are able to manage themselves on the field.”—Unsuccessful Cubs managerial candidate Sandy Alomar Jr., November 2011
Baseball's trio of dugout noobs have followed very different paths to their skippering slots, but what does the future hold?
Yesterday's column and my comments about the increasing importance of staff management are my cue to touch on what we do know about the three genuinely new skippers. The first of them is an ex-pitcher with no managerial experience, but someone who will be coming to the job with plenty of management experience.
The Mets' bench coach talks about the duties of his job and the interesting path he took to the major leagues.
When the Mets hired Dave Jauss to be their bench coach, they brought on board a true baseball man. The 53-year-old Jauss has spent his entire adult life in the game, performing a cornucopia of roles for a multitude of organizations. After getting his feet wet in independent ball and the college ranks, the Amherst College grad spent three years as a minor-league manager in the Expos system before moving on to the Red Sox, for whom he served as a first base coach, minor-league field coordinator, bench coach, director of player development, and major-league advance scout. From Boston he went to Los Angeles, where he was Grady Little's bench coach with the Dodgers in 2006 and 2007. For each of the past two seasons, he performed the same role under Dave Trembley, in Baltimore. Jauss, who was hired by the Mets in November, talked about his time in the game during the final month of the 2009 campaign.
A conversation with the Angels' bench coach about in-game tactics, baserunning as an Anaheim brand of baseball, and more.
An often overlooked role in baseball is that of the bench coach, and few do the job better than Ron Roenicke. Mike Scioscia's right-hand man for each of the past four seasons, the 53-year-old Roenicke assumed his current duties after having served as the Angels' third-base coach for six years, stepping in when Joe Maddon left to become the manager in Tampa Bay. Roenicke himself is a candidate for a managerial position, as the former minor league skipper is reportedly among those being considered to fill the vacancy in Cleveland. Roenicke talked about his responsibilities as a bench coach and shared some of his philosophies on the game when the Angels visited Fenway Park in mid-September.
A conversation with baseball's last left-handed catcher about quirky fame and getting back into the game.
Benny Distefano's place in baseball history is unique in more ways than one. Currently the hitting coach for the West Michigan Whitecaps, Detroit's Low-A affiliate, the 47-year-old Distefano is both an affable, sound effects-producing instructor ,and the holder of a pair of obscure yet notable distinctions during his playing days. Primarily a backup outfielder/first baseman in his five seasons with the Pirates and Astros, Distefano is the last left-handed-throwing catcher to appear in a big-league ballgame after having played behind the plate three times for Pittsburgh in 1989. A lifetime .228 hitter who logged only 25 extra-base hits, he also tripled in his first plate appearance, making him one of only 29 players to do so since 1955. By comparison, 66 of the more than 7,200 players to debut since that time have homered in their first PA. Distefano talked about his brief yet remarkable playing career, and how God, food, and water led him into the coaching ranks.
Ozzie Guillen has some things to say about Buck Showalter...and everything else really pales in comparison.
"The comments he made, I think they were unprofessional, because I was doing my job.... The only reason I did it is because he would do the same if he was on my side. And I didn't make it a big deal because it was Mr. Wetteland coaching first base. If it was somebody else coaching first, I will make a big deal about it because that's the rules. I think you can call up people to be on your coaching staff, but you can't have them on the field."
--Ozzie Guillen, White Sox manager, on Buck Showalter's Thursday post-game comments, which questioned Guillen's knowledge of MLB's coaching rules (Daily Southtown)