I love new managers. Each one is a chance for a new approach to rotation and bullpen management, in-game strategy, and roster handling. This off-season, Bob Melvin was called the dark horse candidate by local media. To the surprise of many, he interviewed so well that the Mariners hired him over others who had more managerial experience. Since his hire, Melvin has the best record in baseball at 52-28. And yet…the dark horse has shown himself to be a dim bulb.
Melvin has two big, predictable flaws that have emerged in the first half of the season, both ripe for post-season exploitation: He uses his best relievers to protect a lead, any lead, and is prone to punt the game when the team is behind by even a run, putting his worst relievers in. He’s also inordinately fixated on “playing the percentages,” frequently pinch-hitting to his disadvantage in order to get a lefty/righty matchup or play a guy who’s 5-15 lifetime against a particular pitcher–the same is true with his use of the relievers.
In both cases, it appears that Melvin is operating out of fear, or at best, a fixation on being conservative. If a team’s behind by one run and Joe Mopup gives up six runs, the fans aren’t going to be as mad about that as they would if the team blew a six-run lead and lost the game. There’s a psychological impact of a bad bullpen that can drive teams to spend a lot of money to patch holes. Fans expect to see a lead protected, and they get more angry with every collapse. By protecting any lead, Melvin assures the paying crowds that almost any lead will be a win. The flip side, that the team may never come back from a deficit, is ignored.
Similarly, Melvin’s matchup games are easily defensible in the press. A manager can’t be faulted if he pushes what are perceived as the right buttons and it doesn’t work out; there’s not a lot of second-guessing about that kind of old-school thinking.
How unlikely was it for Boston’s first 11 batters to reach base in their June 27th blowout? Who is this Steve Smitherman guy in Cincinnati? How’s the Rondell White-Bubba Trammell trade looking? We answer these questions and bring you more news from San Diego, Cincinnati, and Boston in today’s Prospectus Triple Play.
Joe Sheehan can’t help but be down on the A’s after watching last night’s tilt with the Mariners.
When Dusty Baker allowed Mark Prior to throw 126 pitches last Thursday against the Brewers, it was the final straw for Gary Huckabay. Huckabay threw in the towel and Prior with it, trading him straight up for Austin Kearns in a 24-team Scoresheet Baseball league.
The deal inspired some discussion among the Baseball Prospectus staff.
Using a database of 30,000 starts from 1994 to 2000, BP corrspondent Ted Kury introduces a new model to estimate pitch counts per start from historical and minor league games.
A few weeks back, Joe Sheehan took a look at how the varying interleague schedules teams would be playing might impact the divisional races. With interleague play mercifully behind us for another year, how did things shake out?
Vladimir Guerrero’s getting closer to a return. Hot streak or not, the Diamondbacks need Johnson and Schilling back. Kiko Calero and Tony Womack joined the knee injury brigade. Austin Kearns may benefit from resting his sore shoulder. Plus more injury news from Will Carroll in today’s Under The Knife.
The Marlins have the best infield in the National League. Hideki Matsui has reinvigorated the Yankees. The Pirates may be active sellers at the trade deadline. These and other news and notes out of Florida, New York, and Pittsburgh in today’s Prospectus Triple Play.
Gary Huckabay takes a look at the first day of road trips to see if road teams’ performance declines in that situation, compared to other road games.
The Diamondbacks resurrect Ricky Bottalico. The Red Sox take a flyer on Gabe Kapler. The Expos lose their best reliever in Luis Ayala thanks to the latest in a long line of Expo shoulder injuries. The Yankees add Karim Garcia and Dan Miceli for no apparent reason. Chris Kahrl has these and other news and notes in the latest edition of Transaction Analysis.
The injury to Mike Sweeney has a number of subplots (“Mr. Ken Harvey, where were you when Sweeney was injured?”). The news from Brian Jordan’s MRI was good laced with a bit of bad. Matt Morris is having obvious problems with his shoulder. And the Indians are close to calling up Cliff Lee. Will Carroll cycles through the latest injuries in Under The Knife.
The Royals have reclaimed first place in the NL Central. Dontrelle Willis still hasn’t faced his first good-hitting opponent. Lew Ford would make a better trade target than most of the veteran flotsam out there. Barry Bonds is still the best player in the league, even in an off year. Joe Sheehan runs through his notebook for these and other thoughts in Prospectus Today.
Milton Bradley is flourishing in obscurity; the Dodgers offense is bad–and we mean bad; and manager Bob Melvin is not getting the most out of Arthur Rhodes. All this and much more from Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Seattle in your Friday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.
Not satisfied with the questions of his loyal readers, Derek Zumsteg tears into his fake mailbag and finds some superb reader queries. Plus the debut of Derek’s Team of the Damned Annoying.
Bob Brenly is making a bid for Manager of the Year; Angel Berroa has been better than Rocco Baldelli, despite all the hype; and the Phillies enter the section of their schedule that could allow them to take hold of the wild card race. All this and more news from Arizona, Kansas City, and Philadelphia.
One of the more common themes running through my inbox this spring was Michael Lewis’ book, Moneyball, about the Oakland A’s and their approach to building a winning baseball team. I read it in in two sittings, and I enjoyed the heck out of it. The chapter detailing the conversation between the A’s scouts and their front office in advance of the 2002 draft was some of the most entertaining baseball copy I’ve read in years.
I never did write a column about the book, however, largely because I thought everything there was to say about it was said by others. In addition, the interviews Will Carroll did with Lewis and Billy Beane for Baseball Prospectus Radio provided the most interesting angle on the book that BP could supply.
So the standard answer I developed for people asking me about Moneyball was this: I enjoyed it, but it was neither the best Michael Lewis book I read this spring, nor the best baseball book. On a friend’s recommendation, I picked up Lewis’ Liar’s Poker, his book about his experiences at Lehman Brothers in the mid-1980s. It was more personal, more entertaining, and more educational than Moneyball, although some of that is due to my being less familiar with bond trading than with shortstop trading.