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.