Tagged: Coaching

A’s Managerial Miscue Compounds

The Oakland Athletics, who have let coach Ron Washington escape to become the manager of the division rival Texas Rangers while their own managerial job is open, have now seen Washington add former A’s manager Art Howe to his coaching staff. It will be interesting to see these two teams square off next year. Who in the league will know the A’s better than the guys at the helm of the Rangers?

And now it is possible, not likely we think, but possible that the A’s free agent ace might show up in Oakland again in a Rangers uniform. After Texas hired Washington, Barry Zito called to tell him that he has added the Rangers to the list of teams he will consider.

Still look for Zito to sign with the team that shows him the really good money. He switched agents during the 2006 season, choosing to go with Scott Boras, in preparation for the free agent market. This means Z. is going for the big bucks, and the big market teams in NYC,  and LA, where he has a home, have the best shot at him.

But now the Rangers have a chance, along with the geographically challenged but AL West-placed Angels. And if either team can provide Z. with the bucks AND the run support he couldn’t get from the A’s, the green and gold is going to be feeling mighty blue.

K.R.

The A’s Just Made a Big Mistake!

With the Oakland managerial job open, they let third base coach Ron Washington, who had been with the A’s for more than a decade, become manager of the division rival Texas Rangers.

Oakland should have hired Washington, who third-baseman Eric Chavez credits with making him a Gold Glover, as soon as they fired Ken Macha (again).

T.R. Sullivan’s story on the hire is here.

DTLFL agrees with this assessment of Texas’ hire of Washington from The Newberg Report:

Should it be a concern that Washington wasn’t hired by Oakland once Ken Macha was fired (as some players were lobbying for when Macha was temporarily let go a year ago)? Maybe the real story there is that Washington has too much personality — or too much popularity with the players — for a Billy Beane club.

DTLFL wishes Billy Beane would take his Moneyball and go home.

K.R.

Piniella to be Ex-Cub

The Cubs have named Lou Piniella to succeed Dusty Baker as manager of the Chicago Northsiders. The baseball cliche is that managers are hired to be fired. That means that Sweet Lou is in line to be an ex-Cub. Of course, he may beat Jim Hendry to the punch by stating that he will not re-up at the end of the three year term he was offered.

Piniella was interviewed for three managerial positions: The Cubs, the Giants and the Nationals. He withdrew from the Giants’ hiring process, citing the distance between California and his Florida home. But despite the fact that Washington, D.C. is much closer to Florida than Chicago is, Sweet Lou chose the Cubs over the Nationals because the Nationals, who finished 2006 at 71-91, were rebuilding.

The Cubs finished 66-96. Don’t they need to rebuild?

We think Piniella has been seduced by the dream that has eluded several generations of Cubs managers; he wants baseball history to record that he was the manager who skippered the first Cubs team to win a World Championship since 1908.

And he’s willing to collect a some extra frequent flyer miles to chase that dream.

K.R.

Good Luck, Nick Johnson & Buddy Bell!

Johnson, the first baseman of the Washington Nationals, broke his right femur, a bone of the lower leg, in a freak collision with teammate Austin Kearns when the two were going for a pop fly in a game in New York against the Mets. Kearns was taken out of the game, but he was not seriously injured.

During the surgery, performed in New York, a titantium rod was inserted into Johnson’s leg. Surgery was successful; Johnson is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for Spring Training in ’07.

In other surgical news, KC Royals manager Buddy Bell had a tonsilectomy that also removed a growth in his throat. He had a staff meeting by phone in which he reported he was fine.

K.R.

Does Melvin really know what to do with Byrnes?

I don’t think so.

Today Byrnes is batting cleanup. Within the last week, he’s been leadoff, fifth, 2nd and cleanup. Byrnesie’s not going to complain; he just wants to play. But can this sort of shifting around really aid his quest for consistency?

I don’t think so.

Today’s D’Backs lineup v. the Rockies: Young, Callaspo (SS), Gonzalez, Byrnes, Jackson, Hudson, Snyder, Green, Batista.

BTW, Congrats to Byrnesie who finally got to 500 ABs last night. And Good Luck to Batista. Would that I had $100 for every No Decision he’s gotten this year.

K.R.

At Last! I Can Scarcely Believe My Eyes!

Eric Byrnes is batting 5th tonight! How long have we been advocating this at DTLFL???

We have also been advocating getting Stephen Drew out of 8th. We were thinking 2nd, having resigned ourselves to the likelihood that Melvin wasn’t going to bat Byrnesie 5th. But today Drew is leading off and that guy with the 19 homers and the 30 doubles that we like to talk about is number 5.

The question is whether or not Melvin will be willing to stick with Byrnes in the 5 hole for a while if perchance he doesn’t exactly set Coors Field on fire tonight, given that he’s just come off an 18-inning game, and will be facing the sinkerballer Aaron Cook.

But we like the idea that Melvin is finally thinking that perhaps team sluggers should be in the heart of the order. In fact, if Stephen Drew keeps up with the XBHs, we might start arguing that he should be batting 6th.

We haven’t decided on that yet. But we are glad to see him out of 8th! And Byrnesie in 5th.

Go Byrnesie!

K.R.

Five Double Plays! Our Team Is Winning…HMM HMM HMM HMM!

Does anyone remember the commercial from which I took the title of this entry? It was a shaving product commercial, but I don’t remember if it was the razor or the shaving cream.

Sun18_38I thought about it because the Arizona Diamondbacks set a club record by turning 5 double plays in yesterday’s 5-3 win over the San Francisco Giants. The D’Backs took 2 out of 3 from the Giants, who are now in last place, 4.5 games out. Miguel Batista went 6 innings for his 10 win against 5 losses. Tony Pena pitched a perfect 7th, Brandon Lyon gave up the Giants’ 3rd run in the 8th. Jorge Julio closed it out, striking out 2 while allowing no runs and one hit for his 15th save.

Eric Byrnes finally had a multi-hit game in August, going 2-3 and scoring both of the times he reached base. He now has 60 R. DTLFL is not crazy about his being a lead-off hitter, we’d rather see him in the heart of the order. But he’s doing OK in that hole, and if being a lead-off hitter is his destiny, we hope he turns into one of the game’s great ones.

With that in mind, we compared his current stats to those of Yankees lead-off hitter Johnny Damon, who considers himself the best lead-off hitter in the game today. (And considering what King George paid to get him from Boston, at least he and others agree, or at least figure Damon is one of the best). Byrnesie’s stats compare quite favorably with Johnny’s even though he has only 362 ABs to Damon’s 409, and even though the Yankees lineup, impaired as it has been without Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, is still more powerful than that of the D’Backs.

JD – AVG .289 OBP .359 SLG .472 XBH/H .356

EB – AVG .285 OBP .343 SLG .526 XBH/H .476

JD – H 118 HR 15 2B 24 3B 3 TB 193

EB – H 103 HR 18 2B 28 3B 3 TB 191

JD – R 79 RBI 53 BB 47 K 57 K/BB 1.21

EB – R 60 RBI 46 BB 28 K 56 K/BB 2.00

JD – SB 20 CS 7 SB % .741

EB – SB 16 CS 1 SB % .941

Byrnes has a long way to go, 32 Rs to be exact, to set a new personal best for runs scored, which is a very important stat for a lead-off hitter. A high R total depends not only on his getting on base and into scoring position, but also on his teammates getting him in. DTLFL is very pleased to know that he was driven in BOTH times he was on base last night. All too often this year he has been stranded.

We are also pleased to see that Eric singled his first time up. He tripled in the first inning the day before. One of the jobs of the "tablesetters" in the 1 and 2 holes is to help the team get off to an early lead. Byrnesie hasn’t exactly been dangerous early over the season. If this is now changing, it will really help the D’Backs down the stretch, especially since their pitchers have developed the unfortunate habit of giving up early runs. Take last night as an example. Byrnes singled to lead off the game, moved station to station across the diamond and then was driven in by a Chad Tracy single. That was the only run the D’Backs scored in the first, and the Giants came back to tie the game with a run in the top of the second.

Byrnes neither struck out nor hit into a DP. His batting average is up to .285. Ending the year with anything over .283 would be a new personal best. We still want to see him finish the season at .303 or better. He’ll need another hot streak like the first three weeks of May to do that.

Byrnes also stole third last night, for his 16th SB of the year (in 17 attempts). He needs two more SBs for a new personal best.

Byrnes needs 3 HR for a new personal best of 21. With 16 SB and 18 HR,  he’s the team leader in both categories and he’s certainly within striking distance of 20/20. DTLFL thinks he’s got 30/30 capability, but he’d probably have to start 150 games to do that, something he can’t do this year. If he were to start every game for the rest of the season, something that is not likely to happen, he’d have 133 starts for the year.

Housefly_36DTLFL really, really thinks that having Byrnesie sac bunt in the 5th inning yesterday was a total waste. He managed to get the bunt down, moving pitcher Miguel Batista from 2nd to 3rd. Batista eventually scored on Luis Gonzalez’ 12th homer of the year. But why bunt? Batista was already in scoring position at second, and with no one on first, there was little danger of a double play. Byrnesie got the bunt down this time, but he’s not a particularly skilled or experienced bunter, having come up through an organization (Oakland) that does not like bunting. Byrnes has been getting a lot of XBHs lately. He also hit a deep fly to right on Aug 7, which moved Stephen Drew from 2nd to 3rd. Why definitely create an out to move a guy already in scoring position over one with a bunt when the bunter in question is a strong XBH hitter?

We are also not pleased with the fan who interfered with Byrnesie’s hit in the 7th. Replay shows it would not have been the homer some people thought it could have been, but who knows if the ground-rule double might have been a triple if the fan had not interfered? Fortunately, Byrnes stole 3rd and scored that inning. But please stay out of the way, folks! Byrnesie needs one more triple to crunch that A,A’05 category.

Back to the pitching for a moment…the bad thing about a double play is that it means you’ve allowed at least one runner to reach base. The good thing about it is two outs on one play. By turning 5 DPs last night, the D’Backs held the Giants to 3 runs, even though the San Franciscans got 15 hits, 12 off starter Miguel Batista. Since Batista gave up only 2 earned runs over 6 innings, his outing fits the definition of a quality start. But DTLFL doesn’t consider allowing 13 baserunners (12 hits and 1 BB), in 6 innings to be quality. The sparkling infield play behind Batista kept this game from being another one of those ugly blowouts the D’Backs have had this year.

Note_34Last night’s win put the D’Backs just a half a game out of first. But as if this afternoon, they are tied for the NL West lead courtesy of the NY Mets, who swept the Padres at Shea. The Snakes have an off day today before playing a series with the Florida Marlins, the only out-of-division series they have during the next three weeks.

Go Byrnesie! Go Snakes!

Kéllia "I want to see Byrnes lead this team into the playoffs" Ramares
Oakland, CA

Lineup Laments

The lineup for the Arizona Diamondbacks for tonight’s tilt against the Dodgers has just been printed out on MLB.com. The top of the order has me befuddled.

1) Byrnes, 2) Tracy, 3) Gonzalez, 4) Jackson.

In other words, the table setting 1 & 2 slots are being filled by the team’s co-leaders in homers. The guy with the highest SLG is leading off. And the guy with the most K’s (89), and most RBIs is batting second.

Third is kind of a transition slot, so maybe I shouldn’t make too much of the fact that Gonzo, who is the team leader in BB’s with 45, is there. He’s also the team leader in 2Bs with 29, so maybe he can collect some RBI’s if Byrnes and Tracy can get on ahead of him. But why has BoMel gotten it into his head that Conor Jackson should hit cleanup?

Jackson is the team leader in OBP and is second in walks with 39. He’s slugging at .418, whereas Byrnesie is slugging at .520 and Johnny Estrada is slugging at .490. Jackson as a leadoff hitter is something that should be seriously considered.

The one stat that would suggest Jackson over Byrnes in the heart of the order is the RBI total. Jackson has 46 and Byrnes 37. Part of this is RBI opportunities. (I have pages of The Eric Byrnes Pitch Count Report showing him going whole games batting with no one on base). But admittedly, he’s left mroe guys on base that I would have hoped. But part of that may be that he gets shuffled around a bunch. And while he occasionally gets into the heart of the order, he spends a lot of time batting second or leading off. In other words, he’s getting the message that he’s an R guy, NOT an RBI guy. Then once in a while he gets tossed into the heart of the order and told he IS an RBI guy. This shifting around doesn’t help align management expectations with player sense of identity as a hitter with  physical execution of the role in the lineup. I say Melvin should stick Byrnesie in the 5-hole, tell him to thinking of himself as an RBI guy, and to work on that, and he (Melvin) should not be so in love with Byrnes’ speed on the basepaths. Yes, he’s the team’s co-leader in absolute number of stolen bases and he has the best success rate, but the D’Backs are not really a running team. Eleven SB’s is not that huge a total as to be determinative of lineup placement. It’s more like a fringe benefit.

Of course, I always hope Byrnesie does well wherever he in in the lineup. But I would like to see a batting order of 1) Jackson (OBP leader, #2 in BB), 2) Gonzalez (BB and 2B leader), 3) S Green (#2 in BA, and #2 in OBP among starters), 4) Estrada (leader in BA, #2 in RBI and SLG, 5) Byrnes (co-leader in HR, leader in SLG, 2nd in 2B, 6) Tracy (co-leader in HR, leader in RBI, but also leader in Ks by a lot), 7) Hudson (batting over .300 as the 7-hitter), 8) Drew (new guy)/Counsell (not drawing the walks he used to, but still can be pesky) 9) Pitcher. When DaVanon plays, he should lead off. He’s actually one point ahead of S. Green in OBP going into tonight.

Kéllia Ramares
Oakland, CA

Further Proof that Bob Melvin Can’t Fill Out a Lineup Card

Tonight against the Texas Rangers, Melvin has JOHNNY ESTRADA hitting 2nd! Slow Estrada, who is one of the team leaders in RBIs, should be batting cleanup.

Byrnesie is being wasted at 8th. He should be 5th and told to focus on the pop in his bat, (without trying to force homers).

Counsell, Gonzalez, Jackson, Estrada, Byrnes, Tracy, Green, Hudson is what the lineup should be.

Today in an AL park we have the DH, so both Clark and Jackson are in today. Jackson is the DH and Clark is playing first. That’s OK, but with his BA still below the Mendoza line, I’d bat Clark 9th, not 7th.

Clark batting ahead of Byrnes when Byrnes, having cooled off of late, is still at .287 and Clark has worked his way UP to .190, really tells you what Melvin thinks of Byrnes.

K.R.

Melvin’s Small (Brained) Ball Costs D’Backs an Opening Day Win: Rox 3 D’Backs 2 in 11.

Move over, Daryl. I want a seat in your "I hate the sacrifice bunt " club. What I saw yesterday in the ninth inning of the D’Backs loss to the Rockies in 11 has convinced me that you are right; trading an out for a base is a bad idea. The only guys who should be sac bunting are National League pitchers.

Here is what happened during the Snakes’ half of the ninth yesterday:

Shawn Green singles. Johnny Estrada tries to bunt him over, but after two strikes bloops a single. Runners on first and second, none out. Eric Byrnes bunts into a force play; Green out at third. Still runners on first and second. Tony Clark, pinch-hitting for pitcher Brandon Lyon, flies to right. Two down. Craig Counsell strikes out swinging.

As Daryl said in describing an inning featuring a failed sacrifice bunt by Melvin Mora in a game between the Orioles and the Athletics late in ‘05, "No one knows what would have happened if, instead of giving up that precious out to attempt to advance the runner, the last out of the inning would have only been the second out."

To attempt to make two inexperienced bunters, Estrada and Byrnes, execute a bunt that would result in a deliberate out suggested several ways D’Backs’ manager Bob Melvin was thinking, none of which will head the Snakes in a winning direction in ’06:

1) The bottom of the lineup is up; that means bunt.

Just because a guy is batting seventh or eighth doesn’t mean he is a skilled bunter, or a weak hitter. This is especially true for the D’Backs’ lineup, which is stacked with guys who know how to do better things with a bat than laying down a sacrifice bunt. According to the Rockies broadcasters, Johnny Estrada, the guy in the 7-hole, had successfully bunted only three times in his career. He had last attempted a sac bunt in September of ’04! Eric Byrnes, batting eighth, is still fairly new at bunting. It was not a favored tactic in the Oakland organization, even in the minor leagues. He worked on it during his brief stint in Baltimore in abysmal, aberrant 2005. I know I listed a bunt as my fifth favorite Byrnes moment of abysmal, aberrant 2005, but in that instance, he was clearly bunting for a base hit. That is a different situation.

2) They only have three outs left, so if we can just get one run, we’ll win.

Yes, it takes only a one-run margin to get the W, but is one run ever safe, especially in a hitter-friendly park like Coors Field? Another single by Byrnes probably would have scored the runner from second, and at least would have given the D’Backs bases loaded with none out with a pinch-hitter for the pitcher coming up. Another double—Byrnesie had hit one in the fifth inning–definitely would have scored one run, possibly two, and again there would have been none out. A homer would have scored three. Melvin showed he had more fear of the double play then he had courage to go for the bigger inning, or at least one run without an out; that’s why he had both Estrada and Byrnes attempting bunts, even though they are inexperienced at bunting.

3) I don’t trust Eric Byrnes in this situation:

Needless to say, this is the possibility that really fries me. I understood Melvin’s desire to have Byrnes attempt a sac bunt in the penultimate spring training game against the Yankees, after Eric struck out three times in a row. It definitely wasn’t his day. But to pull the bat out of the hands of a guy who had already hit a deep fly ball to right (opposite field), a double, and a single, suggests that Melvin was still managing Friday’s game, not yesterday’s game. Yesterday was the time to have Byrnes work on his pitch selectivity and forget about bunting because it would not have been in the Rockies’ interests to walk Byrnes; that would have loaded the bases with none out. While Byrnes doesn’t like to walk, he’s doing much better in not swinging at worm-killers. So he would have been thrown reasonably good pitches. And if the pitches were not good enough…well, let’s just say that the sac bunt took away the possibility of a runner advancing via a wild pitch, or passed ball.

If Melvin wanted to manage yesterday’s game by what he’s seen in the past, he need only have remembered four things:

1) The Diamondbacks had runners on first and second and no one out in the seventh inning in a recent spring game against the geographically-challenged Angels, when Eric Byrnes came up to bat. He was asked to sacrifice them over. The first pitch was a ball. Byrnesie tried to bunt the second pitch but fouled it back. Strike one. The third pitch was a ball. With the count in Byrnes’ favor, the bunt sign was taken off. Byrnesie sent the fourth pitch into territory well beyond the left-centerfield wall.

2) Byrnes’ sac bunt in the Yankee game failed. The lead runner was thrown out at third, just like yesterday.

3) When Estrada got 2 two strikes on him yesterday, he blooped a single that advanced the runner to second without making an out.

4) Byrnesie did advance a runner with a sac bunt on March 28. But, as I wrote then, "I’m wondering why the manager would want to take the bat out of the hands of his leadoff hitter." If the D’Backs really believe that Byrnesie can return to his 2004 form, they shouldn’t be wasting his AB’s on sac bunts.

Other Notes: I had to leave my computer in the middle of the tenth to go to a class. When I got back, I found an email from another Byrnes fan, telling me that Byrnesie had gone 3-5. She also observed that Jeff DaVanon, who had been sent in to pinch-hit for pitcher Luis Vizcaino, replaced Byrnes in center field in the bottom of the 11th, even though left fielder Luis Gonzalez went 0-4 and a walk, and right-fielder Shawn Green, notorious for starting the season slowly, went 1-5. Every team needs a fourth (and fifth) outfielder, and Jeff DaVanon is good in that role, but why does this guy, who can play all three outfield positions, seem to be the special substitute for Eric Byrnes, even on a day when Byrnesie gets multiple hits?

Byrnes was on base 4 times yesterday and was not driven in at any time.

I was the Opening Day Spheroid on MLBlogs. There’s a couple of nice pictures of Byrnesie there.

Despite weather concerns from Oakland to Baltimore, all the Openers were played. By game time for the Yankees and A’s, the sun was out and most of the clouds were gone. But so was Barry Zito soon afterwards in what turned out to be the shortest outing of his major league career. The Yanks won 15-2. More rain is expected in the Bay Area today.

Gators eat Bruins: The Florida Gators are the 2006 NCAA Men’s Basketball champs. They really cleaned UCLA’s clock 73-57. It’s Maryland v. Duke for the Women’s championship today.

Kéllia "Happy that Byrnesie went 3-5" Ramares
Oakland, CA