There are some unwritten manager rules in baseball that have been around a long, long time. Some of them are OK, like giving your pitcher the green light to throw at an opposing player when the opposing team plops your stud hitter in the back. Some of them are just plain dumb, like putting the fastest guy in the lineup at the top of the order. And some of them are really dumb, like having anyone sacrifice bunt that doesn’t make a living throwing a baseball sixty feet, six inches.
Unfortunately Jim Tracy has a copy of the Managerial Handbook that was copyrighted in 1917 and he references it on a daily, if not inning-by-inning, basis.
The world was once thought to be flat. Someone once thought the sky was falling. And at one point in our history a coyote thought the use of a slingshot would be beneficial in helping him catch a roadrunner. Some things are dumb and have been proven so.
Here are the Rockies lineups the past three games against the Phillies:
|August 1st||August 2nd||August 3rd|
|E. Young Jr. (7)||E. Young Jr. (7)||E. Young Jr. (7)|
|D. Fowler (8)||D. Fowler (8)||D. Fowler (8)|
|M. Ellis (4)||T. Helton (3)||T. Helton (3)|
|T. Tulowitzki (6)||T. Tulowitzki (6)||T. Tulowitzki (6)|
|T. Wigginton (3)||S. Smith (9)||S. Smith (9)|
|C. Nelson (5)||I. Stewart (5)||I. Stewart (5|
|S. Smith (9)||M. Ellis (4)||M. Ellis (4)|
|C. Iannetta (2)||C. Iannetta (2)||E. Alfonzo (2)|
Let’s start with the leadoff position and back to referencing that old managerial handbook that Tracy carries in his back pocket; it says that you must put the fastest guy on your team in the leadoff position no matter how awful they are at getting on base. In the rare event that this player does get on base he will automatically wreak havoc on the opposing pitcher and your team will score countless runs. It is written so it is so.
The Rockies front office and its fans would love Eric Young Jr. to blossom into a great leadoff hitter. His speed and his ability to steal bases is very nice but his career on-base percentage in the major leagues is barely over .300. In the minor leagues his OBP is near .390 and if he could somehow produce that at the big league level he would immediately go from fringe player to All-Star. That is the trick, however, that many players can never figure out. And while I don’t like Tracy using EY at the top of the order I really hate that he is the team’s left fielder. This goes back to needing power at the corner positions and EY definitely does not provide that and to top it off his arm is reminiscent of Juan Pierre’s in that he throws rainbows to the cutoff man from left field. There is a reason he has mostly played second base in his career: he has a second baseman’s arm and no power and the combination of the two say he has to play there.
How about the series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies and Mark Ellis batting third? I get that Cole Hamels was on the mound and he is a left hand pitcher but Tracy wasn’t looking at the numbers. That stupid manual says you should not start left hand batters against a left hand pitcher but when looking at Hamels’ splits in 2011 left hand batter’s OPS is over 100 points higher than right hand batters. In fact, in Hamels’ career left handed batters have had more success off of him than right hand batters (RHB OPS of .677 vs LHB OPS of .708). Why the void of lefties in the lineup that night? And why, of all people, Ellis batting third?
When Ellis first came to the Rockies he became an immediate fan favorite. In his first five games with the Rockies Ellis batted .500/.522/.955 and fans fell in love with him (including local media and Root Sports). In past 22 games Ellis has batted .190/.227/.238. When the Oakland A’s dealt him to Colorado he was batting .217/.253/.290 and lost playing time to a rookie. If it was me, I would have put Tulowitzki in the third spot in the order but I believe there is a footnote in that handbook that Tracy sleeps with at night that says if a star player is used to a specific spot in the order do not move him. If you move him up or down in the order worlds will collide and your horse drawn buggy will lose an axel.
What really bothers me about Ellis and the Tracy Double Standard Act is that if Nelson, Herrera, Fowler or Stewart had put together a 22 game stretch like Ellis has over the past three weeks they would be sent to AAA and at the very least ride pine three out of four games. But Ellis is a veteran (or at least over 30) and Tracy seems to think he will work himself out of the slump, something the “kids” can’t do unless they are in AAA.
What would I do? I would bat Iannetta leadoff. That’s right, leadoff. He is currently fifth in all of baseball in pitches seen per plate appearance and he is second on the team in on-base percentage. I want a guy at the top of my order that makes the opposing pitcher work, allows his teammates to see what the guy is throwing and gets on-base. Iannetta does that. Unfortunately that book that Tracy reads while on the porcelain thinking pedestal says that catchers have to bat eighth in the lineup.
Helton wouldn’t sit just because a left hand pitcher is on the mound, he would sit maybe once a week and always a day game. When he does sit Tulo bats third. The Los Angeles Dodgers are not on to something when they bat their small, light hitting, second basemen in a run producing spot (how many times this year has Aaron Miles batted fifth for that team?).
As a matter of fact, Ellis isn’t playing the rest of the year except late in games in a pinch hitting type of role (and when Jason Giambi returns I am DFA’ing Ellis). Nelson is my second basemen for the rest of the year, everyday. I want to see if some of that power he has shown is legit because if we have Seth Smith in right field, Helton at first and lord knows who at third the Rockies need power somewhere. They have slowly transformed into a team with no punch. Last year the Rockies were eighth in baseball in home runs hit and in 2011 they are 10th and it feels like they should be even lower. Other than Tulo and Carlos Gonzalez who can hit 20 or more home runs on this team? Maybe Iannetta gets close to 20 dingers, but I can’t think of anyone else.
And back to Gonzalez, when he returns he goes to the fourth spot in the order behind Helton and Tulo bats fifth. I want to keep as many high on-base guys near the top of my order as I can and let the guys with power try to drive them in. Helton’s OBP is much higher than CarGo’s and Tulo needs to drop in the order a bit because, well, because I think he puts entirely too much pressure on himself. I am taking some of that pressure away by dropping him a slot in the order.
CarGo is supposed to return this weekend and here is what my order looks like six out of every seven days the rest of the season barring injuries and the occasional day off.
I would like to see Magellan dispute that lineup!