Jim Tracy’s curious lineup choices have been subject to much scrutiny this year. On this site, it’s been a particularly popular topic. In fact, his inability to logically piece together a lineup has probably been discussed too much. Nevertheless, I’m picking on sweet ole’ Jim once again and it’s because last night he may have made his worst decision of the season. Choosing to play EY Jr. over Seth Smith, with a righty on the mound, may have been the last straw for me on Tracy. Perhaps it’s because I’m tired of the asinine decisions night after night or maybe I’m just frustrated because this division has been up for the taking all year, yet the Rox still sit 8.5 games back. But, whatever the reason, I’m officially on the fire Jim Tracy bandwagon.
Having a little speed at the top of the lineup is a nice luxury. However, the very most important thing is that the Rockies’ top two hitters don’t make outs. I don’t really care how fast they are as long as they are getting on base in front of Tulo and CarGo — especially right now since both guys are on fire. Over the last twenty games, EY has done a good job of that — .388 OBP in August. However, we are talking about a span of seventy plate appearances. His career track record indicates that this isn’t sustainable. Over the course of the season, he’s worked his OBP up to .333, but he has no punch whatsoever. Even with his excellent August, he’s still giving the Rockies below replacement level value. With his recent streak, he should get more playing time, but he is not a top of the lineup producer and he should never play over Smith with a right-hander on the mound.
Seth Smith is having a pretty solid August himself. He has six homeruns in just 51 at-bats and his OPS is approaching 1.000 for the month. Even during this recent hot streak, EY’s OPS is just .727. And, against right-handers this season, his OPS is a measly .537. Essentially, Tracy sat a guy who produces like an All-Star against right-handers for a slap hitter with great speed. If this were the 1982 Cardinals and Jim Tracy were Whitey Herzog, I might be okay with that. But, this team as it is currently set up is not a defense and pitching first squad. They must produce runs to win. That means when they face a right handed pitcher, Smith must be in the lineup, no questions asked. He is far too productive to be benched in favor of a slap hitter with poor defensive skills and a below average career success rate when attempting to steal bases.
In the Post today, Tracy had some interesting quotes about EY Jr. He seemed to hint that he was showing EY favor because the young Rockie “isn’t afraid to work.” That’s great and all, but hard work can only make up for so much and no amount of work can change the fact that Seth Smith is a MUCH more productive player against right handed pitchers. It’s really not even close. We are talking about a 300 point difference in OPS. Benching him against Brett Myers was inexcusable.
The problem with Tracy is that he’s unrealistic. Seth Smith hasn’t developed into an everyday player like we all had hoped. He had a bad July. So, now he’s nothing more than a platoon player that is occasionally losing playing time even with a right hander on the mound. He fails to recognize what he has in Smith – an average defensive outfielder who annihilates right handed pitching – and EY – a fast player with poor defensive instincts and the ability to occasionally hit a few singles. EY has one decent game in which he finally makes a difference and suddenly he’s the manager’s favorite new toy. Seth Smith goes on a much more valuable homerun binge, and it basically gets ignored. It’s Tracy’s job to get the most out of his team. He would be a lot better at that if he put his players in position to succeed.
It’s hard to say if anything would’ve helped the Rockies overcome the pitching woes they have faced this year. Ubaldo’s season and DLR’s elbow have been devastating. However, this awful decision making has me yearning for a more progressive thinker in the dugout. I’m certain that Tracy is actually a hell of a guy, but this is not a popularity contest. Professional baseball is a cold-hearted business. Results are all that should matter. And, the results of 2010 and 2011 are unacceptable with a team this talented. Unfortunately, a change in the manager seems highly unlikely. Once again, the Rockies are satisfied with mediocrity.