We complain a lot about Jim Tracy on this blog, and I’m sure that sometimes it seems like we are unfairly picking on him. At times, I have even wondered if maybe I just target Tracy because that’s the simple and easy thing to do. When a team plays awful, it’s always easy to place a large chunk of the blame on the manager, and doing so is not always entirely fair. Last night, however, Tracy did something that I’m sure went rather unnoticed by many baseball fans, and yet it perfectly encapsulated what makes Tracy such a bad manager.
In the bottom of the 8th inning, the Rockies found themselves down by two runs. They had runners on first and third with nobody out, and Dexter Fowler was set to come up to bat in the eight hole. The pitcher was due up after him.
Jim Tracy decided that the best way to handle this situation would be to pinch hit Jason Giambi for Dexter Fowler, and then pinch hit Eric Young Jr. for the pitcher in the next at bat. To keep things simple, let’s just run through all of the bullet points about how awful of an idea this was.
- Dexter Fowler owns the second highest OBP (.349) on the team. Let’s ignore how asinine it is that he was hitting 8th in the first place, and think about how fortunate the Rockies were to have a guy who is good at getting on base coming up to bat in that situation
- If Fowler had gotten on base with either a walk or a hit, he would have set the table nicely for Giambi to come up next as a pinch hitter with either the bases loaded or the tying run in scoring position. That would have been neat!
- Dexter Fowler is currently hitting .364 with runners in scoring position
- No matter what Giambi did in his at-bat, Tracy was going to pinch hit for the pitcher in the next at bat, thus burning two bench players
- If Giambi would have reached base, he would have most likely been pinch run for by Alex White, who is a pitcher and doesn’t really know how to run the bases very well
- With Fowler out of the game and Eric Young Jr. pinch hitting in the next at-bat, Tracy had no choice but to double switch and play Young in center field for the rest of the game. Young is not very good at playing center field.
- By using Giambi and Young as pinch hitters in the same inning, Ramon Hernandez became the only position player left on the bench
- Fowler’s speed makes him far less likely than Giambi to ground into a double play in that situation
- If Fowler were to have come to the plate and made an out, Tracy still could have pinch hit Giambi in the next at bat and given him the opportunity to bat in the exact same situation that he would have faced hitting in the eight hole, and Tracy wouldn’t have had to burn an extra position player
In short, there was no logical reason for Tracy to pinch hit Giambi for Fowler in that situation. It did absolutely nothing improve his team’s chances to win, and only served to potentially weaken the line up if the game had continued into extra innings.
This one moment from yesterday’s game is a perfect example of Tracy’s virulent incompetence as a manager. Instead of thinking critically about the situation and doing what he should have done to put his team in the best position possible to win the game, he seems to have been seduced by the image of Giambi hitting another dramatic, late inning home run. His thought process seems to have gone something like, “GIAMBI HIT HOME RUNS. FOWLER SKINNY. MUST PINCH HIT GIAMBI NOW FOR MAXIMUM HOME RUNS.” That is the thought process of a manager who is not very good at his job.
So, the next time you feel hesitant to lambast Tracy for his deficiencies as a manager, just remember this moment from last night’s game, and then go watch a few Lars Von Trier movies because that will probably be a more uplifting experience than thinking about this Rockies team for any extended period of time.
Update: As an astute commenter has pointed out below, it appears that Fowler rolled his ankle in the dugout, which may have contributed to Tracy’s decision to pinch hit for him. Still, the Giambi for Fowler pinch hit is a move that Tracy has already made on other occasions, and is one that he will likely make again.