Saturday, April 08, 2006

Jim Tracy: A very early evaluation

It's not fair to judge anyone after five games. It's not fair to judge this team as a whole, it's not fair to judge the players, and it's not fair to judge Jim Tracy. Simply put, five games is an icredibly small microscope through which to view anything in a baseball season. We can take what we've seen through five games, add together with what we've seen in the spring and what we've seen in the past, and kind of make a guess on what we're going to see the rest of this year, but that's really the best we can do. For now, at least, I'm going to leave the players alone, simply because they're a horse of a different color compared to what I want to talk about right now. What I do want to talk about at the moment is Jim Tracy.

Lots of blame has been tossed around at Tracy through these first five games. A lot of it is directed at him because of who he's played. I'm not really sure he has much of a choice in this department. He has a quote in today's PG stating that Hernandez started yesterday because of his good numbers against Eric Milton. That's fine and dandy, but it would make at least as much sense to start Hernandez at third over Randa (4-for-27 career against Milton before last year according to Retrosheet, and he couldn't have hit against Milton much, if at all, last year). I mean, the guy is a piss poor fielder wherever you put him (check out those range numbers at Baseball-Reference), you'd think you'd at least want Jack Wilson to try and cover for him some by leaving him at short. Instead, he starts Hernandez over Wilson. In LA he was notorious for starting defense over EVERYthing. If you ask me, that's a sign that Tracy has been asked (told, forced, whatever) to leave Randa and Burnitz in the lineup for as long as possible. I know I saw a post somewhere (probably on the front page at OnlyBucs) about Tracy having one of the higher platoon percentages in the league in LA. That means that not only is it senseless that he isn't starting Craig Wilson SOMEwhere against lefties, but it's against his style of managing.

So from there, let's move to his in-game managing. Yeah, his lineups have been bad. I'd like to see some tinkering going on, but I do think the biggest problem with his lineups is that they've featured Burnitz every day and to a lesser extent Randa daily and Cota and Doumit on nearly an equal basis. There's a long evaluation of batting order at Retrosheet (which I was pointed to via during one of their discussions of Willie Randolph's lineups) that concludes that batting order is virtually meaningless. I don't necessarily agree, but it's probably true that too much focus is put on batting order. When I was playing around with lineup tools earlier this year, the most difference that shifting the order around made was like 4 runs over the course of the season, not anything dramatic at all. After the lineup, the next question comes with the managing of the pitching. Yeah, his handling of Perez on Opening Day wasn't great. And yeah, I might've shuffled relievers differently a couple times. That's kind of a moot point as our bullpen has sucked something awful this year.

I said on a couple occaisions this offseason that I didn't really expect Tracy to be much better in-game than McClendon. Some of his statements about in the offseason and some comments from Dodgers' fans more or less had me believing that from the get-go. The biggest hope I had for Tracy is that he could be a better manager of egos. That he could teach fundamentals like baserunning and what to do when a ball is hit to you. That maybe his staff could make some progress with these young starters of ours. These are things that you can't see in five games. Tracy's first test begins now. McClendon's teams did not react well to adversity over the last two years. Five game losing streaks turned into 21 losses in 25 games several times. We haven't been getting killed, and so the first test of Tracy's young Bucco career is how he can rally the troops after these five depressing losses to start the season.

UPDATE (2:24 PM)- Though the publishing time is later, I should note that most of this post was written before today's game started. Thus the part about Hernandez, Randa, and JWilson was written before I saw that Sanchez was starting over Randa today. That renders my argument moot since Randa got a day off today. That was just a stupid move by Tracy to play Hernandez over Wilson, period.