Sunday, January 14, 2007

Taking issue with things (things=Jim Tracy's logic)

Jim Tracy is actually painfully optimistic. You want a manager to be optimistic before the season, but Tracy's optimism borders on delusion. Today in the Hot Stove Report Dejan tries to point out to Tracy how bad his offense could be next year, but Tracy will have none of it. Dejan's point is that Tracy and company's assertion that things will get better next year isn't necessarily a given like it is on the other side of the ball, especially given that Freddy Sanchez, Jason Bay, and Ronnie Paulino can't really be expected to be much better at the plate in 2007 than in 2006. Tracy disagrees with this, of course. Let's take a closer look at his "logic."

Freddy Sanchez: He doesn't have to be a batting champ again to be better. If Freddy hit .315 or even .295, would you take that? If he kept finding ways to put the ball in play, kept people moving on the bases and kept playing great defense? I know I would. Being consistent over a long period is part of improving, too.

Emphasis is mine. Let me see if I can understand this logic. Freddy batted .344 last year. As long as he bats .295 next year he's showing consistency. Being consistent is part of improvement. So if Freddy goes, say, .295/.338/.405 (I scaled down all of his hit totals based on a drop from 200 hits to 172 hits, which is what would make his average fall from .344 to .295- it's probably not fair but run with it) instead of .344/.389/.473, we've improved at the plate this year as a team. Brilliant.

Jason Bay: ...he pointed to that .242 average with runners in scoring position, a massive drop from .346 the previous year: "Jason's going to grow in that area. He's going to get better. For anybody to think that this player is a finished product ... that's just not the case."

When the season ended, Charlie noticed something in his season review of Bay that had escaped me during the season. Looking at all of the times during the season when Bay came to the plate with someone on base, he killed the ball whenever someone was on first base and didn't when first base was open, though his OBP was incredibly high with first base open. This trend will continue next year with Xavier Nady and Ryan Doumit batting behind him. Not might continue. Not could continue. Will continue. I'll agree that Bay may not be a finished product (before the season BP ranked their top 30 players on ESPN and under Bay's name mentioned that Canadians tend to peak at a later age than typical US players because they play shorter seasons their whole lives until college, I don't feel like dredging up the link so you'll have to take my word for it), but without protection his average with runners in scoring position isn't changing.

Ronny Paulino: ...he pointed to better power -- he hit only six home runs -- and plenty of room to improve his receiving behind the plate: "Is he capable of more power? Yes. Do I want to see him change his approach and become a dead-pull hitter? No. I just want him to continue to develop, and the power always is the last thing to show up. Defensively ... he's a big man, and he has to improve his footwork. But we'll work hard on that in the spring."

Wait, so he thinks he's capable of more power, but he doesn't want him to try and hit for more power, then he quickly changes the subject and talks about defense. Paulino actually could improve on his season this year even if his batting average drops considerably because he hit for such little power last year and he showed decent power in the minors. I'll just take Tracy's comments to mean, "If Ronny starts swinging like Jose Castillo I'll kill myself." So we kind of agree on one out of three.