Just an awful loss at San Francisco yesterday, but the top of the ninth was far worse than the bottom. If properly handled, Bruce will be a better player because of what happened. Many, however, should be interested in the way I had the top of the ninth analyzed for me. I live in Chicago and only receive the Reds games through Extra Innings where you take the television feed you're given. Yesterday, we had the San Francisco announcers. This isn't a verbatim report of what they said, but it's pretty close. In the top of the ninth, as the third consecutive single is being struck: "This ballgame is tied...no, no it's not, the runner is being held up at third." As the fourth consecutive single is struck: "the Reds lead...no, the runners is being held up. I don't know why they are challenging our outfielders. I guess they just want to play it safe." Exactly. There is a huge difference between managing to win and managing not to lose. After the fourth single, the score should have been 4-3 with runners on first and second, no outs, and a bunt in order--different ballgame. I'm not sure it was Berry's fault however. He was probably following orders. And since when is Wilson Valdez the pinch hitter of choice? Why not Mike Leake: fast, a contact hitter, and an excellent bat manipulator.
Here's one way to look at the role of the manager of a major league baseball team that has some currency. Unless the team is a statistical outlier, it's going to win one-third of their games (54) and lose one-third. Of the remaining 54, slightly more than two-thirds (say 40 for the sake of simplicity are decided by forces beyond a manager's control: one team is better than the other, one starting pitcher is better than the other, etc. That leaves about one-tenth of the games (16) to be influenced by moves a manager makes--or doesn't make: a clever substitution, a daring play at the right time, holding runners who should have been sent, etc. By these standards, Dusty Baker's passive/aggressive "old school" (whatever that means) approach to managing not to lose makes him a 4-12, maybe 3-13 manager. Compare him to Tony LaRussa or the pre-injuries Ron Gardenheier who I think consensus thinking would see as 12-4's. In doing this, force yourself to try to remember a single game this season when you thought DB was directly responsible for a key decision that resulted in a win. Maybe the squeeze in the first Detroit game. On the other hand, you can lay five or six defeats directly at his doorstep. If the Reds were a team such as the pre-injury Phillies where you could roll out the lineup day after day and win, then he might be satisfactory, but the Reds aren't. It's a team that has to be actively, not passively managed because of its youth and relatively unbridled potential. We do have some veterans who don't need active managing (Phillips, Votto, Rolen, and Arroyo,) for example), but look at the raw talent of players younger than 27 upon whom so much of the season is going to hinge: Chapman, Latos, Leake, Cozart, Frazier, and Bruce. They need something that DB can't offer.
And, of course, DB is directly responsible for the bleeding ulcer that the lineup is through his stubborn refusal to recognize that Drew Stubbs is not a no. 2 hitter. It is a fact that the Reds averaged almost one and a half more runs per game when Stubbs was on the DL and somebody/anybody else was batting second. Here are the statistics, taken from mlb.com after yesterday's games for the nine National League no. 2 batters yesterday who have more than 200 at bats. They are expressed as team, player, on base percentage, and strikeouts as a percentage of at bats (K's divided by at bats).
Philadelphia Pierre .357 5.3 (12/223)
Miami Ramirez .332 19.6 (59/301)
Washington Harper .348 21.9 (49/223)
Atlanta Prado .384 10.8 (32/296)
Pittsburgh Tabata .295 16.9 (43/253)
Houston Lowrie .342 19.4 (50/257)
Chicago Castro .318 18.5 (55/296)
Colorado Scutaro .337 9.1 (27/296)
Cincinnati Stubbs .304 29.3 (66/225)
Those numbers aren't lying, folks. In a key position where the highest priority is to make contact, either to reach base yourself or to move a runner along, Stubbs ranks next to last in on-base percentage and dead first (!) in strikeouts as a percentage of at bats by a large margin. That is one of the key reasons this team is underperforming.
Even the manager of a sandlot team would know that a stronger lineup is: Cozart, (Phillips .329, 12.4 (34/274), Votto, Bruce, Frazier, Heisey/Ludwick, Stubbs, Hanigan, and the pitcher.
With how much more of this do we have to put up? Does the season have to go south? If The Mayor were managing the Cincinnati Reds, we would be ahead by 8-10 games right now, and almost cruising.