Thursday, October 30, 2008


My initial reaction to the hiring of Ken Macha is negative. I think Bob Brenly would have been a better choice. It's also my feeling that if I think that, I ought to say something about it now if I want to reserve the right to complain about him when I think complaining is due. So here I am. I do not like the choice of Ken Macha as the next Brewers' manager. Here's why:

1. Macha, for the most part, was a puppet to Billy Beane. He said in an interview that he had no say whatsoever as to the personnel makeup of the team. It's pretty commonly known who was calling the shots during his time in Oakland. So, while Macha has four year's experience and two playoff appearances, it's tough to judge exactly what kind of manager he will be, or more accurately how his presence on the team will help or hurt.

2. Macha's managing style, if he has one, was similar to that of Ned Yost - sit back and wait for the home run. Using stats from the 2007 Bill James Handbook, I calculated Macha's use of various strategy techniques compared to his AL counterparts for the 2006 season - his last in Oakland. The numbers show are a ratio of Macha's total and the average of all other managers in the league.

Lineups Used 1.067
% starters having a platoon advantage 1.001
Pinch hitters used 0.656
Pinch runners used 0.929
Defensive substitutions 0.645
Quick hooks for starting pitchers 0.963
Slow hooks for starting pitchers 1.170
120+ pitches by starting pitcher 2.963
Relievers used on consecutive days 1.229
Long (>1 IP) saves 1.026
Relief pitchers used 1.014
Stolen base attempts 0.629
Sacrific attempts 0.642
Runner moving with the pitch 0.636
Intentional walks 1.277
Pitch outs 0.932

Macha did not use a lot of pinch hitters or defensive substitutions. He also made far less than average use of stolen bases, sacrifices, and the hit and run. He pretty much filled out the lineup card and let them play. (In Macha's defense, this is also Billy Beane's style.)

As for his handling of the pitching staff, again he tends to stay with his starters longer than average and in 2006 led the AL in number of times allowing his starter to reach the 120 pitch mark.

These things give me deja vu.

3. Macha was not popular with his players (and one of them plays here now). I ran across these two articles from the San Francisco Chronicle that were written around the time of Macha's firing in Oakland:

Disconnected - GM Again Cuts Ties With Macha

"The whole thing was a weird situation for me because ever since he came here, we had a pretty good relationship, but over the last couple years, I could see things unfold, and I kept hearing things,'' Chavez said. "He's always been very open and communicative with me, and with some other players, that wasn't true. I heard some things that were kind of disturbing. I think there are going to be a lot of guys who are happy about this.''

"I felt like he didn't protect me,'' Zito said.

"When I got injured, I felt disrespected,'' Kotsay said.

"I don't want Billy to take heat for this [Macha's firing] because this is what needed to happen,'' Kendall said. "If Billy is comfortable with it, we're behind Billy. Maybe Billy saw the same thing the players saw. If Billy gets blasted in the media, it's ridiculous. Billy's going to get a lashing, and he shouldn't.''

YES - *JASON* Kendall said that. **OUR** Jason Kendall.

'Hurt" By Players' Comments, Macha Tells His Side of the Story

"I'm on the field (before games) everyday. I'm on the airplane with them. In my office with the door open," Macha said. "If anyone wants to talk to me about something, I'll give them an answer. Maybe people didn't want to hear the answers I was going to give them, and maybe that's why they didn't want to come in. But I was available."

I'm sorry, but didn't we just fire this same guy?

4. Macha does not seem to have nearly the media savy that Bob Brenly does. Bob Brenly is in the media. He knows how to deal with people in the media. I think a lot of people underestimate the importance of this. Ned Yost was horrible in front of the camera. He often seemed uptight, aggitated, and defensive. This was, in my opinion, great cause of fans' displeasure with him despite the team's success. Ned too often made it seem like things were going poorly. People pick up on that.

I must confess that I have not seen a lot of Ken Macha press conferences, but I don't ever remember him wowwing me in the ones I have.

5. Macha's success and only experience was in the American League. Brenly's was in the National League. It might be easy to make too big a deal of this, but there are some differences. Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa have shown that a good manager can manage anywhere. We don't know yet though if Macha will ever have a seat in that class.

For what it's worth, I hope I'm wrong. I hope Ken Macha clicks with this team, they play well for him, and make the playoffs again next year. But if things start going sour and the captain starts losing control of the ship, you can be sure you will read about it on In-Between Hops.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CC Math

Rumor is that the Brewers may to offer CC Sabathia a 4-year $100 million contract to stay in Milwaukee. The idea is that offering him more per year but for fewer years might get a deal done.

Doubters say that by taking such an offer he would probably be turning down and additional $50 million in guaranteed money that he could get by signing a 6-year deal somewhere else.

Look at this deal from the Brewers perspective. Suppose that every fan that walks in Miller Park spends on average $40. (I don't know what the exact figure is, but I think that's pretty close.) To pay Sabathia's salary, you would need 625,000 fans. To put it another way, suppose that if the Brewers signed Sabathia, they would equal last year's attendance figure of 3.1 million. Is it plausible that without Sabathia the attendance would dip to 2.5 million? I think it would be very reasonable to suspect that.

Now look at it from Sabathia's standpoint. He's not giving up $50 million. After four years, he'll still be playing ball and can still sign a contract with somebody else. Even if his production declines, you would assume that he would still be in the $10 million per year range at that point. Couple that with the fact that the Brewers' deal might be $3-4 million more now than he might get if he signed a longer deal elsewhere, he's really not risking all that much.

I think this deal would be a win-win and I would be very happy if it went down.


As I write this, about 8:00 p.m. Central time on Wednesday, it is not raining in Philadelphia - theoretically they could be playing. I'm sure the field is a mess and it's a wise decision to push the game back until Wednesday - which by the way is the day that Game 6 was scheduled to be played; the game that Major League baseball pushed back a half hour to accommodate Barack Obama's infomercial - but I digress.

The last two innings of last night's game should have never been played. Those weren't conditions suitable for a World Series. The reason the were played was of course was because they wanted to avoid the embarrassment of the game ending under a rain delay.

I think baseball should just change the rule to say that any game that starts will be finished. Period. All games will go nine innings. That way the umpires can call a game when they see fit without regard for the score. For the sake of the starting pitchers, I would like to see at least a one hour window of dry weather for a game to start, but in today's age of Doppler radar, anyone with an internet connection can predict that with pinpoint accuracy. As unfortunate as it is when a team loses a six inning, rain shortened game, it's equally unfortunate when a team builds up a five run lead in the first three innings only to have it wiped out by weather. Forget all of that. Just say that if the first pitch is thrown, the last one will be too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Odds & Ends: Bob Brenly

Brenly was the fourth manager in history to win a World Series in his first year managing - 2001 with the Diamondbacks.

In 2001, Brenly led the Major Leagues in most times keeping a starting pitcher in the game for 120+ pitches with 22. The next closest manager that year had 10. He had Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson on that team, but still.

When Brenly was fired in 2004, the Diamondbacks record was 29-50; a .367 W/L percentage. Al Pedrique took over for the rest of that season and remarkably the team got much worse, going 22-61 the rest of the way; a .265 percentage. Perhaps Brenly wasn't the problem.

Robin Yount was Brenly's bench coach in 2004. Yount resigned after Brenly was fired out of respect for him. I wonder if Brenly gets the Brewers job if he would talk Yount into returning in that role. Maybe he would even find a place for Dale Sveum.

On September 13, 2008, two days before Ned Yost was fired, Brenly signed a four year contract extension to continue as a color commentator for the Cubs.

Brenly has a son Michael who is a catcher in the Cubs organization.

In addition to his broadcasting gigs, Brenly worked for three years as a coach in San Francisco under Dusty Baker.

During his playing career, Brenly was managed by Frank Robinson and Roger Craig for three full seasons each.

At Ohio University, Brenly tied Mike Schmidt's single season home run record.

Once Brenly made 4 errors in a game at third bae but later went on to hit the game winning home run.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Direction

Hi again. I haven't written in a while. I've been very busy mostly, but after my attempt at poetry after the Ned Yost firing, a few people suggested that maybe blogging wasn't my thing. Now that I have taken a few weeks off, those same people are asking me to post again. Either 'you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone,' or 'careful what you wish for.'

Just a few random thoughts to get caught back up...

I was obviously happy that the Brewers snuck into the playoffs. Game 3 at Miller Park was the most electric I've ever witnessed there. I really don't think getting in had much to do with Ned Yost being gone, nor with Dale Sveum at the helm. It just happened (with a little help from the Mets.) If the Brewers had won one of those four games against the Phillies in September, Ned Yost probably wouldn't have been fired, the Brewers probably would gotten in the playoffs anyway, lost in the first round anyway, and might still be looking for a new manager anyway.

I'll talk more later about Sveum, but I wasn't thrilled with his managing style. Way to much bunting, and bunting for the sake of bunting. I don't like bunting. Ergo...

As I watched the series against the Phillies, it stuck me how much better the Brewers would have to be to be one of the elite teams in the league. The Phillies have them beat at almost every position. For the long haul, I'd take Ryan Braun, but for a single season there isn't much of a drop off in Pat Burell. As for the other two outfield spots, I'd take Jayson Werth or Shane Victorino over either Mike Cameron or Corey Hart without too much hesitation. Prince Fielder is good, but Ryan Howard is better. Second base isn't even close with Chase Utley. Shortstop is about a wash, and neither team has a third baseman or catcher to speak of. The Brewers had an edge in pitching with CC, but he showed up to the playoffs with not much gas left in his tank and that was all the Phills needed for a convincing win.

Back to Sveum. Doug Melvin made the right move. There a perception among lots of people that once a person has played here, or has lived here, or has had some other connection to the organization in the past, that they are much better than they really are. Ned Yost made a 6 year managing career riding this perception. Craig Counsell extended his career by at least two years on this. And it is the reason that a lot of people wanted Dale Sveum to be retained as the Brewers next manager. The only reason. I'm sure Dale Sveum is a great guy, but I think he would be in over his head managing the Brewers. This is a young team in desperate need of strong direction. There is a lot of young talent that properly molded could be turned into a championship caliber team. The job of managing the Brewers in 2009 will require a much different set of skills, priorities, and impatience than it has over the last six. Dale Sveum's greatest shortcoming may be that he worked too long for Ned Yost. The Brewers can't take a chance that some of that rubbed off. Sveum said "his heart was ripped out" when he heard the news that he didn't get the job. Suck it up. You get to be friends with Robin Yount.

Because he released Sveum, it's obvious that Doug Melvin has another candidate in mind. If I had to guess, I would say that would be Ken Macha. Macha is the guy that Doug Melvin wanted in 2003 before he took the A's job. His teams averaged 91 wins a season during his four years at the helm. His failure to win in the playoffs did him in. I ran across this blog:

"As usual, you left in the starters just long enough to give up enough runs to lose."

" won't sit Kendall because he might get upset."

"This team could do nothing else in the offseason and win at least five more games next year just because you're not asleep in the goddamn dugout."
Deja vu?

If I were allowed to pick, knowing what little I do, I might select Bob Brenly as the next manager of the Brewers. Brenly led the Arizona Diamondbacks to a World Series championship in his first season managing although the makeup of that team, mostly aging veterans, was very different from the current Brewers squad. Still, it shows the ability to walk into and existing quality situation and take the team to the top. Brenly's wikipedia entry contains the following:
Bob Brenly's only curtain call in baseball occurred during a minor league game (teams and date unknown). Brenly's team was on the road, and the home team's fans designated him as the game's "Beer Batter," where if the player struck out, beer in the stadium would be sold at half price for the rest of the game. After Brenly struck out, the fans stood on their feet and cheered for him as he came back out from the dugout and acknowledged the crowd.
How can you not like that?

The most intriguing name to come up for the Brewers spot is Bobby Valentine.

Valentine has been managing in Japan since 2003. I would be curious to see what idiosyncrasies of the game he would bring back with him and how those would play out here. In Japan for example, the starting pitchers only pitch once a week. I'm not suggesting that he would do that here, but he would certainly have formed an opinion about it and it may have an influence on his managing style.

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