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.
|% starters having a platoon advantage||1.001|
|Pinch hitters used||0.656|
|Pinch runners used||0.929|
|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|
|Runner moving with the pitch||0.636|
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.