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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Steve Henson: Rockies’ Project 5,183 is historically wacky, and it’s not helping league’s worst pitching staff

LOS ANGELES – This isn’t the first time Jim Tracy’s front-office bosses have tried to reinvent baseball. So excuse the Colorado Rockies manager if he isn’t in mutiny mode just because he must pull his starters after only 75 pitches and the first reliever he summons is called a “piggyback” and the entire cockamamie plan was dubbed Project 5,183 because that’s the altitude at Coors Field.

The Rockies could become the first team in baseball history without a single pitcher logging at least 100 innings. It’s a distinction to file under Just Plain Weird and will have taken a perfect storm of injuries, ineptitude and idiocy to happen. The plan was implemented in mid-June when it was clear the season was lost, and it’s only gotten worse: Colorado is 39-68 and in last place in the National League West.
“We wouldn’t have ventured into this if we were in a pennant race,” Tracy said. “It’s very safe to say we’re not. We have nothing to lose. We are looking at young players. We’re trying to figure out if this will work period, let alone in a pennant race.”
Seven years ago, Tracy managed the Los Angeles Dodgers and was force-fed a roster by young, Moneyball-weaned general manager Paul DePodesta, who revered on-base percentage over a decent glove, decent speed and superior instincts. Tracy dutifully played Hee-Seop Choi at first base, Oscar Robles at third and Dioner Navarro at catcher, and even lesser lights dotted the roster. The Dodgers lost 22 more games than the year before, and finally Tracy had enough. He quit in a huff and found refuge with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had little talent but let him manage the way he believed this game ought to be managed.
That led to a shot with the Rockies early in the 2009 season, and the team made the postseason and Tracy was named National League manager of the year. His methods weren’t revolutionary, he was happily tried and true, and that was the whole point.
Now it’s getting crackpot weird again. Is it 2005 revisited?

Tripon Posted: August 08, 2012 at 12:29 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rockies

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   1. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: August 08, 2012 at 02:34 AM (#4202951)
Well whatever they're doing with the pitching staff, it's been very effective the last two games :(
   2. Walt Davis Posted: August 08, 2012 at 06:18 AM (#4202963)
If by "played Hee Seop Choi" you mean:

a) gave him 19 starts over 2 months at the end of 2004
b) sterted him in only 14 of the team's first 23 games in 2005
c) then started him in 9 of 11 games during which Choi hit 371/450/743
d) so he gave him just 10 starts in 17 games
e) later Choi gets another stretch of 10 starts in 11 games, hitting 243/300/811 (yes, he slugged 811)

All told on the year, Choi got only 78 starts. He posted a 107 OPS+ and is credited with -1 Rfield. The Dodgers' other main 1B was Olmedo Saenz who had essentially the same numbers as Choi (offense and defense). They also played Jeff Kent there a bit but also made sure to waste PAs on 18 starts for Jason Phillips (bad hitter, bad fielder).

Navarro was 21, held down until the end of July. He put up a 94 OPS+, a -2 Rfield and put up .7 WAR in 50 games. He took over the main catching duties from, yep, Jason Phillips.

I think it was Szym who brought this to our attention years ago but Choi as a starter hit 251/360/460 for his career -- not world beating in those days but perfectly decent production. As a sub (including PH), he hit 157/256/255. In reality, nobody ever gave Choi a shot, never topping 416 PA in a aseason. The closest he came was 79 starts in 95 games with the Marlins and in that stretch he hit 270/388/495 (132 OPS+) so naturally Tracy sent him to the bench when he got to LA.

In fact, Choi started 18 of 32 games through Sept 4.

He came on in the 11th inning on Sept 5.

He got one PA on Sept 14.

He got one PA on Sept 21.

He entered the game but no PA on Sept 25.

He got one PA on Sept 30, Oct 1 and Oct 2.

He got a start on Oct 3.

He got one PA in the playoffs.

   3. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: August 08, 2012 at 11:27 PM (#4203963)
He quit in a huff and found refuge with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had little talent but let him manage the way he believed this game ought to be managed.

The "way he believed this game ought to be managed" evidently involved picking up every possible ex-Dodger scrub and giving them way too much playing time, like a man who forces his mistress to dye her hair so that it matches his ex-wife's color. It also involved taking all the credit when things went right, and passing the buck onto the closest target of opportunity when things went wrong.

Tracy was a terrible manager and a lousy human being to boot, and I don't miss him at all. I hope he trips at the zoo and his legs get eaten by a bear.
   4. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: August 08, 2012 at 11:58 PM (#4203981)
Who were all these ex-Dodger scrubs? He was only manager for two years (praise be to the Lord).

I see Mike Edwards, Jose Hernandez and Cesar Izturis. The former two were certainly useless, especially Edwards, who was on the roster for two months and got 18 at-bats. He wasn't even a catcher! Izturis was a great pickup as backup shortstop, albeit the Pirates had no need for a great backup shortstop.

Much bigger problems were the choices of who to put in the lineup (the corpse of Sean Casey, the corpse of Joe Randa, the corpse of Jeromy Burnitz; Ronny Paulino over Ryan Doumit; Chris Duffy over Rajai Davis or for that matter anyone). That and having the future best home run hitter in baseball in their lineup for two full years, at no point during which did he look as promising as, say, Lucas Duda looks today.

Putting one of Jim Tracy's cronies on the bench in place of someone with a bright future like Yurendell De Caster or J.J. Furmaniak seems like it would be a small price to pay to get the rest of Jim Tracy's wisdom and strategic thinking. Albeit of course there is no evidence that he possesses those qualities.
   5. jack the seal clubber (on the sidelines of life) Posted: August 09, 2012 at 12:42 AM (#4204003)
Tracy was a terrible manager and a lousy human being to boot, and I don't miss him at all. I hope he trips at the zoo and his legs get eaten by a bear.

having read the excerpt I can't argue with this at
   6. McCoy Posted: August 09, 2012 at 12:49 AM (#4204006)
The Cubs had a plethora a guys who it seems were never really given a shot. Rosie Brown, Julio Zuleta, Hee Sop Choi, Tuffy Rhodes, and the Cubs refused to give Angel Pagan a real chance and allowed someone else to do it.
   7. Endless Trash Posted: August 09, 2012 at 12:54 AM (#4204010)
What is Vlad referring to with his link in 3? Over my head, apparently.
   8. McCoy Posted: August 09, 2012 at 12:58 AM (#4204012)

Cutting short the maternity leave during the end of season in which the Pirates were guaranteed a losing season and were in the middle of huge losing stretch. There was nothing to play for.
   9. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: August 09, 2012 at 02:56 AM (#4204039)
Having seen most of Choi's age 27 season in AAA, while he was an enormous and intimidating dude at the plate, he had a weird approach. It seemed like he wasn't really paying attention half the time, which I can imagine would drive a manager nuts. Maybe he'd just given up by that point.

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