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At the end of the last season, I called for the Padres to fire manager Bud Black and replace him with Brad Ausmus. It wasn’t personal. It still isn’t. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence Black hasn’t made the playoffs since taking over for Bruce Bochy in 2007. To put it plainly, Black is trying to win a new-school game with old-school tactics, and he’s hurting his team in the process.
I don’t have the time to write, and you don’t have the time to read, a post about all of the things that Black does wrong as a modern-day manager. So let’s focus on the No. 2 hitter in his lineup.
The old-school book says to put a bat-control guy here. Not a great hitter, but someone who can move the lead-off hitter over for one of the next two hitters to drive in.
The Books says the #2 hitter comes to bat in situations about as important as the #3 hitter, but more often. That means the #2 hitter should be better than the #3 guy, and one of the best three hitters overall. And since he bats with the bases empty more often than the hitters behind him, he should be a high-OBP player. Doesn’t sound like someone who should be sacrificing, does it?
This season, Black has regularly put Alexi Amarista in the No. 2 hole. You can probably imagine my reaction to that once I started digging through the numbers …
The only Padre that had 100+ PA last year and a WORSE OBP than Amarista? Kotsay. — John Gennaro (@John_Gennaro) April 15, 2014
The only Padre that had 100+ PA last year and has a worse offensive WAR than Amarista? Kotsay! — John Gennaro (@John_Gennaro) April 15, 2014
Amarista is not a good hitter. Not one of the team’s 3 best. And he’s not a good OBP guy. He should be nowhere near the 2 hole. — John Gennaro (@John_Gennaro) April 15, 2014
If you want to simplify things, your team’s three best hitters should be hitting first, second and fourth in your lineup. Take your team’s three best hitters, and put the fastest one at No. 1, the one with the most power at No. 4, and the third guy at No. 2. That’s an idiot’s guide to an optimal baseball lineup.
Amarista is clearly not one of the team’s three best hitters. The only player worse than him with the bat last year retired this offseason. Alexi is not only someone I don’t want getting the second most at-bats in any given game (or season) for the Padres, but he also offers nothing defense-wise and isn’t much of a base-stealer, either.
Why would Black go completely against mathematics? His reasoning for batting Amarista second is probably similar to his reasoning for batting Will Venable second last season. He thinks that it’s more important to have his two fastest guys in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots rather than his two best hitters. He also wants a No. 2 hitter who can bunt to sacrifice the lead-off guy into scoring position for his No. 3 hitter because nothing makes sense anymore.
Black is living in the past. There are three types of winning franchises in MLB right now: teams that can outspend everyone else to field a more-talented roster night in and night out (Dodgers), teams that need to pay attention to statistics to gain an edge (Rays, A’s) and teams that have a bit of money but still optimize their team and find themselves back in the World Series consistently (Red Sox, Cardinals).
That was the effect of Billy Beane’s “Moneyball” philosophy. Teams like the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays are spending roughly what San Diego is on their payroll, but they’ve found consistent success by paying attention to the numbers and optimizing their team to match those figures. Those teams are trying to win the war with new technologies, while Black is trying to stop tanks with a musket. When he loses, he’ll once again blame his tools and ignore the countless ways in which he’s putting his team in a position to lose.
I’ve given up on Black ever figuring it out. I won’t be sad to see him released when he misses the playoffs again in 2014. A lot of really smart baseball people have said they knew Black would make a fine manager when he was still pitching in the majors. I’m sure, at that time, he would’ve fit in just fine. But even though he’s not very old, the Padres skipper has let the game pass him by , and everyone associated with the team has had to suffer the consequences.
Just for fun, here’s my optimized 2014 Padres lineup (with current streaking/injuries):
Everth Cabrera, SS
Chase Headley, 3B
Seth Smith, LF
Jedd Gyorko, 2B
Yonder Alonso, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Will Venable, CF
Chris Denorfia, RF