Understocked Manager at Overstock.com Coliseum
The Oakland A’s return home tomorrow to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, except that it is no longer the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum but Overstock.com Coliseum. What a mess of a name. Regardless, they return from a 3-4 road-trip against the M’s and Halos which featured among other things, some of the worst hitting around and more dumbfounding managerial moves. This is a blueprint for fixing this broken team.
Yesterday, while listening to A’s Talk with Chris Townsend a caller called in late proposing wholesale changes to the A’s roster, he said he really liked Landon Powell and wanted him at first (anyone who knows my take on Landon Powell knows that I too want him starting – in Sacramento mind you) and a whole slew of other crazy changes. One of the crazy changes that Townsend summarily dismissed was actually the only one I thought had any merit, installing Conor Jackson as our starting third baseman. Conor Jackson has played all of four innings spread across three games in his MLB career, including one here with the A’s at Chicago on the 13th of April – at the time I erroneously reported it was his first action at 3B but he also played two games there while with the D-backs in 2007. Originally however while at Cal he played the hot corner, and while there is a whole world of difference between Cal baseball and MLB – something needs to be done about our production at third and somehow we need to get some juice into this lineup.
Now first off everything is relative, but compared to most guys on our team Jackson is actually hitting. He has a solid .255/.327/.362 slash line in his 15 games, and has a wRC+ of 104 and wOBA of .316. Comparing this to Kevin Kouzmanoff and Andy LaRoche it becomes clearer why you give Jackson a shot at third base more often (if you are refusing to give Andy LaRoche the starting job as it appears Bob Geren is unwilling to do):
Frankly we need to get both Geren and Billy Beane to come to the realization that the Kouzmanoff experiment is over. He needs to be sent out of town. His value is next to nil in a trade, but his value to this team is next to nil as well. His roster spot is quite simply more valuable than having him on this team. So I propose, either keeping Kouzmanoff around until Adam Rosales returns then DFA’ing him or trying to trade him now for some sort of backup infield type with options but if that is impossible DFA’ing him now and getting Eric Sogard or Steve Tolleson up from Sacramento. Kouzmanoff is not bringing a worthwhile stick, and he certainly isn’t showing a worthwhile glove (see: Errors, six). Overstock.com always offers $2.95 shipping on your entire order, if we are able to ship Kouzmanoff for $2.95 it is worthwhile.
So what else? We need to fix our bullpen mess. The mess really isn’t the pitchers in the bullpen so much as the roles they’ve been slotted into. Jerry Blevins and Brian Fuentes should be used exclusively against left-handers or in games that have gotten out of hand if they’re to be used against righties. For the “closing role” in the interim before Andrew Bailey returns lets use Grant Balfour or David Purcey, choosing them perhaps based on matchups (more lefty-heavy put in Purcey, more righty-heavy put in Balfour). I even would consider Brad Ziegler for the closing role, despite his not always hot splits because closing to me is a role where the players temperament means a bit more and I think Ziegler possesses the proper temperament. This is a crucial one though, the bullpen is giving up games not because they are bad pitchers, but because they’re being put into games at poor moments.
Next, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Yesterday there was no reason to remove Tyson Ross from the game. He had a pitch count under eighty and though Balfour got the job done, as we know Fuentes didn’t. I struggle to understand why Geren feels as though if he does not follow some sort of regimented “set-up guy to closer” type routine that the world will come to a swift end. It won’t. Be flexible. Use people in their most appropriate roles and if that means letting a starter continue throwing, let the starter continue. Rigid thinking leads to losses.
Managing time off. Mark Ellis was in a terrible slump, he also is a perennial injury concern, why didn’t Geren give him a night off? Yet Daric Barton who had “two hits” (a double that was incorrectly ruled foul and an infield hit on which he was incorrectly ruled out) on Tuesday was benched because (presumably the box score 0-for-4 resonated with Geren) he was in a slump and would be best served by watching the game. Barton is an iron man, he himself admitted to being too much inside his own head, and letting him sit and stew about seems a poor idea. Yet Ellis, who admits to swinging at poor pitches, and who is far from an iron man, is left in the lineup when we have Andy LaRoche capable of playing second just sitting there? Makes no sense. Geren needs to better manage time off to prevent injuries (in the case of Ellis) and put the best possible team on the field (the underuse of LaRoche and Barton).
This team has flaws, they can’t score at all, so we need to be smart and do some hit-and-runs and other things like that (no I am not advocating sacrifice bunting) to put some movement into the offense and generate some runs. We don’t have a big bat and while I think that we have a team-wide slump to a degree and things will revert back to normal for a lot of guys, we are presently wasting good pitching performances left and right and that is simply unacceptable. With this one minor-roster tweak, and a smarter more intelligent usage plan for both the bullpen and our starting lineup the A’s can win a lot of ballgames. The time to make these changes is now.