The Coors Effect

July 22, 2010 4:05 PM

Jim Tracy has Clint Hurdle disease

With the way the Rockies finished the first half, it looked like there was a good shot that the team would be a strong contender to win the NL West.

Well, not if the team keeps playing like this.

Notice something?  When Jim Tracy took over for Clint Hurdle midway through last season, one of his first moves was to stop jerking players around and stick with a consistent lineup every day.  Instead of coming to the ballpark not knowing where they would be that day, players came to the ballpark knowing exactly what was expected of them, every day.  Yeah, of course, players need a day off every now and then, but under Tracy, bench players became just that: bench players.  And starters became starters.  Rather than figuring that because some of his bench players were good, he was obligated to play them a few times a week, Tracy mostly stuck with the starters.

And that was what Tracy was doing shortly before the All-Star break.  Yeah, there were a couple of exceptions; Hawpe had to sit a few games because of injuries, Helton got hurt, Giambi literally isn't capable of playing in the field every day, and of course you're going to kill your catcher if you start him every day.  Barmes and Herrera were givens in the lineup every day, as they still are, and Ian Stewart plays most of the time with Melvin Mora getting a start here and there (normally against lefties.)

What's changed since the break... well, what the hell Tracy is doing with the outfielders has changed.  Yes, Jim Tracy has contracted Clint Hurdle disease, and it's not pretty.  In seven games since the All-Star break, Tracy has used five different outfield combinations, and... well, we can't figure out why he's doing it, but it's the same thing that Hurdle used to do.  You've got five outfielders capable of starting for a major league team?  Well, start them all!  And Tracy is worse in one respect; with all the outfield shuffling that went on under Hurdle, you could at least count on Brad Hawpe being in the lineup every day.  Hawpe's not injured any more, but he's still been relegated to being a part-time player.  And yeah, Hawpe isn't having a great season, but why isn't Carlos Gonzalez (who, after all, leads the team with 17 homers) playing every day?  Or Seth Smith?

Dexter Fowler hits a slump and gets benched.  Miguel Olivo is starting to ride the bench quite a bit, not because he's not hitting well, but because Chris Iannetta has had a power surge lately (though, he's still the same hitter he's always been.)  This needs to stop.  Hurdle got in trouble because of the constant lineup tinkering, benching players for a little slump or -- gag me -- swinging at the first pitch.  Yeah, Hurdle was correct that he had more than eight players who were capable of starting, but incorrect to surmise that that situation meant he was obligated to try to fit everyone into the lineup every now and then.  Tracy started out by changing that, but now he's fallen into the same trap: responding to slumps by benching the guy, responding to hot streaks by giving the guy more playing time.  In theory, it sounds like a good idea, but what's really happening is that it's messing with the players' minds.  What, you think you could do well if you knew that an 0-for-4 would have you riding the bench for the next game or two?  These guys are pressing, trying to do too much because they know if they don't do something, they'll get benched.  And when they press... they end up doing nothing, and getting benched.

And when the hitters are doing nothing, you wind up with something like the current roadtrip, on which the Rockies have played seven games and scored 26 runs... with 18 of those coming in two games.  What's the offense doing right now?  Nothing.  Tracy's current managerial style seems to be ruining the offense.  Memo to Jim Tracy: figure out who your starters are, and act accordingly.  No more of this running different guys out there every day, just because you can.  No more playing Melvin Mora in the outfield (seriously, the outfield's crowded enough already; don't try to get Mora playing time there.)  Pick your guys, and stick with them.  It's what you did last year, and it worked.  Now, what?  You think you should be doing the same thing that got Clint Hurdle fired?

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