FIRE JOE MORGAN: Doing John Kruk's Research For Him, Vol. XXXVII


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Thursday, August 11, 2005


Doing John Kruk's Research For Him, Vol. XXXVII

John Kruk has some ideas regarding Oakland's recent success. This should be good.

Kruk notes that he's glad the steroids controversy is dying down because:

"I'd much rather talk about the wild-card races and the great job the Oakland Athletics and manager Ken Macha have done in the past few months. Macha has this team working on all cylinders..."

Okay, nothing against Ken Macha, but where is the evidence that he's doing anything differently than he was in May? And also, how can you possibly talk about the A's going on a crazy second half run for like the 20th year in a row, with a lineup full of 24 year olds, and not mention Billy Beane even once? I seem to remember a lot of baseball pundits talking about how the "Moneyball" approach doesn't work without Hudson and Mulder; shouldn't those same pundits give the guy a little credit? I'm not saying Billy Beane is the sole reason for the A's being awesome, but attributing their success to Ken Macha is like eating a delicious meal and giving all the credit to the waiter.

"Also, the Athletics' hitters seem to be getting more aggressive when they are at bat...The rumor that I've heard is that Macha is encouraging his hitters to be more aggressive, making pitchers have to guess more in terms of their pitches. Over the years, pitchers have been able to get ahead in the count because they know they can get a pitch in the strike zone early without fear of the batter swinging. Now they have to start working a little harder earlier in the count."

>>First of all, I recognize oblique criticism of the OBP-centric approach when I see it. It's like these guys are so desperate to discredit this style of play that they'll latch on to anything, even an unsubstantiated rumor. And speaking of rumors, you know what I do when I hear one? I try to find out whether or not it's true. Weird, I know, but that's how I play it, friend. You know what's even weirder? Sometimes I use statistics to support my arguments.

Oakland A's P/PA
April 3.86
May 3.86
June 3.83
July 3.89
August 3.76

More aggressive, huh? It sure wouldn't seem that way, aside from the 9 games they've played in August. But forget about the numbers, Krukie. Tell me a story!

"If the rumor is true, it's a brilliant move by Macha because pitchers can get lazy and think that hitters are just automatons sometimes. I remember a game against the San Diego Padres when I played for the Phillies that went into extra innings. Padres' hitter extraordinaire Tony Gwynn had a reputation for letting the first pitch always go by him, but every once in a while he'd take a hack just to keep a pitcher honest. Before we went back into the field I told the pitcher that Gwynn might be looking to take a big swing if it was a fastball. The pitcher ignored me and Gwynn stepped up and hit a bomb that ended up winning the Padres the game."

Oh my god, you're right! Ken Macha must have seen that at-bat, shown it to all of his players, and told them "See? This Pads-Phillies game from 1994 is the reason you've gotta stop trying to get on base all the time! What more evidence do you need?"

By the way, this is how I imagine that conversation between Kruk and that pitcher.

"Hey. HEY! Tonnny Gwynn's gonna swing atta fassball."
"Jesus, John. You're sweating pretty bad."
"He's gonna sssswing attit!"
"Are you drunk?"
"I'm gonna sw...Tonygwynnns gonna swing atta fassball!"
"Where is your jersey? C'mon. I'll help you find it."
"I gotta lie down."

posted by Murbles  # 11:45 AM
Again, I would love to hear just one analyst say: "You know what probably accounts for the A's recent success? All their guys who were injured got healthy, and Eric Chavez started hitting."
If a team's performance were as tied to managerial aptitude as analysts would have us believe, then why has Ken Macha been one of the worst managers in April and May over the past three seasons? Macha then somehow convinces his team to play harder, swing earlier, or whatever fake reason you come up with to spur on the A's annual playoff push? Kruk, Steve Phillips, and Joe Morgan have all been quick to praise Macha for the A's turnaround. A confederacy of dunces rallying against Beane if there ever were one.
Remember in "Moneyball," that book about computers inventing the Oakland A's that Joe Morgan hates so much/hasn't read, how Beane liked Art Howe because he looked the part of a manager but didn't actually do anything? And remember how the A's won their division and everybody praised Art Howe up and down the street for doing such an amazing job? And then Art Howe went to the Mets for like fifty million a year and stank up the joint? I actually believe Ken Macha to be a pretty good manager -- he seems smart, and he buys into the A's philosophy and doesn't seem to panic or anything. He uses his bullpen pretty well and the players seem to like him. But please, please, everyone, stop crediting him and him alone with the turnaround.
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