Rookie manager Walt Weiss would be wise to learn lessons from the past. - USA TODAY Sports
New manager Walt Weiss would be smart to learn from the lessons of two of his predecessors, Buddy Bell and Jim Tracy.
For the first time since 2000, when Buddy Bell took over for Jim Leyland, the Colorado Rockies will begin a season under a manager who did not finish the previous one at the helm. Leyland, like the recently departed Jim Tracy, resigned as the Rockies' skipper after going 72-90 in the 1999 season.
Under Bell, the 2000 Rockies improved by 10 games to an 82-80 record, the club's first winning season since 1997, and the 2013 squad can learn lessons from that 2000 club.
The 2000 Rockies' 10-game improvement was largely predicated on two things: moderately improved pitching and Todd Helton going absolutely bananas at the plate.
The easiest thing for the 2013 club to reproduce will be the offense. No, one player is not not going to reproduce Helton's ludicrous 8.6 WAR from 2000, however it is perfectly reasonable to think that, if healthy, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to equal the 11.8 WAR put up by Helton and Jeff Cirillo, the Rockies' two best offensive producers in 2000.
Really, the Rockies' offense in 2000 was really cobbled together around Helton. Given that 2000 Coors Field is essentially the benchmark for ridiculous offensive environments, it's pretty amazing that Helton was the only Rockie with more than 20 home runs that season. The only other consistent offensive performers were Cirillo, who hit .326/.392/.477 with 53 doubles, 11 homers and 115 RBIs, and Jeffrey Hammonds who hit exactly 20 homers.
Helton's line in 2000? .372/.463/.698, 59 doubles, 42 home runs, 147 RBIs. Wow.
The improvement on the mound from 1999 to 2000 was thanks in part to a brief return to form for Brian Bohanon. Bohanon was somewhat of a train wreck in his first season in Colorado, compiling a 6.20 ERA and 1.66 WHIP while serving up 30 long balls in 197 1/3 innings. He improved those numbers in 2000 to a 4.68 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, giving up 24 home runs in 177 innings. His ERA+ improved from 94 to 124.
In both 1999 and 2000 the Rockies got pretty decent pre-humidor Coors Field seasons from Pedro Astacio. Astacio's ERA was a hair above 5.00 in each season and he combined to strike out 403 batters in 428 1/3 innings.
Another similarity between the 2000 Rockies and the 2013 Rockies should be a strong bullpen. Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers and Wilton Lopez should be a force to be reckoned with just as Jose Jimenez, Julian Tavarez, Gabe White and Mike DeJean were 13 years ago.
As far as what Weiss can do from the dugout, he would be wise to take lessons from what Tracy did in 2009. Tracy came in with the team floundering at 18-28, didn't panic and settled things down after the seemingly constant lineup shuffles under Clint Hurdle in the first quarter of the season.
Weiss would be wise to take a page out of that book, let his players know their roles, and just send them out there to play the game, another example of this is Buck Showalter with the Orioles in 2012.
My philosophy when it comes to what a manager does has always been less is more. Too many managers overthink things based on small sample sizes, generic lefty-righty matchups and whatnot and manage their team right out of a game.
Being a rookie manager, Weiss is probably going to do this a few times, especially given the fact that Tony La Russa is one of his mentors, but perhaps being rather green he will be a bit timid about overmanaging things, which would be a welcome change from Tracy's constant tinkering last season.
Call me optimistic, but I think replicating Bell's 10-win improvement from 2000 would be a reasonable and attainable goal for Weiss and the 2013 Rockies.