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Rockpile Retro: The Jim Tracy Conundrum (October 15, 2009)

The Washington Post's Dave Sheinin wrote a piece titled "How Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy lost the Division Series", in which he goes hard after Tracy's decision to go after Ryan Howard with a right handed pitcher with the game on the line, which kind of left me disappointed in the article given that the Howard decision would rank a bit further down in my list of questionable moves by the Rockies manager during the divisional series.

I guess my biggest problem with the way Tracy managed the NLDS was how conservative he was. He seemed to me to be trying to manage not to lose rather than to win, and he has this odd double standard when it comes to certain players, particularly in this case Garrett Atkins and Ian Stewart. Tracy would keep on talking about getting the June Atkins back as if to say that one month of production from him outweighed the five other months of slow swinging and poor defensive work.

In particular, Tracy seemed to be nostalgic for a stretch in June, especially three games against Oakland and the Angels where Atkins had three multi-hit games. In fact, in June Atkins had five of his twelve multi-hit games of 2009. I wonder though, if Tracy really allows a selective memory to keep him from making wise judgments that are in the best interest of the team. If you take a look at the opposing starters for those June games that Atkins had multiple hits in, you see Dallas Braden, who averages 87.9 mph on his fastball, Trevor Cahill who averages 89.8 and Jason Vargas at 87.6. These are not exactly the kind of pitches you're going to see from Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Wandy Rodriguez was a decent pitcher at the start of this season, but in that June game, all the Rockies were hitting him well.

The one game where Atkins truly shined was a June 24th game against the Angels and Joe Saunders, in which he was pretty much the only Rockies player who seemed capable of getting solid contact. But if we're down to one game that's making you upend the lineup that got you to the playoffs in the first place (the Rockies were 62-47 in all Ian Stewart starts, 45-46 in all Atkins starts,) I've got to wonder whether you'll be able to make the right decisions for the team going forward. This isn't a situation as in the case of Yorvit Torrealba or in Los Angeles where Joe Torre is going with Ronnie Belliard over Orlando Hudson (a move against a popular veteran that I've got to say that I doubt Tracy makes) where a hot hand is forcing their way into the lineup. In September/October, Atkins only hit .233 with a .313 OBP. Stewart wasn't any better at the plate, but he is the better defender and a bigger threat to go deep and provide the team instant runs and the fact is that the Rockies seem to do better as a team with a Stew/Tulo/CarGo left side.

Really, that's a big lead in to my main issue. I really don't know if I want Jim Tracy back as manager next season. He's going to win the Manager of the Year award, he led the Rockies to the playoffs, but I really don't know if he understands how the Rockies won, and how it was mostly done without him. He's got to lay back off tweaking the lineup so much. He's got to understand when platoon splits should be made priorities (in the case of Howard) and when they shouldn't be given so much weight. Anyway, I suspect this might cause some discussion, what's everybody else's opinion?