Sorry, Walt. It's not you (maybe it is a little bit you), it's me. We've got to break up.
I've been patient with Walt Weiss. When he first started managing the Colorado Rockies prior to the 2013 season, I had hopes that his inexperience would be a boon rather than a curse because he may be willing to do the little things that can add up—things like managing the base paths, discarding bunts, and optimal lineups. Last season, when he embraced the shift and lineup changes at the beginning of the season, I felt that my patience was finally being rewarded and more positive changes would be coming this season. Instead, it's been a backwards trend that has me worried.
During Monday night's game against the Padres, I finally reached a tipping point. I'm done. It's time for the Rockies to find a new manager, because as long as Weiss is manager the Rockies, they will never become a contender.
Building a contender at Coors Field has proven to be one of the most difficult tasks in baseball. It's not going to be an easy puzzle to figure out with a distinct home field that on the surface seems to help hitters, but might actually hurt them on the road, while simultaneously destroying young pitchers and seasoned veterans alike.
Because of that, the Rockies need to try and maximize every single possible advantage possible to overcome what is appearing to be a home field disadvantage. In other words, they need to focus on the little things. They should be subscribing to the theory of aggregation of marginal gains. Simply stated, this theory suggests that there is no improvement so small that it shouldn't be taken advantage of because of the cumulative effect all those small gains will have on the bigger picture. It has been used successfully in sports, most notably by Team Sky, a cycling team that went from a laughingstock back in 2010 to one of the most dominant teams currently in the sport.
This is where the disconnect with Weiss comes. It has now been more than three years since he was hired, and Weiss seems to believe in the aggregation of marginal losses; that if a decision or move is only a little bad it's okay, and this shows up in almost every part of his managing.
Think of it like playing blackjack in Las Vegas. If you play every hand perfectly by the odds (often times referred to as counting cards), over time you will beat the house. However, if you play the game the way most people play it, over time the house always wins. The Rockies need to be counting cards, and Walt Weiss isn't.
The Rockies' base running is a glaring example of this weakness. Monday night was just the latest episode of the complete lack of awareness that the Rockies have had at times under Weiss. From the beginning, Weiss has wanted an aggressive team, where seemingly every single player has the green light to try and steal a base whenever they feel it's right. Unfortunately, that's been a net loss for the Rockies. This season, the Rockies have been successful on only 64 percent of their stolen base attempts -- and just 70 percent of the time since Weiss took over as the manager. Both of those marks are well below the roughly 75 percent success rate to have a positive net value for steal attempts, yet the approach hasn't seemed to change.
On Monday, LeMahieu took full responsibility for the decision to steal. He owned up to the poor decision on the bases, so it's easy to direct blame at him. However, when the problem is not just with a specific player in a specific situation, but instead is with the entire team and the blanket endorsement of aggressive base running, the responsibility lies with the manager.
Bunting is another place where the Rockies have been at a disadvantage under Weiss. Since 2013, the Rockies are second in the National League in non-pitcher sacrifice bunts with 96. This isn't counting bunts for hits against the shift, which can be a smart decision. This is 96 different instances where the Rockies willingly reduced their chances of scoring by taking the bat out of the hands of a position player and giving up an out.
Oddly enough, despite the position players being among the most prolific bunters, Rockies pitchers are the worst at bunting, coming in at dead last in successful sacrifice bunts with 79. The Rockies are the only team in the NL whose position players have laid down more successful sacrifice bunts than their pitchers. Hurlers are obviously being asked to bunt a lot more often, but as anyone who watches the Rockies can attest, they seem to be among the worst at actually getting the bunt down.
So not only are the Rockies bunting when they shouldn't be, but they are also terrible at actually executing the bunts in the one situation that it is defensible. It's yet another factor that doesn't speak well of the manager.
Another area where the Rockies could make an improvement is in lineup construction, but sadly, once again, Weiss chooses to follow tradition instead of looking for marginal gains. At the beginning of last year, it appeared that Weiss was making some drastic improvements as a manager. He finally started to rearrange the lineup to have the pitcher batting eighth. That improvement was short-lived, and despite more teams than ever doing it this year, the Rockies are still batting the pitcher in the traditional ninth spot almost every game this season.
When Charlie Blackmon was on the disabled list in April, another one of Weiss' weaknesses was exposed. He struggled to build a lineup without putting some of the Rockies' worst hitters, including Brandon Barnes, in the leadoff spot. This is indefensible; he was putting one of the Rockies' easiest outs in a position to receive the most at bats during the game.
Weiss has also struggled with properly platooning players despite having some fairly easy platoon situations laid out in front of him. We continue to see Mark Reynolds against some very difficult right-handed starters, and Weiss himself has admitted that he's not trying to platoon Reynolds and Ben Paulsen.
At the beginning of the season, I explained how Weiss's mismanagement of the bullpen was a contributing factor to some of the unit's struggles because he was placing pitchers in the wrong situations. While Weiss has had some good games, he still has his inexplicable ones where he seemingly puts all the wrong players in at the wrong time, resulting in Christian Bergman in the game during the highest-leverage situations.
Weiss has his strengths. According to all sources, he has a great clubhouse influence, and his players all seem willing to go to bat for him. However, I wonder how much of that is simply Weiss allowing the players to do as they will, like the constant green light to steal on the bases, instead of constantly pushing them to be better and make smarter decisions.
In isolation, none of these little things greatly shapes outcomes during a single game or over the course of an entire season. However, the issue is that Rockies have a large enough disadvantage already that they don't need to compound it with all of these little negative effects. Colorado needs to be fighting for every little advantage, not settling for things because they're not that bad of a disadvantage.
Weiss' managing style wouldn't have turned any heads 10 or 20 years ago because that's how everyone managed. There are even some who want their team's skipper to manage that way today because it's familiar and traditional. Personally, I want the Rockies to take advantage of every single opportunity to improve on the field. Weiss is not the manager to accomplish that.