Rockies vs the Mets Game 1
I mentioned a while back about my theory and how I thought a good batting practice results in a high scoring game. Today was the worst batting practice I’ve been to in years.
Between both teams only a handful of balls were hit out and only two landed in the pavilion, that’s straight up pitiful. Game four of the season for me and only one toss-up to date.
The Rockies shot my BP theory to shit last night with one helluva performance from everyone despite the crappy BP.
Here are the game pictures I took:
The fastest player in MLB…Eric Young Jr.
This is where it all started in the fifth inning when EY Jr pinch hit. Eric scored two runs and got the Rockies back into this game with his enthusiasm.
Quote from EY Jr: “Every time I hit the ball, I run hard,” Young said. “Have you ever seen me not once run hard? It’s the right way to play the game.”
Damn right EY…That’s why we love ya brotha!!
Was nice to see Dex hit a three run homer especially on his T-Shirt day.
Props to Hernandez for his Grand Slam…Beautiful shot.
Rockies win this one with a final score of 18-9.
I’m “D” The Ranter… I’m just hoping the Rockies save a few hits for tonight. It’s Hunter’s first game of the season 🙂
Here’s an article about Jim Tracy by Chris Jaffe with help from Tom Nawrocki I thought was interesting and worth sharing…”D”
Chris is a writer for “The Hardball Times”
The rise and fall (and re-rise and re-fall) of Jim Tracy
by Chris Jaffe
April 16, 2012
Jim Tracy has had one of the most peculiar career arcs of any manager in memory. He has an overall career record that’s mediocre despite almost never having mediocre teams. They’re either pretty good or really bad, and Tracy’s reputation seems to rise and fall with his teams.
That last sentence is anything but peculiar. It’s a commonly held and widely believed truism that managers get too much credit for their teams’ successes and too much blame for their teams’ failures.
True, but in Tracy’s case it’s more extreme. Every time his team wins at least 85 games in a season, Tracy receives legitimate support in Manager of the Year voting. Conversely, the people who I know who don’t like Tracy detest him as fervently as I’ve known a manager to be detested.
He’s great. Or he’s terrible. Yet his overall record is smack dab in the middle, as he entered 2012 just 10 games over .500 after nearly 1,600 games managed. He’s an odd manager to try to understand.
This is something that I should know something about; or at least be able to pretend like I know something about it since a few years ago, I wrote a book, Evaluating Baseball’s Managers, 1876-2008 that, well, evaluated baseball’s managers.
With Tracy, what I find striking is not his personal proclivities and tactical decisions. Those are almost extraordinarily ordinary. There are certain things he does more or less than an average skipper, but nothing especially notable. The most interesting thing about Tracy is his career arc.
The rise of Jim Tracy
Tracy first joined the fraternity of big league managers with the Dodgers in 2001 and quickly won acclaim, guiding them to four straight winning seasons, including a postseason appearance in 2004. In his rookie season, he finished second in the Manager of the Year voting. On the face of it, that was an odd and unlikely result. In 2000, the year before Tracy showed up, the team went 86-76. With Tracy in 2001, they again finished 86-76. That normally doesn’t get MoY support.
True, but the 2000 team won with strong pitching, and in 2001, many arms—most notably ace Kevin Brown—fell to injury. Ultimately, only pitcher was able to make more than 25 starts in 2001. Yet they stayed in the pennant hunt until late in the season.
Frankly, that 2001 team was lucky, as going by runs scored and allowed they were a .500 team, but Tracy kept them competitive for each of the next three years. And it wasn’t just luck. With the Dodgers, Tracy had the knack to get good performances out of his pitchers.
There’s a system used in my book to judge this: The Birnbaum Database. The Birnbaum Database was created by Phil Birnbaum to estimate how teams over/underperform their predicted performance in a given year. There are five parts to it, but the two most important are a pair of algorithms Phil invented to look at how hitters and pitchers did versus how they would be expected to do.
Say you want to look at how Kevin Brown did in 2001. You look at his performance in the surrounding seasons and use that to determine what he should’ve done in that particular year. Then you adjust for playing time, park factor, and various other basic mathematical hokey-pokey adjustments and boom, you have a reasonable projection. Now just compare that to reality and you have your result.
Looking at the numbers of just one guy doesn’t tell you too much about the manager, but when you combine enough players together, the sample size becomes meaningful. In other words, it’s not random happenstance that Bobby Cox scores historically great with pitchers. In LA, Jim Tracy scores wonderfully: +240 runs with individual pitchers.
It was in LA that he made the best move of his entire career. In spring training 2002, he made a controversial move, shifting a young starting pitcher into the bullpen. The pitcher was a young arm with talent who could strike people out. I remember some opposed moving this lad to the bullpen. He had talent, and if you kept him in the starting rotation, he’d have more innings and thus could mean more to the team. Admittedly, in two partial seasons in the starting rotation he’d been rather middling, but he was talented and entering his prime.
That young pitcher’s name was, of course, Eric Gagne.
Did that move ever work! For a few years, Gagne was the best closer in baseball. It would’ve been perfectly easy to leave Gagne in the rotation or even ship him to Triple-A, but Tracy thought the young kid could make it as a closer, and boy was he ever proven right.
Gagne isn’t an isolated example. Tracy also managed to get superior performances out of middle relievers Guillermo Mota and Paul Quantrill, both of whom did notably better in Los Angeles than in any other stop in their careers. In 2003, Gagne, Mota, and Quantrill combined to throw 264.2 innings, allowing just 11 homers and 61 walks while fanning 280 batters for a cumulative ERA of 1.66. Tracy also had some success with his starting pitchers, most notably Odalis Perez, but that bullpen was Tracy’s strongest feature.
Anchored by that trio, the 2003 Dodger bullpen posted an ERA+ of 164, which is the highest by any relief unit since WWII.
This should not be overstated. Tracy didn’t have a magic wand that made all pitchers under his care better, but on the whole, pitchers improved.
Tracy’s reputation peaked in 2004. Despite a middling offense and an unimpressive starting rotation—the only truly above-average pitcher was Perez—LA won 93 games and a trip to the postseason. Tracy had four consecutive successful seasons under his belt and was one of the best-regarded managers in baseball.
His future seemed secure, and Tracy looked poised to be the next long-term manager of the Dodgers. Instead, Tracy’s career was about to implode.
The fall of Jim Tracy
Tracy lasted just one more season in LA—an incredibly ugly and controversial season. On the face of it, the year doesn’t look that interesting. The Dodgers lost more than they won; 71-91 to be exact. That’s a disappointment to be sure, but plenty of prominent managers have survived worse without incident. The season itself was quite a bit uglier, and Tracy got caught up in the mess.
The Dodgers had a new GM in 2005, Paul DePodesta, who had come to prominence as Billy Beane’s numbers guru in Moneyball. This was the height of the whole stats-versus-scouts controversy, and DePodesta was a flashpoint in that whirligig with people rooting for and against him based on what he represented. DePodesta made a series of moves that worked out on paper, but the team was done in by injuries, and controversies kept swirling around the team.
Where did Tracy fit into this? He didn’t get along with DePodesta. The two never could get on the same page, and as the year wore on, it just got worse. The Tracy-DePo dynamic became part of the larger concerns surrounding the team.
The situation became so poisonous that I’ve heard one Dodger fan float that the only time he ever seriously wondered if a manager was trying to tank a season to torpedo the front office was in the Dodgers’ 2005 campaign. That certainly didn’t happen, but a team that was in first place in mid-May ended up losing 62 of their last 100 contests.
After 2005, both DePodesta and Tracy would be gone. Tracy might’ve been better off taking a few years off after 2005, just as Jim Leyland took a sabbatical after a draining 1999 season. Instead, after his dismal 2005 campaign, Tracy landed in situation where things would go even worse for him, Pittsburgh.
Prior to Tracy’s arrival, the Pirates hadn’t enjoyed a winning season since 1992. On the surface of it, Tracy’s arrival made no difference whatsoever and his two-year stint was just another forgettable pair of seasons in the recent dreary history of Pittsburgh baseball. The team lost 95 in 2005 without Tracy, dropped 95 and 94 games with Tracy in 2006 and 2007, and then lost 95 with Tracy’s replacement in 2008.
You’d be hard pressed to find a more consistent level of performance among any team over four years. Based solely on that, you wouldn’t expect there to be anything especially good or bad about Tracy’s tenure.
Well, that would be wrong. I don’t claim to know exactly what happened, but I will say this: Never in all my days have I ever encountered fans that so vehemently loathe like Pirates fans do with Tracy.
I spend a good chunk of time at Baseball Think Factory, a nice internet watering hole frequented by fans of all types. I’ve known many Cubs fans that were left seething by the likes of Dusty Baker or Royals fans that cringe at the name Tony Muser, or Brewer fans for which “Yost” is the vilest of all four-letter words. But no fans muster the level of outrage BTF’s Pirates fans reserve for Tracy.
Maybe it’s just some random sample-size fluke based on who I’ve spoken to, but those Pirate fans who I’ve met have all had the same reaction: Jim Tracy is the lowest of the low. They despise him as a manager and to some extent as a man. He threw everyone under the bus and came off horribly.
The team apparently agreed to some extent. As bad as the Pirates have usually been, they give their managers plenty of time. Tracy’s predecessor, Lloyd McClendon, lasted nearly five full years. John Russell, their post-Tracy skipper, held out for four years. But Tracy, despite having a far bigger name than either of them, barely made it two seasons.
Pirate fans have also said Tracy didn’t develop his players worth a damn, and the Birnbaum Database agrees with them there. He scores miserably, and once again dealing with individual pitchers was the engine of his overall score. This time, however, he scored –86 runs with individual pitchers.
Let’s pause here for a second. As noted above, the Birnbaum scores aren’t prefect, and there’s always some noise in the signal. Managers often have their ups and downs, even when it looks like the data are telling us something about the skipper himself. But rarely do managers suffer the sort of whiplash-inducing shift as what happened to Tracy.
The Pirates had a crop of young pitchers that the team rested their hopes on when Tracy arrived in 2006. In general, they fizzled.
It’s one thing to have a dismal departure from LA. He had enough success there to excuse it as just one of those things. But Pittsburgh made it two jobs in a row over three full seasons of disaster. And really, Tracy only had those four good years with only one playoff appearance. It’s not too surprising that Tracy was left dugout-less for a stretch after his days in Pittsburgh.
Jim Tracy: Repeating his own history?
Then, after a few years on the sidelines, in 2009 the Rockies hired Tracy as their midseason manager. As expected, Pirate fans prophesied doom, doom, and even more doom. No good will ever come of Jim Tracy. He’d screw over the kids, be impatient with his players, and be a self-glorifying lout all the while. Just wait.
Well, that isn’t what happened. A team that went 18-28 under Clint Hurdle suddenly erupted, going 74-42 and making a stunning appearance in the playoffs (where the Phillies soon dispatched them). Back from his depths, Tracy’s reputation was restored as he won the Manager of the Year title.
Not only was he successful, but he showed a willingness to do those things he failed at in Pittsburgh. He was patient with the younger players. He took Ian Stewart, who’d been moved all over the diamond, and made him the regular third baseman, allowing Stewart to develop his power stroke to the tune of 25 homers. When Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t hit, Tracy stayed with him anyway, and Gonzalez eventually flourished. Instead of promoting himself, Tracy gave the players all the credit, noting they’d been to the World Series just a few years earlier.
You could seemingly write a new narrative. Former Rockies manager Jim Leyland once explained his failures in Colorado and subsequent success in Detroit by saying that sometimes with a manager what matters most of all is the fit. It’s how he meshes with the situation, not his own personal proclivities. Maybe both DePodesta and the Pirates were just bad fits for Tracy. Maybe he just needed some time to recharge.
Yeah, but instead of building on his initial success, Tracy has once again done another U-turn. The longer he’s been there, the less patient he’s become. Young players who struggled would find themselves back in the minors. Stewart perhaps cratered the worst. In 2011, just two years after looking like the team’s third baseman for years to come, he batted .156 with zero homers. The team traded him away for silly string and chewing gum this most recent offseason.
The team is going backward, not forward, with him. You can all but hear the “Told ya soes” coming from Pittsburgh. Not only are the Rockies stalling from year to year, but also within years. In 2010, the team was in the pennant race until late, but it then dropped 13 of its last 14 games. Last year, they were better, losing only 11 of their last 14. For that matter, in his final season in Pittsburgh his team was 2-12 at the end. Tracy’s teams weren’t normally bad in the past, but that’s a pretty impressive trio of season-ending performance over his last four years on the job.
As for the Birnbaum Database, it doesn’t tell us much about Tracy’s Colorado stay. By its nature, you need data for 2012 and 2013 to measure what happened to players in 2011. His overall career score is still good—he’s +190 runs with pitchers and –25 with hitters—but those numbers could be a bit inflated. Tracy does well in 2011 in part because players are expected to regress a little in 2012-13. When those years are added in, he’ll fall some.
It would be nice to have some brilliant and insightful summation of Tracy’s career to date, but his tenures seem to defy an easy wrap-up. He’s probably the best current example of how a manager can get too much credit or blame for his teams’ wins and losses.
References and Resources
Rockies fan Tom Nawrocki offered some valuable feedback for the Colorado portion of his career.
Baseball Think Factory, as noted in the article, came in handy, especially the thoughts expressed on Tracy over the years by its leading Pirate fans, most notably Mike Emeigh and Vlad.
Phil Birnbaum created the Birnbaum Database, which is actually more elaborate that described here.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball’s Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail.
Giants vs Rockies Game 2…Justice
At this point Timmy doesn’t know it but today would be the shortest start of his career. 🙂
I was more than ready for some serious batting practice today. I was shutout on opening day and that puts me behind of my one ball a game average. Just when batting practice was starting to get roll’n, mother nature let loose and put an abrupt halt to all fun.
The rain didn’t last long, but it lasted long enough that the tarp was brought out. Zip for catching baseballs this regular season so far, now I’m behind and playing catch-up and that’s no fun.
Here’s a few pre-game pictures. Props to Amy for helping me get Cuddy’s autograph on my ticket today. I was damn close to getting Helton but as I”ve mentioned before I’m an anti-magnet when it comes to Helton for some reason.
I swear I’ve gotten Helton’s autograph only 4 times in 6 years. That might seem like a lot but I go to a lot of games.
Gutherie’s first Coors Field start. Think he was a bit nervous?
Cargo drove had two triples and drove in four runs. Nice to see Cargo finally get some hits.
Check out Dan in this picture, he’s all excited and Robert’s all mellow.
Rockies set a record tonight for most runs and hits without a home run.
Check out the Todd Helton broken bat series.
Partial bat flying.
So long Timmy.
This game was exactly what I needed after that lesson by Barry Zito on Monday.
Rockies even up the series with a football score of 17-8.
I’m “D” The Ranter and the Rockies have my full attention. Show me some more of that!
This isn’t the Rockies Opening Day Blog..This is the prelude to it.
I’ve got to tell you about a Denver Post photographer who was so rude she gets her own blog entry.
Rantics meet Helen Richardson, don’t let the smile fool you.
Helen is a photographer for the Denver Post and has the credentials to prove it. Helen’s mission today was to get 200 pictures of Joe Salazar’s mohawk no matter what the cost. If you’ve never seen Joe’s mohawk it’s a fregg’n thing of beauty.
Helen asked Joe if he wanted to be in the paper and the first six times Joe said “No”.
Before Helen had to actually beg Joe for the picture he caved in and let her take a picture of him standing in between three of Denver’s finest. Helen decided she needed to partially stand in my space to get the much desired picture of Joe’s mohawk.
Picture by a rude Helen Richardson of the Denver Post.
So I sat there as she popped off a few pictures. Being a photographer myself I had no issues about that. I was a bit upset that she was in my space and kind of disregarding that fact that it was MY space. After a minute or so of her still taking the same picture of Joe I stood up hoping to give her enough space to finish so I could get back to watching the game.
A minute later Helen was STILL taking pictures of Joe.
The entire time Helen was taking pictures of Joe she was oblivious to the fact that she was bothering me. She didn’t acknowledge my existance or ask if she could share my space. Finally after letting Helen’s “invasion of my privacy” wreck enough of my Opening Day experience I said “Ya Know a couple of pictures is cool, 200 pictures is douche baggery”.
Then she said “Excuse me am I bothering you?” I said “Yes you are, I’m trying to watch the game and take pictures and you’re in my space and have been for a while”.
At that point instead of realizing she had over stayed her welcome and politely leaving, she proceeded to verbally F’ck with me and tossed a few expletives my direction. Finally after enough of being harassed by someone who didn’t even pay for her ticket I stuck out my hand and said:
“Hi I’m D the Ranter and you just made the blog“.
She wouldnt’ shake my hand and just stared at me with a pissed off look on her face.
The look was followed by “Ewwww, are you going to put my picture in your blog?” belted out very sarcastically.
I said “Naa”.
At that point she still wouldn’t take the hint and leave so I got a pen from Mike and jotted the name down I that could see on her press credentials. When Helen noticed me doing that she proceeded to turn her credentials around so I couldn’t see them…
Too late Helen 🙂
I never mess with folks, especially when I’m at a Rockies game. All who know me know that I go to Coors Field to hang with the Rantics, take lots of pictures and cheer on my Rockies. Baseball is my escape from the real world and I’m there to relax, not get all bent out of shape.
I gave Helen plenty of time to do what she needed to do and she abused her “Press Pass” privilege by being a nuisance, not leaving soon enough and by verbally harassing me.
This is professional behavior? Denver Post do you agree? Rockies do you agree?
Helen here’s a tip, next time start off with “Excuse me could I stand here in your space and take a few pictures?”.
Asking is a good thing and is respectful to fans who actually PAY for their tickets and stand in those long lines to get inside the stadium.
Then take a FEW pictures and then get the hell out-of-the-way.
I purposely sit in the front row so I don’t block anyone with my body or my camera lens as I take my pictures. In my wildest dreams I had no idea I’d have to deal with an annoying Denver Post photographer blocking my view in the front row of the Rockpile of all places?
When Helen finally disappeared I asked Mike the Rox Addict who is a professional photographer if I had been in some way out of line with Helen. Mike said she was rude, unprofessional and had abused her media privileges. Good, glad to have confirmation that it wasn’t me.
Helen, here’s a few nuggets of wisdom from the Ranter free of charge.
Remember, it’s not about the picture you take, it’s more about the image you leave.
By the way, I only had to take one picture of Jeff’s mohawk.
Here it is:
You should know better than to mess with someone with RANTER on their jersey.
I’m “D” The Ranter and I may take your picture but I’ll damn sure leave you some elbow room.
Go Rockies!!…Helen, I changed my mind about posting your picture and by the way you and your attitude can…
It’s not often the Rant get’s some props from anyone in Colorado or anywhere for that matter.
I was checking out local blogs and ran across an article about me. It was written by a local blogger known as Colin D. I first met Colin at the Tom Helmer rally at the Blake Street a while back. I knew the dude was cool because he was part of the duo who hosted the rally for the “Homeboy”.
Here’s the article Colin wrote:
Blog View: Rockpile Rant is a perfect fan blog
Written by Colin D.
My first encounter with the Rockpile Ranter (who’s real name I do not know) came via e-mail. Homeboy was pissed at me for reals.
I had used some of his personal photos here on the site without asking his permission. One of them had his kids in it, posing with a local sports television personality.
I found the shots in a Google Image search. The Ranter had uploaded them to his site – Rockpile Rant. I copied them and pasted them into a story I wrote about Tom Helmer’s stint with Root Sports – and how it had come to an unwelcome end. The photo I used really brought home the sense of loss I knew fans would feel when they learned Helmer’s contract had not been renewed. Unfortunately, the photo wasn’t mine to use.
The e-mail I received demanded that I quickly remove the picture with the children in it – but made no threats. I took the picture down. Soon I would meet the Rockpile Ranter.
James Hernandez of 5280 Shirt Shop and I teamed up to put on a party for Helmer and about 50 of his closest fans at the Blake Street Tavern. The Ranter and his family showed up and showed up big. They brought signs and hugs and heaps of Helmer love.
I introduced myself to the Ranter and apologized for the confusion. He took one look at my Rockies gear and told me it was all good, Bro. When I got home that afternoon I checked out his blog and I have been reading it ever since.
It’s a perfect fan blog.
The Rockpile Ranter (who’s name I do not know) gives visitors to his site a first-hand view of the Rockies from the perspective of a maniacal fan who takes a million photographs.
He flashes his trademark peace sign in poses with players, coaches, statues, ball parks and mascots. It’s clear that he’s having a great time and that he absolutely adores baseball.
The Rockpile Ranter makes me want to trade lives with him when I see much fun he has following Rockies baseball. Folks out East don’t think basefall fans like him exist in Colorado. I’m not sure I thought they did, either, until I met him and his family.
You really should visit his blog. The URL is http://baseballsnatcher.mlblogs.com/. It is absolultely the best Rockies fan site I have found.
I hope the Rockpile Ranter Enjoys this edition of Blog View. I stole another one of his pictures.
You can check out Colin’s blog at : www.southstandsdenver.com
Nice guy…Give him some hits…”D”
Chief vs the Duece
Check out Ubaldo Jiminez tagging Troy Tulowitzki with a pitch. Then watch the benches clear.
No April fools joke here, this is the real deal. To quote Rockies Skipper Jim Tracy:
“The most gutless act I’ve seen in 35 years in the game.”
Ok Jim, not sure I’d go that far, but it makes me look at Ubaldo in a new light that’s for sure…D
Jim continues…”Five days before opening day, you’re going to take a pot shot like that? It’s the worst I’ve ever seen. I’ve lost all respect for him, and that’s a very difficult thing for me to say with all the players I’ve had to manage over the years,” Tracy said. “I’ve lost all respect for him, every bit.”
Agreed…Sad, Ubaldo was a Rantic favorite 😦
I sense some pent up frustration in Ubaldo? Too bad we don’t get to play the Indians this year.
Raise up Rockies…It’s gonna be a long season…”D”
Royals vs Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium
This was our first of two games today. But first I want to tell you about an abandoned stadium Mike and I visited the day before.
This old abandoned stadium is Compadre Stadium and what’s left of it is in Chandler, AZ.
It’s not actually all that old, it was built-in 1985 and is the former spring training facility for the Brewers and at the time it was the gem of the cactus league. The Brewers called this place home for 11 years then made the move to Maryvale because the city of Chandler didn’t want to pay for the operating costs for the facility when the Brewers weren’t in town.
Rox Addict and his famous pose.
The land is presently used for sheep and at the same time it’s being torn down.
Photo by Tim Hacker/Tribune
Here’s a few pictures of Compadre in her glory.
All Mike and I wanted to do here was take a few pictures. We I each went a different direction looking for a way in or someone to ask if we could take a peek inside. We were in front of the stadium just a minute of two when a company truck pulled up to Mike. I could see they were talking so I headed over there. As I approached the guy in the truck looked at me and said “Do you want me to call the cops?”. I was like “Dude I just walked up here”. Then he went into a rant about how since they’ve put the sign up saying no trespassing more people than ever have been showing up trying to explore.
The dude threatened to call the cops a few more times and Mike and I got out of there without incident. We left and headed to another part of the stadium. We stayed off the property but got a few pictures from the outfield of the seats.
Cool place, it’s too bad the construction company doesn’t realize the historic significance of this place. Instead of being kind to baseball enthusiasts who only want to take look at a piece of baseball history, they treat them like criminals and run them off.
Here’s a few recent pictures of the stadium that I’ve been able to find.
I don’t advise trying to photograph this place. Not unless you want that guy to call the cops. 🙂
My first visit to Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Batting practice today consisted of standing in the parking lot next to the stadium. We caught the tail end of BP and only one ball was hit out. A group of dudes were huddled around where the ball was going to land. They all missed it and I positioned myself for the bounce. I was in the perfect spot, the ball hit my glove and bounced out. That was it, BP was over and I blew my only opportunity of the day.
All I can say is “Hey, it’s spring training for me too” 🙂
Phillie Jim and I in front of the Stadium.
Here’s a few shots of the inside. This is a cool stadium.
Here’s the berm…Packed.
Former Rockie Chris Iannetta.
The topper to a great game was an Usher letting us sit right behind the Rockies dugout for the last part of the game.
Nice folks, you can tell they’re proud to have Albert around.
Angels get the win over the Royals 7-4.
I’m “D” The Ranter and only two more games left for the Rox Addict and I.