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Manager changes affecting player production

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Manager changes affecting player production

Postby Bwanna » Thu Jun 26, 2008 12:29 pm

Some interesting theories...
Steve Gardner, USAToday wrote:Impact of new managers

From the presidential race to the baseball diamond, the word of the week is: change. Whether it's a different leadership philosophy, an effort to reverse a downward trend or an attempt to increase productivity, major changes are being put into action.

In less than a week, three major league teams shook up their coaching staffs, their front offices or both in an effort to turn around sagging fortunes.

Shockwaves are reverberating through the fantasy world as well.

Meet the new Mets, same as the old Mets

The New York Mets' firing of Willie Randolph as manager is probably the least significant of these moves from a fantasy standpoint. The Mets needed something to jolt the club out of its state of mediocrity, and Randolph's ouster was their answer.

After finishing in the top four in the National League in runs scored each of the past two seasons, the Mets are in the middle of the pack this year. There's still plenty of talent on the roster, and interim skipper Jerry Manuel isn't likely to try anything radical outside of encouraging Carlos Beltran to run a little more often.

Beltran and Jose Reyes are already doing a decent job of getting on base and scoring, David Wright is on pace for more than 25 homers and close to 125 RBI, and Johan Santana is putting up numbers that should translate into a better won-lost record than last year's 15-13. But outside of a few acquisitions, the Mets are similar to the team that has come up short the past two seasons.

Net effect: Expect a slight uptick in production across the board, which can probably be attributed to the law of averages more than Manuel's decision-making. Wright and Santana have histories of performing better in the second half of the season.

Turn back the clock in Toronto

With John Gibbons out and Cito Gaston returning to manage the Blue Jays, there's some hope for a return to the glory years under Gaston when the team won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992-93.

Pitching is a strong point with Roy Halladay anchoring the rotation, Shaun Marcum (who just went on the disabled list) surprising, and Dustin McGowan and A.J. Burnett showing occasional flashes of brilliance. Toronto also has one of the best bullpens in the game.

Unfortunately, the underachieving Blue Jays have one of the least potent offenses in the majors. Only one American League team (the Seattle Mariners) had a lower slugging percentage, while expected monster seasons from Alex Rios and Vernon Wells have yet to materialize.

True to form, the Jays lost 1-0 in 12 innings to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates in their first game with Gaston at the helm.

So what can Gaston do for this year's team? It's hard to draw too many parallels from his previous stint in Toronto from 1989 to 1997. But a manager tends to have a certain philosophy in terms of making out his lineup card and handling his pitchers.

During Gaston's first stint, he tended to go with a set lineup most of the time instead of mixing and matching. Of course, that's pretty easy to do when you can send John Olerud, Roberto Alomar, Devon White and Joe Carter out there every day.

Now, Gaston has more decisions to make. Will Rod Barajas continue to catch most every day now that Gregg Zaun is healthy? Will Brad Wilkerson get most of the starts in left field, even when Shannon Stewart (a member of Gaston's Jays from 1995 to '97) returns from the disabled list? What about Adam Lind, who was hitting above .300 at Class AAA and was called up to take Kevin Mench's spot on the roster?

And if one player starts to outperform everyone else in left, will Gaston prefer a more regular lineup the way he did more than a decade ago?

One change might come in the stolen-base department. Led by the trade deadline acquisition of Rickey Henderson, Gaston's Jays led the AL in steals in their title-winning 1993 season. This year's Jays were among the least efficient teams in the major leagues in terms of stolen-base percentage. If the offense continues to struggle, look for Gaston to pick his spots better than Gibbons did and give the green light more often to Rios, Wells and even David Eckstein and Marco Scutaro to get the offense going.

Another tendency in Gaston's past is splitting save opportunities. He had Tom Henke and Duane Ward close games in the early '90s. Although B.J. Ryan is the team's current closer, left-hander Scott Downs hadn't given up a run since April 30. It wouldn't be a stretch to see Gaston give Ryan, who's coming off Tommy John elbow surgery, an occasional breather in save situations. Last season's fill-in closer,Jeremy Accardo, could also return before the All-Star break.

Net effect: Rios and Wells will still have to carry the team offensively. Look for the Jays to try to manufacture more runs and hope the pitching staff remains solid. Lind is likely the best long-term solution to the logjam in left field.

Sonic boom in Seattle

The biggest shake-up last week occurred in Seattle, where the Mariners axed general manager Bill Bavasi and fired manager John McLaren a few days later.

Several roster changes followed almost immediately, and more could be on the way.

With nothing left to prove in the minors, Jeff Clement is behind the plate. Before he was fired, McLaren implied that Clement would get the bulk of the starts at catcher and a real opportunity to show he can play at the major league level. But McLaren didn't keep the job long enough to put those words into practice.

Jim Riggleman's first lineup card as interim manager had Clement catching, Richie Sexson at first base and — with the game in an NL park — no designated hitter. In fact, the Mariners won't get their DH back until June 30 when interleague play is done for the season. In the meantime, Jose Vidro will see his role reduced to pinch-hitting. Despite paltry on-base and slugging percentages, Vidro hit in the No. 2 or 3 spots in the order under McLaren.

That figured be one of the first things Riggleman addressed. Indeed, in his first game as manager, Riggleman put Jose Lopez in the No. 2 spot. With Vidro out of the lineup, Raul Ibanez hit third and Adrian Beltre batted cleanup. The result was a 10-2 victory at the Atlanta Braves.

Sexson, who has lost his once-productive bat, is in danger of being designated for assignment or traded if any team is willing to take on his hefty contract. With no extra-base hits since May 24 and a batting average in the low-.200s, Sexson might be difficult to move. Most fantasy owners have already cut Sexson anyway. Only a change of scenery could make him roster-worthy again.

Many thought a move to a spacious home park would make Erik Bedard one of the top pitchers in the AL this season. For whatever reason, that hasn't happened. Bedard has left several of his starts early. During his most recent start, he left after three scoreless innings because of back spasms.

It will be tough for the Mariners to admit trading five players (including Adam Jones and George Sherrill) to the Baltimore Orioles for Bedard was a mistake. They'll likely look to see what he'll bring on the trade market, but he's one of only a few players on the team with trade value.

Once the Mariners finish deciding who's staying and who's going, the rebuilding process can begin. A glimpse of the future could be found in 21-year-old outfielder Michael Saunders, who was recently promoted to Class AAA Tacoma (Wash.). Now that Ichiro Suzuki has been shifted to right field (a move he endorsed and one that should improve his offensive production), there's an open spot in center. Willie Bloomquist and Jeremy Reed aren't great options, but Saunders could be if given time to develop.

Net effect: The Mariners should start looking at younger players such as Clement and Saunders, see if they can get anywhere close to the package of prospects they gave up to get Bedard and then build around their two bona fide stars, Suzuki and Felix Hernandez.
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