Game 63, Mariners At Tigers
Fister vs Verlander, 4:05 pm.
Evaluating managers is hard – most of what their job actually entitles is done away from public view, and by and large, they all generally make the same decisions on the field anyways. What might be good for one team might be bad for another, and there are always things going on that we aren’t aware of. When someone asks me if a manager is good or bad, my standard response is generally “I don’t know.”
That said, I will note that there’s one thing we can fairly easily judge a manager on that does make an actual difference in terms of winning and losing games, and that’s how well he evaluates what players should be on the field the most often. Some managers just are better than others at maximizing the skills of their players, and put their team in a position to win more often than others.
I’d say that tonight’s line-up is another reason to be a little bit concerned that Eric Wedge is not particularly good at figuring out which players should be on the field. You’ll find the batting order below, but the short version is that Justin Smoak is getting the day off, Cust is again being displaced at DH by Mike Carp, and Greg Halman is starting in left field. All of this is happening against Justin Verlander, one of the best right-handed pitchers in baseball.
The Mariners have three players on the roster who have performed above the league average offensively this year – Smoak (131 wRC+), Kennedy (118), and Cust (106). All three can hit from the left-hand side, giving them the platoon advantage against a right-handed pitcher. Two of the three are not playing tonight. By moving Kennedy to first base, Wedge has essentially replaced Smoak’s bat in the line-up with Jack Wilson’s, and by using Carp at DH, he’s swapped out Cust’s bat for Halman’s.
The rationale that will be given is that Smoak has struggled since moving to the #3 spot, that Halman has been hot since he came up, blah blah blah. None of that matters. It’s all hogwash, and a bad use of statistics. The fact is that the Mariners are throwing out a lousy line-up against one of the game’s best pitchers, and that’s on Eric Wedge. He’s shown that he has a very low opinion of the value of a walk, and it looks like Cust is going to be the one to lose the most playing time with Carp on the roster. That’s not an upgrade, and it’s a bad use of the players he has on hand.
Wedge may be great at dealing with players, motivating the young kids, handling pitchers… I have no idea. I hope he is, because he’ll need to be good at some of that stuff to cancel out the fact that he’s shown that he’s not particularly great at realizing what makes a hitter effective.