Friday, August 26, 2011

Jim Tracy, not umpire, costs Rogers, Colorado Rockies in LA

Bob Davidson made a horrible call.

That is common for him. Davidson is known more for his bad attitude and hot-head rather than his good umpiring. He calls more balks than any other umpire in baseball, and is commonly referred to as the worst umpire in the game.

On Friday night, immediately following a double play in which Dexter Fowler threw out Andre Either at the plate, Davidson called Esmil Rogers for a balk as Aaron Miles, the runner at third base, tried to throw Rogers off by faking the steal of home.

Replays were clear that Rogers didn't even make the slightest sign of a balk. Davidson, a Denver resident, was guilty of committing the deadliest of umpire sins, anticipation.

The balk call cost the Rockies are run, and then as Rogers remained flustered, he gave up a two-run single to Justin Sellers, giving the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. Rogers was a batter away from getting out of a jam and leaving the game after delivering seven shutout innings. Instead, he takes the loss and his line looks pedestrian, giving up a total of four runs in 6-2/3 innings.

It's easy to blame the balk call on Rogers. It was a horrible call, and ended up being the winning run. However, the cause of the Rockies loss goes beyond one bad call. When an offense only puts up five hits, two of which came in the ninth inning, and one run that team doesn't deserve to win.

So was it the offenses fault? No. The answer to that question is the same answer to why the Rockies have struggled all season long. It all comes back to No. 4. Jim Tracy continues to make moves that are completely baffling. The decisions start with the lineup card.

On Friday night, Tracy decided to over-think the numbers once again. It is well-known that lefties generally hit righties better, and vice-versa, however, Tracy takes that theory to a new level.

That reasoning caused Tracy to decide to go with Eric Young, Jr. in left field as opposed to Seth Smith. The same Seth Smith who hit three home runs during the nine-game homestand, four of which games he didn't play in.

What Tracy obviously overlooked was that Young was 3-for-17 lifetime against Lilly coming into the game. That, and Lilly is not exactly an overpowering lefty who is tough for left-handed batters to hit. Coming into the game, lefties were hitting .230 against him, with righties hitting .263. Obviously there is a difference there, but it is not extremely drastic.

Considering Young's numbers against Lilly, his overall abilities, and Smith's recent hot streak, wouldn't it make sense to let Smith hit? The other problem with leaving Smith on the bench is that coupled with an off-day Thursday, Smith has now been off of the field for three straight days. The worst thing that can happen to a hitter during a hot streak is to have days off. Tracy is doing his best to cool Smith off.

The other questionable lineup decision that Tracy made was going with Eliezer Alfonso behind the plate over Chris Iannetta. The presumable reason is that, with a day game on Saturday, Tracy weighed the odds and would rather have Iannetta in the lineup against Chad Billingsley on Saturday.

The problem with that logic is that if the Rockies are still in the race, which Tracy continues to insist that they are, he has to manage as if he cannot afford to lose a game. At some point, if the Tracy wants his team to be in the playoffs, he is going to have to ask his catcher to work through some soreness in order to help put the best lineup on the field. Especially considering he was off on Wednesday and had an off day on Thursday.

Regardless, the head scratching decisions continue from Tracy.

The balk call may have cost the Rockies a few runs, but putting the best lineup on the field to help the team score a few runs would have gone a long way for the Rockies to score more than one run.

Travis Lay of Blake Street Bulletin wrote a beautiful article about Tracy's in-game decisions. At some point, the front office has to have some questions for Tracy. They have to start to wonder about some of these lineup decisions, as well as in-game moves. If they don't, the problem is going to take much more time to solve than it would seem.

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