Somehow, some systems see the Brewers as having as high as a 5% chance of rising from the dead and grabbing a playoff berth. I wrote last night that it would take a minor miracle to get this team into the playoffs. Step one on the road back to winning would be to fire manager Ken Macha.
Ken Macha certainly doesn’t deserve all the blame for the Brewers’ poor start. Trevor Hoffman has blown five saves. Brewer starters have a 4.80 ERA. Brewers relievers have a 6.17 ERA and 23 meltdowns (click for explanation) on the season in only 40 games. The offense has been producing at an extremely high level and the Brewers only have 15 wins to show for it because of the complete and utter ineffectiveness of the pitching staff and defense.
The pitching staff certainly isn’t loaded with talent. Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf were the only two pitchers projected to be above average entering the season out of the rotation. Trevor Hoffman had a fantastic season last year but attrition rates are very high for 42 year old pitchers. Injuries to LaTroy Hawkins and Mark DiFelice have killed the bullpen. However, there’s no excuse for this group performing as it has so far – it currently is the worst group of pitchers in the major leagues, compiling 0.7 wins above replacement so far. Basically, the Brewers have pitched like a group of AAA players.
That’s completely unacceptable, not only because there’s no chance of winning with that kind of performance, but because it’s a ridiculous underperformance compared to projections. CHONE had the Brewers pitching staff at somewhere around 12 wins above replacement entering the season – 1/4 of the way through, we would expect roughly 3 WAR from the staff. Instead, Brewers pitchers have produced at 23.3% of expectations.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the Brewers bullpen could have been managed much more efficiently. Macha repeatedly used pitchers like Todd Coffey and LaTroy Hawkins against left handed batters while Manny Parra, Carlos Villanueva, and Mitch Stetter sat in the bullpen. Todd Coffey faced 9 batters as part of the implosion in Cincinnati on Monday night. Macha was unwilling to go to the bullpen in last night’s game, leaving in Randy Wolf in to face too many batters and than throwing Todd Coffey into the fire again with runners on base. He’s been unwilling to take the reins from Trevor Hoffman when it is clear that he is no longer an effective major league pitcher.
This is mostly just nitpicking. Yes, proper bullpen management could’ve meant a 2 game swing, maybe. The thing is, it’s the manager’s job to create the most wins possible with the talent he’s given. It’s clear that he’s not doing that.
Macha’s job off the field and in the clubhouse is unquestionably more important than the minutiae of in-game strategies. It’s Ken Macha’s job to keep players together through the good times and the bad times. I’m not in the clubhouse or the dugout; I don’t know if players are at each other’s throats or if everybody is psychologically unaffected by the losing streak. What I do know is that this quote from Prince Fielder is not a ringing endorsement of Ken Macha.
That happens at times if things aren’t going right, but that’s not something you can dwell on,” Fielder said. “That’s the business side. When you come to the field, you’re paid to play baseball. Those aren’t even my decisions anyway, so I try to stay out of that.”
There isn’t open dissension in the clubhouse (yet), but it seems clear to me that the Brewers and especially their emotional leader in Fielder won’t be heartbroken if Macha is gone.
At this point, there just isn’t any upside to keeping Ken Macha in the clubhouse. The Brewers are stagnant right now. A manager’s job is to produce the most wins with the talent he has been given. Clearly, he is not accomplishing that right now. There just isn’t an apparent upside to Macha’s continued presence in the Brewers organization. The worst possible consequence of firing him is the Brewers continue to lose. With a new manager, the Brewers could possibly find new direction and move on from the disappointments of 2009 and the early part of 2010.