For as long as I can remember, there has always been one thing I didn't like about an A's manager. Art Howe stuck to his 'go to guys' even when they didn't peform. Ken Macha always waited one pitch too long to go the bullpen and refused to play small ball. Bob Geren's lineups drove me insane, could not handle the pen, sat his players after a hot game, could not prepare his players for the road, and his general lackadaisical demeanor always put me off...
I can't quite say the same for Bob Melvin. In fact. I'm speechless. I have nothing to complain about when it comes to Melvin.
I never really thought much about it until I looked at the A's two road trips this season. I mean, during Bob Geren's 4 and a half year tenure with the A's, the team was 150-207 on the road. In other words, they could never win a single road trip. Road victories under Geren were few and far between. It was the main reason the A's could not compete over the past 5 seasons.
Now, look at what Bob Melvin has accomplished in his first two road trips with the A's this season. Granted, the season is still young, but I'm impressed. Not only have the A's had back to back winning records on their road trips, but how they have won each trip has been the reason I'm stoked so far. In each case, the A's won the first game on the road and then went on a three game losing skid. During the first road trip, the A's rallied back to take the final 3 games in Anaheim to head back to Oakland with a winning record. During the second road trip, the same thing happened. The A's lost the final two of three to Baltimore and then got shelled by the Red Sox in the first game in Fenway, but they rallied. They rallied enough to take two of three from the Sox (who had won 7 of there last 8) and then they took two of three from the team with the best record in the majors (at the time) on their home turf.
picture via cdn.bleacherreport.net
Not only that, but Melvin showed me a lot during this stretch as well. His decision to throw Bartolo Colon out there to start the 9th against Baltimore shows me that he has confidence in his players and will reward them for a solid performance. His decision to pull Grant Balfour against the Sox during the second game of that series shows me that while he still has confidence in his closer, he is all about winning games than sticking to baseball tradition. His lineups show me that he is well prepared for each and every game and will play the matchups to the best of his ability. If a player performs when given the opportunity, he will reward that player with more playing time (i.e. Recker at DH after a 2 hit night).
It's not as if he has more talent than what Bob Geren was given over the last few years either. Sure, Melvin has Weeks at 2B, but you can't really say that Weeks has been all that much better this season than what Ellis was a season ago. Third base is still a mess and Melvin doesn't have anyone in the outfield that is as accomplished of a hitter as what Willingham, DeJesus, and Matsui were, yet he seems to be getting the most out of the young talent he was given. The A's offense is still last in the league in OPS and BA and 26th in the league in runs scored. Yet they find a way to win.
The starting pitching up to this point could be argued that it is worse than it was a year ago. Starters era is 20th in the majors right now. Godfrey is already optioned. Ross has an era of over 8, and while Milone was solid at home, his last two road starts weren't all that impressive....Yet speaking of poor road starts, Milone was bad yesterday, yet the A's still battled and came back from being down by a lot early on in the ball game. The old A's team would have given up.
The bullpen has been rock solid so far, but that has more to do with knowing what pitchers to pitch in certain situations. Ryan Cook is lights out, but some relievers have been hit hard this season and/or have been ineffective and have already been sent packing. Grant Balfour is one of our best relievers in the pen and by picking him to close over Fuentes (200 career saves), it shows that he knows what will give him the best chance to win ballgames. He is reminding me a lot of Jason Isringhausen in that he relies on his fastball and if teams figure it out, it makes the end of games a little interesting...
But all in all, Melvin is making a bad team an average team and I like what I've seen so far. Simply looking at the numbers, no one would expect the A's to be a game over .500. At most, people would tend to believe that the A's would be 3 games under .500. However, a good manager can make a difference. And Bob Melvin seems to be off to the right start in his first full season in Oakland.
Let's hope he keeps it up.