Flanked by the ghosts of Blaine Edwards and Antoine Merriweather, let's take a look at this week's decision from the A's skipper. But first, a repeat of our standard disclaimer...
There is a misperception that analyzing a manager's tactical decision-making is a black and white referendum on his tactical skills overall. However, in reality every manager, over the course of a long season, is going to make at 50 great decisions and 50 poor ones -- not to mention all the good ones that go bad and the bad ones that work out anyway.
The point of this analysis is simply to parse some of the specific decisions that I applaud or with which I disagreed, in order to say "What did he do well this week and what did he botch?" Mostly, though the point is not to judge the manager so much as it is to debrief on a week's worth of difficult decisions. All analyses are based on process and not on outcome.
Moar Coco, Less Burns
As clutch and nostalgic as Crisp's game-winning HR in Seattle was, Billy Burns is sitting far too much in order for Melvin to get Coco's healthy body onto the field while he can. Billy Burns may be the worst .280 hitter in the league, given that his OBP is .308 and his slugging percentage is .280, but in a lineup that can't shake the Mendoza line Burns has been one of the few players to actually have a fair number of successful at bats. Plus his singles are more useful than most, given his speed and base stealing potential.
Also, when the dust clears Crisp is now batting all of .182/.229/.364 while his throws, combined with Khris Davis', will still travel less than one throw from Josh Reddick. (Seriously, if Davis threw it as far as he could to Crisp and Crisp threw it as far as could to Reddick, I'm certain that Reddick could throw it all the way back to Davis without breaking a sweat.)
Burns has been a very flawed player so far this season, with zero extra-base hits, all of one walk, and poor fundamentals in CF. Yet he has still been one of the A's more successful contributors and he needs to be in there. Crisp, for all his clutchiness and veteranosity, is still a player going gently into that good night.
Dull Stays In Lower Leverage
Despite throwing 7 perfect innings out of the bullpen, Ryan Dull continues to be used in lower-leverage situations while struggling relievers, such as Liam Hendriks and Sean Doolittle, continue to be used in higher-leverage. Why is this a good thing? Because the worst thing a manager can do is to be so reactionary to small samples that his player fear a bad week or a bad pitch.
Dull will work his way into higher leverage sooner rather than later if he continues to dominate, just as if they struggle the rest of the month Hendriks and Doolittle will find themselves moving away from "plus" situations. Right now, two weeks into the season, there's no need to put added pressure on the young Dull nor is there prudence in putting a handful of outings ahead of a veteran's solid track record. There are times to act quickly and times to show players that you see the bigger picture, and this is an example of the latter.
Surkamp Named Tuesday's SP In New York
Seriously, folks, what has to happen for the A's to realize that Jesse Hahn should be making these starts -- and probably should have all along. Perhaps the A's felt strongly that Hahn really needed AAA time to get everything sorted out in a low pressure environment. Fine. Hahn pitched very well his first AAA start and dominated his second start.
Meanwhile Surkamp is, well, Eric Surkamp, needing 70 pitches to wobble through 3 innings and combining with Rich Hill to put enormous pressure on a bullpen already staggering without the benefit of a long reliever. With a day off Monday, the A's should be skipping Surkamp's start and putting him in the bullpen from Sunday until April 25th -- when Hahn should be called up to make the next start needed by the #5 SP.
Granted, all this could be put on the front office but given that Melvin manages the players he has, if the hand he is dealt is going to exclude Hahn (thanks, Frost) I will still put on the manager that he should skip Surkamp's turn and put him in the bullpen. That's probably not fair to Melvin, but managing is rarely fair.
Not a lot of specific tactical moves to parse this past week, as it was a week of pretty straight-forward decisions from pitch to pitch. Things always look bleak when you've lost 4 in a row, but a couple wins over the weekend would leave the A's 6-7 having won a series from the defending world champions. Get Burns in there, get Surkamp out of there, and let's roll.