Whether this will be a regular series or a one-off depends on how you like it and also whether I can get Mel Allen to return my calls about hosting it. Not sure what's up with that guy.
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.
Twice: Valencia 3-0 green light
I like Melvin's decision to give Danny Valencia the green light on not one, but two, 3-0 pitches in the season's first five games. The 3-0 green light is tricky because walks are good and batters given the green light need to be disciplined enough only to swing at fastballs in the happy zone. It's not a hit-and-run where you look to swing; it's an opportunity to sit "dead red," then "grip it and rip it" if you get exactly what you're looking for.
The outcomes were inconsequential, with Valencia fouling back very hittable fastballs. One thing I like about the occasional 3-0 green light is that it prevents pitchers from throwing "get me over" fastballs down the middle 3-0 and if pitchers begin aiming for the corners 3-0 they are ultimately going to issue more walks overall. Just the threat of a green light is enough and Valencia is a good guy to give that green light to. I like the message and aggressiveness, especially with a team not likely to hit a ton of HRs.
Thursday: Coghlan stays in against the LHP
Even thought the A's lost 6-1 on Thursday, they had one big chance to win before the floodgates opened in the 9th. The White Sox led just 2-0 when the A's batted in the bottom of the 7th and put runners on 1B and 3B with nobody out and LHP Zach Duke on the mound.
Melvin allowed Coghlan to bat instead of opting for one of four RH pinch hitters available on the bench: Mark Canha (who pinch hit right after Coghlan struck out), Khris Davis, Billy Butler, and Josh Phegley. Andrew Lambo was also available as an option against a RH reliever.
Sometimes you have to know when you have the best shot you're going to have the rest of the way and in that instance you need to go for the jugular -- or at least put your best foot forward. Lifting Coghlan, on a day when Jed Lowrie was the DH, would have meant giving up the DH in the top of the 8th in order to put Lowrie at 2B. All that amounts to is a commitment to pinch hitting again when the pitcher's spot comes up and in fact the A's wound up putting Lowrie in the field anyway when Lambo pinch hit for Marcus Semien. At that point, though, there were 2 outs and still no runs in; the A's had lost hold of the jugular and were just trying to draw any blood at all.
Friday: Reddick moves to RF in the 9th
Reddick was the DH but with a 3-2 lead Melvin gave up the DH in order to put his best defensive team on the field. Yes, Newbob, giving up the DH is not always a big deal. Well done.
Friday: Doolittle the 8th, Madson the 9th
It's not that I particularly liked this decision for this situation. It's that I like how Melvin is open to moving his high leverage relievers around in order to maximize their value. No doubt relievers really do like to know their roles, and there is something to be said for maintaining some consistency for your creatures of habit. At the same time, flexibility is an inherent part of a reliever's job description and it's the manager's job to try to maximize their value.
If Melvin is willing to gauge intricacies like "heart of the order" vs. "bottom of the order," LH batters coming up vs. RH batters coming up in order to inform his decisions, he is going to put his relievers in a better position to succeed more often. So far he appears willing to do that and I applaud him for that.
There's four moments to chew on and add your own "Loved it!"/"Hated it!" moments from five games full of complex decisions made even more complex by the starting pitchers averaging less than 5 innings with 40% of them recovering from stomach imploditis.
These four moves...Pulling Bassitt and Graveman when he did, Canha at 1B instead of Alonso on Opening Night, Hendriks left out there Thursday as a sacrificial lamb after throwing nearly 3 IP just two days before...So much to analyze, so little time before we have five more games to dissect...