Giants manager Bruce Bochy keeps pushing all of the right buttons

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The Giants weren’t as much of a surprise the Nationals, so it’s doubtful Bruce Bochy will get much love in the Manager of the Year award balloting when the results are announced next month.

Now if there were a Postseason Manager of the Year award, there’s no doubt Bochy would claim it in a landslide. It seems Bochy and his giant cranium can do no wrong this month and particularly these last five games.

– He pulled Madison Bumgarner from the rotation in favor of Barry Zito in Game 5 of the NLCS, watched Zito pitch a gem to keep the Giants in the series and then restored Bumgarner to the rotation for Game 2 of the World Series with stellar results.

– He’s seemed to have the knack for knowing exactly when to turn to the bullpen. Of course, it’s a lot easier to look like a genius when both the starters and relievers are pitching like they have been lately.

The way I’ve always looked at it is that, if you’ve already decided you’re going to pull a pitcher after one mistake, you don’t send him back out to make the mistake. Jim Leyland may or may not have done that tonight. He had starter Doug Fister open the seventh, only to remove him after Hunter Pence singled to lead off the inning. Maybe it was Leyland’s plan to pull Fister for the lefty (with back-to-back left-handers coming up) regardless of what happened with Pence, and if so, that’s defensible.  Still, it should have been Octavio Dotel’s batter all along.

Bochy has handled the pitching changes flawlessly, and he’s continued to play matchups late in games even when it seems one of his relievers is doing well. Not only is he playing the percentages, but it appears that the quick hooks have made his relievers more effective while working for the second day in a row.

– He’s gotten terrific results from Tim Lincecum as a reliever.

– He hasn’t resorted to any foolish small-ball tactics. Bochy could have had Belt try to bunt in the seventh inning tonight, but Belt has very little bunting experience and probably would have struggled to get it down. Bochy let Belt hit and was rewarded with a walk. And then, with a guy up who can bunt, Bochy had Gregor Blanco move the runners along (and even that turned into an unexpected bonus when the bunt failed to roll foul and Blanco reached).

Bochy doesn’t have a great lineup, but he has his players playing to their strengths. He hits and runs with Marco Scutaro because Scutaro is pretty much the ultimate hit-and-run guy. There haven’t been any bad stolen base attempts. He hasn’t tried to force the issue, and he’s not giving away outs.

– He’s also not giving away baserunners. In the second inning of Game 7 against the Cardinals, Matt Cain was pitching with runners on first and third, one out and No. 8 hitter Pete Kozma at the plate. Daniel Descalso went on to steal second. Had Mike Matheny been managing the Giants, there’s a good chance the steal would have led to an intentional walk of Kozma, setting up the double play with the pitcher up. Bochy, though, let Cain face Kozma, got a strikeout and then retired Lohse on a looping liner to short.  As a result, it was inning over, instead of Jon Jay potentially being up with the bases loaded and two outs.

So, yeah, I like what Bochy is doing this month. And I’m not typically such a big fan of his. It’s also surely worth noting that the starting pitching decisions are hardly his alone; Brian Sabean and company have their say as well. But if the Giants do come through and win this thing, Bochy is going to deserve all of the praise he gets. He’s put the team in the right position to win every time.

If the Tigers are sub-.500 at the end of June it’ll be fire sale time

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Jon Morosi reports that that the Detroit Tigers will make all veterans available via trade if they’re still under .500 by the end of June.

This was the position they entered the offseason with — everyone is available! — but they ended up gearing up for one more push with the core of veterans they currently employ. It was not a bad move, I don’t think. With the exception of the Indians, the AL Central is mostly down, or at least appeared to be over the winter, with the Royals in decline and the Twins and White Sox seemingly a few years away from contention. The Twins, however, have been fantastic and the Tigers have mostly underachieved.

So we’re back to this. Which veterans the Tigers can reasonably unload, however, is an open question. J.D. Martinez is in his walk year, so while tradable, he may not bring back a big return. Guys like Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera either have very large contracts or no-trade protection.

The end of June is still a while from now, of course, and while the Tigers are under .500, they’re only 4.5 games behind the Twins. But they had better turn it around or else it sounds like the front office is going to turn the page.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.