When the Brewers hired Ken Macha this past offseason I was excited. I knew that he had managed in Oakland under Billy Beane. I figured that under during his time in Oakland he understood some of the basic principles of managing. I also thought, how could he be any worse than Ned Yost?
My excitement continued to grow as he began making comments. He stated how he didn't want to waste outs on the bases. On a side note, nothing angers me more than watching some one get thrown out stealing a base. A team like the Brewers relies mainly on power and getting on base. There is no sense in risking runners and giving away outs when many players on this team are able to hit extra base hits.
When the season started, I liked Macha's managing style even more. One of the most frustrating things about Yost was his constant tinkering with the lineup. Macha seemed to get comfortable with his order and not give a ton of off days. I remember last season when Prince Fielder was sat in order to get some rest. Yost inserted Mike Rivera in Fielder's 1st base spot. I, for the life of me can't understand why Prince Fielder would need a rest. He plays the least stressful position on the field. With that being said, Macha seemed to have a particular order that he stuck with. I liked that.
Sure it was easy to say that Macha was a good manager after the good first two months of the season, but then things started to turn.
Macha was dealt a bad hand with the Brewers rotation. They have simply been awful this season. It's not only that the starters were unable to keep opponents off the board, they were unable to go deep into games. Because of this, Macha was forced to extensively use his bullpen.
The main reason the Brewers started so well was the bullpen success in the first two months. These guys were simply untouchable, but when the workload increased, their effectiveness was killed. This is my biggest beef with Macha. He completely ran this bullpen into the ground this season. Todd Coffey will be back next season, but it is tough to know what we are going to get out of him. Macha has abused his arm this season with multiple outings in consequective days. On top of that, Macha has forced Coffey into many high pitch counts. Just a couple of weeks ago Macha used Coffey for three innings in a loss to the Reds. What is the point of risking Coffey's arm at this point in the season?
More alarming than his bullpen work is how he has managed young players.
When Rickie Weeks was lost for the season, the Brewers called up Mat Gamel. Gamel is a great prospect who has an amazing bat. He bats lefty, but is quite the opposite of many other lefties. He absolutely kills left handed pitching. His career splits are amazing. This season, he is hitting .338 with an on base percentage of .386. This has lead to an OPS of 1.075 against southpaws. That is compared to his disappointing .752 OPS against righties. Macha platooned Gamel, which I disagreed with, but could somewhat understand. Problem is, Macha used Gamel to face righties exclusively instead of lefties, which he has crushed throughout his career. Sure Gamel struggled in the majors. That was probably because he wasn't allowed to face what he could actually hit. There was no reason that Gamel should have lost any at bats to Bill Hall.
When J.J. Hardy was sent down, the Brewers playoff hopes were all but gone. He was replaced with Alcides Escobar. This was the perfect time to play Escobar everyday and see what he can do. Instead, Macha used him in a platoon with Craig Counsell. If your going to waste Escobar's service time in the major leagues, why even call him up? Young players need consistent at bats. Counsell has played well this season, but playing him does absolutely nothing at this point.
The last straw for me has been what has been going on lately. The last two days Macha has leadoff with Corey Patterson. How Corey Patterson even has a major league job is beyond me, but why he is leading off is even more confusing. The worst thing that could happen at this point is Patterson having a good September and the Brewers look at keeping him in 2010. Patterson is a bad player and has no future with this team. Why not lead off Escobar instead. Getting him more at bats can only help his development. It seems strange to instead give those at bats to Patterson.
In short, I don't think this season is completely Macha's fault. Has he managed every game perfectly? No, but he could have been much worse. I think it is easy to say that he has been the problem this season and fire him, but what would we do after that. Macha has all the tools of making a good manager, but sometimes he just over thinks the game. He brought Todd Coffey in in the 5th inning yesterday for a matchup with Pujols. While Coffey is a good pitcher, there is no reason he should be pitching in the 5th. I think the players are frustrated with his managing style. If this is the case, he needs to go. It's tough to play for a manager that no one likes. The players come first. Managers can be replaced. It will be interesting to see what way management goes this offseason.