Had a thought yesterday. As much as I hated John Farrell costing the Blue Jays games for us these past two years-- what with the over-managing of the offense, and under-managing of the pitching-- it's probably going to be really, really fun to watch John Farrell blow games this year for the Red Sox.
I think we all know my opinion on managers in the big leagues-- players tend to win and lose the games on their own until the manager decides to stick his face in there. Both short-term choices-- pitching changes, bunts, steals-- and long-term choices-- defined bullpen roles, "getting comfortable" with a spot in the batting order-- make up those points in time, and my personal belief is that Farrell didn't do a good job in those times that he did get involved.
Flatly defining the manager's role and Mr. John's ability to perform within it makes me want to consider some variables. We never really had a traditional (i.e. good) closer under Farrell's rule, or at least an unconventional one that was consistently good for an extended period, for example. FrankFrank (and Santos) kept getting hurt, which led to Rauch and Coco being tossed in to the role, despite their flaws. Both were mercilessly left in said role until Casey Janssen decided that enough was enough, and he took the job and ran with it, but only when Coco and Rauch failed miserably. I'd guess that that's not really an issue for Boston now, given Joel Hanrahan's success over the last few years, as well as Andrew Bailey (and Daniel Bard? Koji Uehara?) being a respectable contingency plan. I just feel like we won't be hearing any of the same gripes from Red Sox fans about closers that we had over the last two years.
That's just one though.
Three things came to my mind immediately when I thought about what I hated about Farrell over these two years.
Flaw #1: Farrell completely ignored splits. Instead of shielding Octavio Dotel from lefties, he freely allowed Dotel to get completely pummeled, to the tune of a .422 wOBA against vs LHB. Little things like that. I'm not good enough at baseball-reference to determine what the alternatives were on any given day/inning/AB, but of the other 10 people who threw 10+ innings out of the bullpen for the Jays that year, Dotel ranked dead last vs. lefties^. And it wasn't a surprise either-- a career .332 wOBA against, with several seasons above .360, and two above .400. We all knew that Dotel should be shielded from lefties, but that didn't stop anyone.
Let's not forget Adam Lind getting everyday AB's against lefties, either.
^-- Odd use of a table, I know. Set a 10IP limit to get rid of clutter like Rommie Lewis and Brian Tallet, but yeah; very small sample size that was used conveniently to prove a point that nobody was arguing against in the first place.
How it can cost the Sox: Well, Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales are both likely to miss opening day with injuries, which could leave Andrew Miller as the lone lefty coming out of the Boston bullpen.
The first thing I'd do in such a scenario, if I were Farrell or any of his coaches, is figure out which of my righties has handled lefties well, both recently and over the course of their careers. These are the 9 non-Breslow, non-Morales members of the Red Sox that I see as most likely to get bullpen time this year (Forget Miller for a minute, since he's a LOOGY now in an otherwise leftyless bullepn). Junichi Tazawa handles lefties nicely, albeit over a tiny sample, Koji Uehara has handled both righties and lefties nicely over his career since he's so awesome, and to be quite honest, only Clayton Mortensen truly stinks against lefties. Put fairly simply, this bullpen is quite significantly better than any bullpen Farrell had at any point during his tenure in Toronto. The return of Breslow and Morales should further help that.
For the lineup, catcher will probably be a platoon of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross, but the rest of the bench seems fairly thin, so it might be tough to shield anybody against their platoon splits. Jonny Gomes might need to sit out against RHPs every now and then, but it's not like there are a bunch of solid bats on that bench.
Flaw #2: Lineup construction. Corey Patterson getting AB after AB in the 2-hole, or Adam Lind batting ahead of Edwin Encarnacion so as to avoid have consecutive RHBs. In the Patterson case, there weren't any options that were markedly better, especially when Patterson was swinging a halfway respectable bat there at the start of the season. Hill, Lind, Arencibia and Davis all had OBP's below .300 for the year, Snider was getting dicked around in AAA, Eric Thames had a pretty horrific approach at the plate, and Brett Lawrie only joined the team in late July or early August, if memory serves. Still, Corey Patterson.
The Patterson thing isn't everything-- let's not forget Adam Lind and Juan Rivera hitting cleanup, or Rajai Davis and Mike McCoy hitting leadoff solely because they're fast and short, respectively.
How it can cost the Sox: It's kind of hard to tell how he's going to set it up everyday at the moment, but the projected lineup seems pretty reasonable to me. It will be interesting to see what happens in the event of an injury, but this isn't the 2011 Jays, where there were only three good hitters and 6 others who are either rookies or should be DFA'ed. There are four legit hitters, and the rest are at least serviceable big league bats. Kind of hard to fuck this one up too badly.
Flaw #3: Running in to outs. Let's go out there and steal a bunch of bases and be aggressive! Or get thrown out and kill rallies. Or bunt and give away an out for the sake of 90 feet. Whatever.
How it can cost the Sox: Between Shane Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury, Farrell should have two pretty legitimate base-stealing options, not dissimilar to what he had in Rajai Davis over the last few years. Beyond that, Pedroia stole 20 this year, and that's about-- Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and David Ortiz aren't really much for steals, and Will Middlebrooks only had 4 in 75 games this year. The two Jays teams that Farrell has had have definitely been faster, and less proficient with the bats than this year's version of the Red Sox. Running with the Jays kind of made sense, in a way-- running with the Red Sox isn't really going to be all that necessary, since there will be more than one person who can hit on the team.
Conclusion: Remember how Cito Gaston made us all really mad, since he sat Travis Snider and let Fred Lewis play in his place? Which prompted us to realize that Cito was really only good at managing a team full of veterans and superstars, such as the '92 and '93 Jays teams? I think I'm realizing that John Farrell wasn't very good at managing the young batch of guys that we had last year, but probably isn't going to have a whole bunch of room to fuck this Red Sox team up, based solely on the team that Ben Cherington has built for him.
At the present time, I really struggle to see how he could mess up the bullpen royally, even if he completely ignores any and all data that Bill James hands him; I don't see how he can construct his lineup in any way that really makes anybody start yelling at their TV, barring an injuries; and the mix of guys that he has are either adequately fast enough to steal a lot of bases, or so slow that they shouldn't even bother trying. There are no mid-range guys like Kelly Johnson and Edwin Encarnacion who need perfect jumps to steal.
Dare I say it-- John Farrell is going to have an easy job this year in Boston. No matter how terrible he is, there's no way that fans are going to hate him as much as they hated Bobby V.
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