Chris' Corner: Tips for Skip

In the first installment of an on-going series, columnist Chris Lockard lends his wisdom to A's Manager Ken Macha on how to keep the A's in first place.

TO: Ken Macha, Oakland Athletics Manager
FROM: Chris Lockard, AthleticsInsiders Columnist
DATE: June 11, 2004
RE: Tips for the Skip

Well, coach, I know we're all riding high after our sweep of the Reds and assumption of first place in the AL West, but we can't get too complacent. You have amazing talent to work with, but so do our rivals, and the A's need to play near-perfect ball to make the postseason for the fifth straight year. So here are some suggestions to help keep this winning streak alive.

The first one is easy: never, ever let Brad Fisher coach third base again. Otherwise the A's might set a record for most number of runners thrown out at home plate. In fact, how about you never let Ron Washington coach third base again, either. Better yet, leave one of them out there and just instruct the runners to do the opposite of whatever they say.

While we're on the subject, here's a tip for you to pass on to Billy Beane: sign Rickey Henderson as a base-running coach. No one can deny that Rickey knows how to run the bases. No one can claim that the current A's know how to run the bases – even Byrnes. Rickey loves the A's, and the fans love Rickey. So let's put aside past differences and bring him home.

Speaking of home, it's been a great home stand. What have you been feeding them, anyway? Some good old-fashioned home cooking? Whatever it is, copy it, patent it, and keep stuffing it down their throats.

Stuffing. It's my favorite food at Thanksgiving. I hope you all have been teaching Cannuck Rich Harden all our great American traditions like Thanksgiving, apple pie, and baseball. The guy's gonna be a star – but remember this – he's only 22. He's just a puppy. When something in the game mentally distracts him – like when he beaned Jason LaRue – hop out to the mound and have a quick chat to let him know that you still love him.

You know what I loved this off-season? The pick-up of Bobby Kielty. That guy can rake. But for some reason, he can only rake when batting right handed. In 62 at bats against lefties, he is hitting .274 with four homeruns, just 10 strikeouts, and an OPS of .913. But in 66 at bats against righties, he is hitting .182 with one homerun, 23 strikeouts, and an OPS of .592. While his career numbers are not quite as polarizing, there is still a huge difference. From 2001 to 2003, he had 544 plate appearances from the left side. From there he racked up a .244 BA and .732 OPS, with 141 strikeouts and only 14 homeruns. He had only half as many appearances from the right side – but still managed 13 homeruns, 45 walks and only 42 strikeouts while hitting .293 with an OPS of .919. Now I know you don't like to mess with a hitters' swing in mid-season. But he can't bat any worse from the left side than he already is. So why not just spend a few days having him take swings against righties from the right side and see what happens? Who knows, maybe he'll hit them just as hard as he hits lefties.

I might be wrong about this, but I think Ricardo Rincon is left-handed. That would explain why against the 27 left-handed batters he's faced, he has a 0.00 ERA, allowing just six hits and one walk while striking out 10 and holding batters to a .222 average. But against the 35 right-handed batters he's faced, he has a 12.86 ERA, allowing 15 hits and eight walks, with batters hitting .429. So here's my suggestion: DON'T USE RINCON AGAINST RIGHTIES! He is what we call a "situational leftie." He only should be used to pitch to left-handed batters.

Normally Jim Mecir is also great against lefties. From 2001 to 2003, he held them to a .223 average. Unfortunately, this year lefties are knocking him around, and instead he's holding righties to a .200 average. But that isn't his biggest problem. This is: when he retires the first batter in an inning, he has a .95 ERA; when he doesn't, he has a 49.50 ERA. Yes, you are reading that right. The solution is unfortunate, but simple. Whenever Mecir is sent to the mound, somebody has to be warming up in the pen. When Mecir lets the first batter on, he must be pulled. It's a huge waste, but you have no choice.

Luckily, there is somebody who can pitch everyday. He can even pitch back-to-back innings in back-to-back days. Unfortunately he's not on the A's. So listen up, Skip, here's what you have to do: Buy a tape recorder. Record yourself saying "Everyday Eddie, Everyday Eddie, Everyday Eddie." Stick the tape recorder under Billy Beane's pillow every night, and set it to repeat.

You do that, and the A's will be repeating as division champs.

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