Or, as it's more popularly known, the "Something Peculiar Happened on the Way to the Funeral" edition.
One week after telling reporters that he wasn't about to change the way he does things, Brewers skipper Ken Macha made a couple of moves that we haven't seen before: first, employing the closest approximation of the Brewers' optimal batting order* that we've even seen; and, second, using his new closer, John "The Ax" Axford, for the final five outs of a game. Ol' Ken's showing signs of a pulse, so the nullacct ManagerometerTM holds steady this week:
* Of course, the "optimal batting order" should not be confused with the "Optimus batting order," which, as everyone knows, goes: 2B Bumblebee; SS Jazz; P Optimus Prime; 1B Grimlock; 3B Ironhide; C Sludge; RF Brawn; LF Sideswipe; CF Swoop.
After the jump: a closer look at the changes in the batting order and the multi-inning Ax-ing. And, of course, @notkenmacha.This Week in An Old Dog Learns a New Trick: The Brewers' batting order for Sunday's matinee against the Mets -- featuring Ryan Braun hitting second, followed by Prince Fielder, Casey McGehee, and Corey Hart, with the pitcher hitting eighth and Alcides Escobar hitting ninth -- was like a bolt of lightning on a clear blue day: completely unexpected, and, at first glance, unlikely to happen again. And when Braun was back in the three-hole for Monday's game against the Marlins (after going hitless on Sunday), I figured we wouldn't see the near-optimal batting order for awhile, if ever again. At that point, Macha's Sunday line-up was akin to an eight year old accidentally composing the first line of a symphony while absent-mindedly banging away on a Casio.
But, lo! Yesterday, the near-optimal line-up appeared once again, and I reconsidered my analogy. At the very least, I think we have to acknowledge that Sunday's line-up wasn't a simple-minded, haphazard attempt to shake the Brewers out of their malaise -- like when Ned Yost hit Braun fifth when the Brewers were going through a tough stretch a couple years back. (Giving your second-best hitter fewer at-bats to try to get your team out of a funk? Yep: that's a Yosting.)
And that's why Ken Macha gets credit this week: he's not shuffling the chairs just for the sake of shuffling the chairs. There's a rhyme, and there's a reason, and there's a manager using his noodle to try to fix this thing.
This Week in Desperate Times Call For
Desperate Common-Sensical Measures: But the old dog wasn't done busting the mold quite yet: yesterday, with runners at first and third and one out in the eighth inning, K-Mach summoned newly-appointed closer John Axford, who got the final five outs of the Brewers' 7-4 victory.
In fairness, using his closer for more than three outs isn't all that out of the ordinary for Macha. Because we've been using a 48-year-old change-up specialist for the last year, we've been subjected to the all-too-common "closer pitches the ninth, only the ninth, and only for three outs" syndrome that's sweeping the league and freezing the brains of MLB managers everywhere. But when Macha was managing in Oakland, he often used his closer for more than one inning: Keith Foulke had ten (10) more-than-three-out saves in '03; Octavio Dotel had five in '04; Huston Street (who was injured late in the year) had six in '06, and so on. So, while this one doesn't qualify as "old dog, new trick," it was nice to see, nonetheless.
This Week in @notkenmacha: Macha's use the near-optimal batting order this week got me wondering: is Skip a disciple of The Book? Because Ken Macha's still not returning my telegrams, I asked @notkenmacha:
Thank you for your question, I hope your readers are benefiting from my effort to educate them.
With regards to "The Book", I hadn't read this publication until I got to Milwaukee. I am sure everyone will recall that I took over managing this team from a guy named Ned Yost. Nedgar was fired rather abruptly, and never really got the opportunity to clean out his office properly. When I arrived in Milwaukee, Ed Sedar greeted me saying, "The first thing we need to do, is clean out all of the NASCAR Hot Wheels and books out of Ned's office, so you have some room to put your things ... and by the way, someone ate your lunch". That lunch-thieving bastard was not lying about the toy cars and books, there were literally hundreds of Hot Wheels and dozens of books littering the office. It wasn't that Ned was a big reader, in fact the books were arranged in a manner to replicate the Daytona International Speedway, but for whatever reason, Ned decided to detour from the original track design, and added some ramps, bridges, and tunnels. Fortunately, my training as a civil engineer allowed me to declare the structure unsound for use, and condemned the race-track for immediate disassembling.
I told Sedar to dispose of the Hot Wheels, by putting them in Rick Peterson's lawn when the grass got high, and I threw all of the books into Dave Riske's locker, but one title caught my eye, and it was in fact "The Book" that you made reference to, Richie. I found the book fascinating, well-written and informative, and of course reinforced what I had known to be true for many years.
As a side note, not many people outside the MLB circles are aware that Ned Yost is, in fact, illiterate. It is not as if Ned is uneducated, however back in 2002, Ned Yost got locked in his office during the All-Star Break putting together a General Lee, Dukes of Hazzard model replica. Generally, Ned stuck to snap-together models, however, for whatever reason he decided to make the jump to glue-together models. Sadly, Ned's frontal lobe was no match for the poor ventilation and the 20 cups of coffee he drinks daily. Also I will add, that the main reason Mike Maddux left the Brewers, was because he got sick of Ned making him fill out the lineup card, suggesting that Maddux "didn't know how to spell Fielder, and he should prove it to the team".
Anyway, back to The Book.... Here are a few of my observations.
1.) "Counting stats like HR's are a poor way to evaluate a player's potential" -- I always knew that players who accumulated home-runs game after game, week after week, season after season, were entirely poppycock. My MLB playing career spanned two decades, and I only hit 1 HR. Do you think if hitting 40 HRs a season was truly valuable, I would have lasted as long as I did?
2.) "Batting average is a terrible stat to use when discussing players, as it can fluctuate from season to season" -- I tore up the league one season, batting a world-record high at .600, and then a few years later I struggled through an outlier season batting .200. Now, would I ever claim to be a .600 hitter? Of course not! My true talent level was probably at .450, however, I still dipped under that level a few times during the course of my career.
3.) "Beware of sample size" -- Obviously the authors dined at a local IHOP. I don't care if your pancakes are rooty or tooty, but they should be at least the size of a dinner-plate. What happened to large portions in this country? If I am paying $3.99 for my supper, I expect two scoops of creamed corn, a couple of slices of turkey-loaf, cranberry paste and some key-lime pie.
Robby, I hope this answers your concerns about why kids are so fat these days, and how raisins could make them more regular.
P.S. Tony Curtis sucks.