Rick Renteria’s Handling of Pitching
Moving away from the batting order, Renteria should also reconsider how he manages pitchers. While its important to limit the pitches of a young staff, he needs to stop over-managing and taking guys out of the game when they’re doing fine and not showing signs of slowing down.
This was best (or worst) exemplified in Wednesday’s game where he took out Jace Fry (a lefty), and put in struggling Kelvin Herrera to face Jose Ramirez with two outs in the ninth. Herrera threw four balls outside the strike zone, and instead of just putting Ramirez (one of the few good Indian hitters) on-base with first base open, Herrera though a pitch right down the middle that was crushed for a walk-off home run from the left side of the plate.
His reasoning for this was likely that Ramirez had only TWO hits in 17 at-bats in his career against Herrera. Has he not heard of a thing called small sample size? There’s little evidence to suggest that certain hitters own certain pitchers or vise versa. And if that is the case, it’s probably hard to know that until you have at least 50 at-bats to go off of.
Defenders of Renteria will say that the White Sox “played the percentages” and it just didn’t work out, but the fact is they didn’t play the percentages, they played the small sample size, and that doesn’t work out. If they wanted to play the percentages, they shouldn’t have put a 5+ ERA guy in to preserve a tie game in the ninth.
Or better yet just have the guys who are doing well stay in the game, and quickly remove the guys who are struggling and clearly don’t have their stuff (like when Manny Banuelos was left in to give up nine runs against the Red Sox in one inning). Stop over-managing, and stop obsessing over whether guys are righties or lefties. It isn’t working.
The last but probably most important instance of Renteria’s managing is his bunting. To his credit, he has been a little bit less bunt-happy this year than his first two years as the Sox manager, but this has been less true for the past ten games or so. With Engel demoted, there’s no one bad enough at hitting on this team where they should bunting. A bunt is literally giving an out away to the other team, one of only 27 you get per game to work with, and can kill your chance to have a big inning.
If a pitcher is letting people get on base, chances are he is struggling and you’d be better off swinging the bat against him than just giving an out away for nothing other than 90 feet of advancement. In the case of a suicide squeeze the White Sox should have players on their team who are at least good enough to hit a sac fly, which is a safer and better play.
The weirdest thing about the team’s overusing of bunts is that they aren’t even good at it. Maybe if they want the team to bunt so much, their guys should at least look like they’ve practiced it? Better yet, don’t bunt at all, ever. If they want that extra 90 feet so badly then they should try to steal a base, as there are plenty of fast guys on this team. They should never give an out away for free, but this goes back to not believing in on-base percentage…
The unfortunate fact is that no matter how badly the White Sox play, they won’t have a new manager until after the start of 2020. I’m not actually sure if this is actually a bad thing though, as it’s hard to name the guy that would be an obvious replacement. Joe Girardi? Word is he didn’t get a long with some of his young players in New York, leading to his termination. Omar Vizquel?
If he manages anything like he played the game, he will be just as bunt-happy as Renteria. Ozzie Guillen? Burned too many bridges for a reunion to happen, especially with Kenny Williams still here. A.J. Pierzysnki? Some day this might work, but for now he has no coaching experience, and he may be better suited to being the White Sox next radio guy (if he’s wants to be). Joe Maddon? This would be funny, but given how the Cubs are playing he’ll probably be extended.