While the Milwaukee Brewers on the field have faltered to a 3-7 mark recently — most notably Francisco Rodriguez and anyone batting with runners in scoring position — manager Ron Roenicke has been a consistent contributor to the club’s struggles.
Roenicke has been continuously forcing his players to overcome his strategic mistakes.
The most glaring mismanagement came in the final game of a four-game set with the Atlanta Braves, bringing in Will Smith without having warmed up. Roenicke could have done two things to give the Brewers a chance to succeed, but instead he sat on his hands.
Roenicke had two options to make it work: 1) Have Zach Duke warming up in the bullpen so he could relieve Smith after an intentional walk to Ryan Doumit, or 2) Have Jonathan Lucroy set up eight inches off the outside corner of the plate to give Smith an extra four “warm-up” pitches at full velocity, walking Doumit to face the next batter with a few extra tosses in hand.
The Brewers’ manager chose neither and Smith allowed the go-ahead, two-run single through a drawn-in infield as Milwaukee would fall 5-4 and drop the series three games to one.
Speaking of playing the infield in, Roenicke does this far too often and in the wrong circumstances. In Atlanta, the eventual winning run was on second base, so moving the infielders closer to the plate increases the odds of a base hit scoring that run. Roenicke said that he will always play the infield up with the tying run on the third on the road, even though he’s improving the chances the Brewers will lose.
Really? So if it’s the bottom of the ninth he’ll still play that way. That’s plain foolish caring more about the tying run than the winning run. He also often plays the infield in early in games, opening doors for big innings instead of opting for one run allowed and the easy out.
That’s putting players in spots to fail.
His stubborn ways continued on Monday against the Baltimore Orioles when he, as always, had the “contact play” on with the winning run on third and one out. Even though the infield was playing in, where a defender would easily throw out Elian Herrera at home on a grounder, Roenicke thought (as usual) this was the right call.
Wrong again! At the MLB level, a ball hit at in infielder will result in an out at home plate 99 times out of 100. Even worse is what happened Monday when Mark Reynolds‘ soft line drive was caught and Herrera was doubled off third. So instead of another at-bat for the hot-hitting Jean Segura, the contact play shut down the Brewers and it led to another tough loss.
There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of stats for this scenario, but we’ve seen far too many outs in key situations when it comes to the contact play. It’s a mindless gamble with the infield in.
Finally, Roenicke’s substitution choices in that same game were laughable. With the bases loaded and one out in the eighth frame, he called upon Rickie Weeks to pinch hit against a tough righty. It should have been Logan Schafer or Herrera, guys who are: 1) left-handed, 2) make better contact than Weeks, and 3) run well to avoid a double play. Predictably, Weeks struck out.
Then with a tie game in the ninth, Roenicke pinch runs for Lucroy at third base with Herrera, which basically eliminates two potential pinch-hitters if the game continues as both Herrera and Martin Maldonado would be eliminated (Maldonado would go in defensively for Lucroy). Herrera gets doubled off third base, the game goes on and the lack of pinch-hitters burns them in the tenth.
With one out, the tying run on second base and a lefty on the hill, Weeks, Herrera and Maldonado aren’t available, so it’s Irving Falu, just called up from the minors, getting the key at-bat and bouncing into the game-ending double play.
Pure personnel mismanagement.
Yes, the players can pitch more effectively and hit better with men on base, but Roenicke’s decisions are a huge hindrance to the Brewers’ playoff chances and major factors in their 10-14 May. If something doesn’t change quickly, the team’s talent and hot start will be completely wasted.