Last night’s loss wasn’t solely on Trey Hillman. He may have pulled Greinke a little early, but Zack was already at 116 pitches. A tired Greinke is better than anyone in the Royals bullpen, but an injured Greinke puts his very bright future at risk, so I am fine with that move. I was fine with John Bale entering the game in relief of Greinke although Bale is not a lefty specialist. Bale, for his part, did his job. Soria isn’t right and should still be on the DL. Kyle Farnsworth did what Kyle does, but even that seemed to be the right move at the time it was made. One specific person let the team down last night and his presence is the fault of someone who has routinely been letting down the team all season.
If it weren’t for Tony Pena Jr. still being on the roster despite hitting .115/.179/.154 this season and .169/.189/.209 in 225 AB in 2008, the Royals would have been out of the inning and Greinke would have been in line for a win with only 1 ER allowed. The level of defensive play does not exist that could justify TPJ’s bat being on a ML roster. To compound this atrocity, Tony Pena Jr. is not a good defensive player despite the fact that Ryan, Frank, and Joel try to convince us otherwise. Yes Tony Pena Jr. can make an athletic defensive play from time to time, but I seem to recall another Royals SS capable of making stellar plays but overall was poor defensively.
Wouldn’t we all rather have Angel Berroa back on the team now over TPJ? Last year Berroa hit .230/.304/.310 in 256 AB. I don’t think anyone is going to argue the fact that Angel is a better offensive player, so what about defense? Royals’ fans collectively cringed when a ball was hit to SS in the Berroa era, but in 2008 he was a better defensive player than TPJ. Last year Berroa had a .975 FP and 4.72 RF/9 compared to the NL positional averages of .976 and 4.43. TPJ had a .966 FP and 3.86 RF/9 compared to the AL positional averages of .971 and 4.39. For the record, I’m not cherry picking the stats to make TPJ look bad, there isn’t any need for that. His career .965 FP and 4.36 RF/9 are both below league average of .971 and 4.36 during the time he has played. Seriously, does anyone not named Trey Hillman or Dayton Moore think that our Double-A SS Chris McConnell (.220/.275/.275) or Triple-A SS Mario Lisson (.228/.241/.456) could possibly fare any worse for our major league team at this point? Here’s a novel idea that doesn’t even require a roster move; how about starting the true defense-first SS, Luis Hernandez (.200/.259/.200) on a daily basis? Trey and Dayton are both responsible for the Tony Pena Jr. love-fest we are being subjected to. Dayton Moore may be keeping him on the ML roster, but it is Trey Hillman that insists on playing him.
Trey Hillman is not an idiot. He may be a baseball guy, but that alone doesn’t make him a good baseball manager. I’ve worked in health care since I was a teenager, but that doesn’t qualify me to perform open heart surgery. If you put me in an OR with a scalpel and expect me to come through, the patient is going to die despite my best efforts. You can also be sure that the rest of the personnel in the OR aren’t going to be brimming with confidence or even hopeful of a positive outcome. I sure as hell am going to be unable to command respect in that setting. I work with data, forms, barcodes, and computers and I think I am pretty damn good at it, but even within my field I can be horribly miscast if placed in a different role.
Last year Trey Hillman was equipped with a dull knife heading into a gunfight. This year, well he’s still holding the knife, but at least it was sharpened a little. His usage of the pitching staff is typically flawed. His day to day lineups are typically flawed. The overall strategy he implements is flawed. The roster that Hillman is working with is horribly flawed. I can’t imagine that players on this team take him seriously anymore. I have no doubt that Trey Hillman knows baseball, and I don’t doubt he has value to a ML organization in some capacity, but he is horribly miscast as a major league manager.
The 2009 version of the Royals has a lot of holes, flaws, and injuries to deal with, but it has 2 glaring problems that require immediate attention. Tony Pena Jr. needs to be released and removed from the organization completely and Trey Hillman needs to be fired. The Royals being terrible isn’t all on Trey Hillman, but he isn’t helping matters. Good managers do more with less. Average managers get what is expected out of their team. Trey Hillman is doing less with more. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.