It’s early, but here are a few things from the first week or so of the 2015 season that matter.
1. Managers should be relatively unimportant, but their decisions are huge. “Do no harm” should be the oath every manager takes before stepping into the dugout. He has two basic jobs for each game: lineup construction and bullpen management. As much as I like to rail against managers for their illogical lineup construction, the most important (by far) job they have is the management of their bullpen arms. Never will I understand why no one has the courage (it takes an entire organization to do it) to eliminate designated bullpen roles. Never will I understand why a “closer,” who is supposedly the best reliever on the team, is disallowed from pitching until the 9th inning with a lead and (often) the bases empty. Exhibit A: Bryan Price’s continued use of sub-par pitchers in the 8th inning.
2. Plate discipline matters. Just ask teams like the Nationals, who are swinging outside the strike zone more than 24 other teams and whose team OBP ranks 27th.
3. Every game counts. The Royals are 7-0, as of April 15. Their team line of .329/.401/.532 isn’t sustainable, but seven wins are seven wins. Will they run away with the division? I say no, but if they finish the remainder of the season one game over .500 this year, that’s a record of 85-77. Not too shabby.
4. Replay is broken and needs to go away. I’m a perfectionist. I’m also not a fan of bad umpiring. But the idea that MLB’s video review system in its current iteration is the answer to missed called is a joke. The answer is not more camera angles. The answer is to review everything or review nothing. And by everything, I mean every pitch. Nothing affects a baseball game more than the call of ball or strike. Home plate umpires are typically amazing, but even a few missed calls behind the plate have a more drastic effect on the game than whether a runner was safe or out at first base in the third inning.
5. At their best, the best in MLB are incredible. The hot starts of guys like Adrian Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, Joey Votto, and Matt Harvey, among others, shows just how good these guys are and just how hard the game is.