The goal of this (hopefully) year-long series is not to start a #FireCash drive, nor is it to be his advocate. So if that's what you're here for, you've come to the wrong place. Rather, the goal is to take a look at our rookie manager with the benefit of some distance from the in-game (over)reactions. Disagreeing with a manager's decision doesn't (necessarily) make you a flaming troll, and agreeing with him doesn't always make you a drooling lapdog of the Rays front office. Sometimes there really is just a difference of opinion. What I'm most interested in is what kind of opinions the guy we gave a five-figure contract to seems to hold. But before we do:
Caveat emptor #1: This series will be rife with confirmation bias, recency bias, and probably a whole host of other biases. I'll try and fight against it, but they are really the nature of the beast in this kind of analysis. So I invite you to push back against my biases in the comments. We'll all be better for it. It's much easier to recall the one time the manager didn't pinch hit when you think he should have than the five times he did.
Caveat emptor #2: What a manager does as far as lineups and in-game decisions is probably twenty percent of his actual job, and that's being generous. The biggest chunk of what Kevin Cash does, we have no clue about. Let's all agree about that up front, okay? What we're arguing about is a tiny slice of what the manager actually does. But you can't very well run a blog writing articles about that, so screw it, we're speculating about what we can. So don't bring up in the comments how much bigger his job is. We know.
Caveat emptor #3: We also know that Cash and the boys have access to a ton more intel than we do. Point conceded from the get-go. You don't have to point it out to us. We're going to speculate anyway as if we knew what we're talking about. Because baseball.
Quick Hooks versus Slow Hooks:
This will be easier to get a read on once Cash has a full staff, but the results so far have been . . . puzzling. Ordinarily I'd applaud him letting Nathan Karns work through that awful beginning against Baltimore, but the truth is, pulling him in the first or second inning wasn't really an option given the state of the rest of the rotation and the pen. I did like him letting Nate Karns work deep his next time out, and the leash was long for Jake Odorizzi, who responded well. He got the most out of Matt Andriesi, and then got him out before things went too far off the rails. That was nice.
Which brings us to his handling of Archer. The low pitch count on opening day is maybe defensible (early season, building arm strength, blah, blah, blah), but pulling him after seven in a tight ball game against the Marlins, when he was still under 90 pitches? When he would let Odorizzi top 100 a day later? I don't get it. Someone will have to explain that to me.
To Pinch Hit or Not to Pinch Hit:
Rays pinch hitters are 4 for 15 with one walk, which is pretty solid. Leading the way is Tim Beckham, 2 for 4 with a memorable homer, but even without Captain BatFlip, Cash has done a nice job of rotating guys through and putting them in positions to succeed. The eye test tells me that the pinch hitters have been working good at bats, even when the results haven't been there.
Cash also hasn't been shy about going for the insurance run when the opportunity presents itself. In the top of the ninth of a 2-1 game on Monday, he sent up Brandon Guyer for Kevin Kiermaier and Mikie Mahtook for David DeJesus against lefty Aaron Loup. They didn't get the run, but it was still an aggressive play that left the Rays with a weaker (though certainly not weak) outfield to close out the game.
But then you had the decision to leave DeJesus on the bench against Orioles RHP Kevin Gausman and Darren O'Day. A bases loaded matchup between Gausman and Jennings seemed like good time to pull the trigger. Then again, DJJ was literally the only man on the bench player during this stretch, so it would be understandable if the manager was gunshy about pulling the trigger, especially at such an early juncture (I think it was the sixth?).
Less understandable was the choice to PH for Bobby Wilson with Rene Rivera. Really? Our career backup catcher-manager may have a crush on career backup catchers. This is something to keep an eye on. Yes, Rivera stung the ball, and Hechavarria had to make a nice snag to rob him of a hit. But I can't see any circumstances where it's the right call to send up Rene Rivera to pinch hit against a RHP, especially when there are lefty bats on the bench. The same applies to the decision not to pinch hit for Rivera last night after Daniel Norris was lifted. While you can make the case for starting Rivera at first against the lefty (I think it's a weak case, but it's at least defensible), it really doesn't make much sense to me keep him in once the platoon advantage is gone.
Overall, I like his feel for handling the bench. He keeps everybody involved and engaged, which is good. But he still makes me throw the remote sometimes.
There's not much I can say beyond "Why is Kevin Jepsen pitching instead of Chris Archer?" and I covered that already. We haven't seen Cash try to exploit matchups as much as his predecessor, but that is probably because he doesn't have the tools to do so. This pen will get much more interesting when McGee returns.
Dem Crazy Lineups:
The one thing Cash did promise was more consistent lineups, so we'll try to hold him to that. And he gets big negative marks for allowing James Loney and John Jaso to injure themselves! Why is Allen Dykstra even on the team, let alone starting?
Sorry, a GDT broke out for second. I'm better now.
Even with the injuries, the lineup has been remarkably consistent. There has been a little shuffling toward the bottom of the order, but the meat of the order has been Souza/Cabby/Longo in the 2-3-4 slots every day except for Souza's day off. Guyer has hit leadoff against lefties according to plan. Jennings has been getting more RBI chances (so of course he's hitting like a leadoff guy, whatever, at least he's hitting!)
Moves that made me think of Joe Maddon:
- In a good way = The bullpen game
This was a fine plan, and it was well executed by everyone except Erasmo. I think we can all agree that the less we talk about him the better.
- In a bad way = starting Rivera at first last night.
Like I said, it's defensible. He does need a rest, and this keeps his bat in the lineup. But he's not here for his bat. Seems to me that a much better play would have been to put Souza at first, where he worked out during the spring, and give Mikie a start in the outfield.
That's all I got. Let your Cash puns fly in the comments.