Todd Kalas just answered a fan question submitted via twitter by noting that today marks just the third time this season that Joe Maddon has used the same lineup on consecutive days, and the first time it happened since June 11 and 12.
My biggest critique of Maddon has always been that he manages like a bench coach. Bench coaches are supposed to think outside the box and keep the manager on his toes. The manager’s job is to pick some of the bench coach’s creative ideas while discarding the others. Sometimes, it feels like Maddon needs some steady managerial-hand to discard some of his more off-the-wall notions.
My gut says that Maddon’s constant lineup tinkering is one of those hair brained notions that Mike Scoscia would have left on the cutting room floor.
It is often said that hitting a round ball with a round bat while both are moving is the hardest task in sports. While the incredible amount of preparation and scouting Major League teams engage in gives the hitters a fighting chance, it still only levels the odds enough that the greatest hitter in the modern era got out 6 out of every 10 times he came to the plate.
Scouting and preparation alone are simply insufficient to make a good athlete into a competent Major League hitter. In my experience, the x-factor is a hitter’s confidence. Hitting is so difficult, that hitters need a little blind faith to effectively undertake what is ultimately a failing enterprise.
This is the area that the Rays’ skipper seems to do his lineup a disservice. Confidence can often be derived from consistency. Major League players already have to face a huge number of variables every day from time zones, to park dimensions, to pitcher ability. Minimizing the amount of change — by solidifying a finite number of consistent lineups — allows hitters to focus on opposing pitchers alone without worrying about what additional duties the day’s lineup spot will require.