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Thread: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

  1. #1
    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    It's refreshing to hear these words from an actual major league manager (even though he has only managed in Japan up to this point). And yes, KC is actually a major league team, despite recent evidence to the contrary.

    http://www.kansascity.com/sports/story/518807.html

    Royals DeJesus trying new approach to leadoff duty
    By BOB DUTTON
    The Kansas City Star

    S URPRISE, Ariz. | One of the many lessons under way here at Camp DoItRight is a remedial course in batting leadoff. Instructor Quilvio Veras has one pupil.

    David DeJesus.

    For years, DeJesus saw little significance to batting first in the lineup. Sure, it meant a few more at-bats over a season. But, really, he took the same approach as he would on those less-frequent occasions when he batted elsewhere in the lineup.

    “I was just trying to have good at-bats,” he said. “That’s all I was thinking about: Have a good at-bat.”

    This is the American League, after all. Land of the designated hitter. Pitchers just pitch. The leadoff hitter simply has the first seat on the lineup merry-go-round, right?

    No.

    Listen to Veras, and it’s a more emphatic NO!

    “Everything has got to be different for a leadoff hitter,” argues Veras, a roving coach for the Royals who spent most of his seven big-league seasons in the role. “For me, the leadoff hitter is the key to the game. If he’s not getting on, then we’re not scoring runs.

    “If he gets on base, the big guys drive him in. You score runs, you win games.”

    That speaks, loudly, to new manager Trey Hillman’s relentless devotion to on-base percentage. OBP is a mantra with Hillman, who stresses its importance at every opportunity.

    “I’ve spoken to all of them about eliminating batting average and going to OBP,” he said. “Because OBP really is the statistic that tells you what your chances are of scoring runs.”

    At first glance, DeJesus emerges as a poster boy for Hillman’s philosophy. DeJesus ranked second among the club’s regulars last season with a .351 on-base percentage and was even better, at .358, when serving as the leadoff hitter.

    Dig just a little deeper, though, and a need for improvement screams out.

    DeJesus’ .358 OBP placed him 10th among 22 AL players last season who got at least 150 plate appearances while serving as a lineup’s leadoff hitter.

    “There are so many little things that I just took for granted in my first few years,” he said. “So many of these little things that coaches are pointing out are things that I never really thought about.

    “It all comes down to on-base percentage and runs scored. Those are the two things a leadoff hitter wants. That’s your job; get on base and score runs.”

    It’s a message that Veras continually hammers home.

    “We’ve been talking about learning the way the pitcher is going to pitch him,” he said. “How are they going to pitch you the first time? What does that tell you about what they’re going to try later in the game?”

    It requires a more cerebral approach, more time watching video and studying tendencies. The Royals are trying to ease that burden through technology. Players can now download video to their iPods for study at any time.

    “If I can do a better job of studying video and see how guys have pitched to me,” DeJesus said, “I can better prepare myself to face that pitcher or any pitcher. That can only help me out in my game.”

    The earliest of returns are encouraging. DeJesus is five for seven with three walks and a hit by pitch in his first 11 spring plate appearances.

    “I haven’t said anything specifically to David,” Hillman said, “but, up to this point, I’m really pleased by his approach.”

    Hillman stresses that he isn’t demanding that DeJesus take pitches, merely that he adopt a disciplined approach.

    “I have no problem if a leadoff hitter swings at a first pitch,” Hillman said, “because I’m not opposed to a double or a single on the first pitch of the game. But it’s got to be an aggressive recognition of what kind of pitch you want to unload on.”

    DeJesus lacks the base-stealing skills of many leadoff hitters — his 10 steals last year marked a career high, and he is just 29 for 52 in parts of five big-league seasons. Even so, he believes he is making strides in that area, too.

    “The coaches are teaching us that there are so many little key things that pitchers give away that you can take advantage of,” he said. “Like when you’re stealing, look at the back shoulder instead of just looking at the leg lifting.”

    Ask DeJesus why he is only learning such skills now, and he shrugs. There is recognition of his own culpability, but he also points to a sea change in organizational approach.

    “The difference around here,” he said, “is in the attention to detail. Everything (Hillman) wants, he wants to be perfect. If it’s not perfect, he’ll tell you, but also he keeps it light and fun. That definitely makes it a lot easier to go out there and play.

    “We like it this way, and we need this. I want to win. To be honest with you, that’s what it’s all about. Losing is getting old. I’ve been around here for a while, and we’ve lost a lot of games.”

    @ Go to KansasCity.com for continual updates from Royals’ spring training, including photos, video and Sam Mellinger’s “Ball Star” blog on the Royals and major-league baseball.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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  3. #2
    Let's ride BRM's Avatar
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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    Why on earth would a manager want a bunch of basecloggers on his team?

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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    Anybody remember Baker's quote early in spring about how he likes to challenge his lead-off guy to see how many games in a row he can get on in the first?

    Seems to me he's sending the same message as Hillman.
    "Baseball is a very, very complex business. It's more of a people business than most businesses." - Bob Castellini

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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    I think the job of the leadoff hitter is to get on base. The part about scoring runs is in the hands of his team.

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    Quote Originally Posted by PuffyPig View Post
    I think the job of the leadoff hitter is to get on base. The part about scoring runs is in the hands of his team.
    My ideal leadoff hitter would be a late-count hitter who sees a lot of pitches, and also gets on base. I don't want a Juan Pierre type who is just looking to put the ball in play and "make things happen." I want a Rickey Henderson type who worries the opposing pitcher early and often.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    You're being very UnDude. sonny's Avatar
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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    I like my leadoff hitters to work counts, drop a bunt, hit the homer, take a walk and swipe bases. But mostly I want my leadoff hitter to hit in front of guys who don't strike out to strand him at 2nd or 3rd.
    Witty signature.

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    The Lineups stink. KronoRed's Avatar
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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    Quote Originally Posted by BRM View Post
    Why on earth would a manager want a bunch of basecloggers on his team?
    Indeed, those bases are so pretty out there without darn ballplayers standing all over them.
    Go Gators!

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    Quote Originally Posted by sonny View Post
    I like my leadoff hitters to work counts, drop a bunt, hit the homer, take a walk and swipe bases. But mostly I want my leadoff hitter to hit in front of guys who don't strike out to strand him at 2nd or 3rd.
    Working the count is a must, IMO. I don't care at all about dropping a bunt. Homers, nice, but not a requirement. The same goes for steals.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    Quote Originally Posted by sonny View Post
    I like my leadoff hitters to work counts, drop a bunt, hit the homer, take a walk and swipe bases. But mostly I want my leadoff hitter to hit in front of guys who don't strike out to strand him at 2nd or 3rd.
    Would you rather your leadoff hitter be in front of guy(s) with a great talent for hitting into DPs?

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool View Post
    Working the count is a must, IMO. I don't care at all about dropping a bunt. Homers, nice, but not a requirement. The same goes for steals.
    Exactly. Dropping a bunt and stealing a base are important in front of guys who aren't able to drive you around the bases otherwise. In front of the heart of your order, just being on base in what counts the most. Nothing else is remotely close to as important.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    http://www.kansascity.com/180/story/785522.html

    This isn’t the Hillman we were expecting
    All season long, people have asked about Royals manager Trey Hillman. What’s he like? How is he doing in his first year? Is he the right guy? The problem with answering, honestly, is that I’ve seen two Trey Hillmans.

    Last October, I saw Trey Hillman in Japan. He was managing the Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan Series then, and that guy looked like a young managing star. Everybody liked him. Everybody respected him. He was self-assured, he was beloved, his players played hard and smart baseball for him. You could not help but see exactly what Royals general manager Dayton Moore saw when he gave Hillman a big-league job — this guy would bring passion to Kansas City, bring baseball imagination, a little Texas attitude, and he would preach and promote Royals baseball to the whole Midwest. This was the right guy at the right time.

    Then he took over as Royals manager. And ever since, to be blunt, Hillman has been drowning. It isn’t just that this team has underperformed — though, of course the Royals have underperformed (they have the largest payroll in team history and are on pace to win and lose the same number of games as last year’s team flop). Well, everyone has grown accustomed to the Royals disappointing.

    It isn’t just that this team lost 12 games in a row earlier this year — the longest losing streak by any club in the league and a sure sign of a team that is not very good and is not playing alert or focused baseball. Everyone around here has been through long losing streaks.

    It isn’t just that the Royals recently went through a stretch of allowing 22 unearned runs in 21 games, devastatingly bad baseball for a team that was supposed to be built on improved fundamentals and sturdy defense. Then, everyone has seen that act before, too.

    Those things mostly reflect on the players — Hillman wasn’t dealt much of a hand in his first shot at the big leagues (One example: The Royals are dead last in the American League in homers and are near the bottom in stolen bases. So this is another no-power, no-speed Royals team. We’ve grown used to that around here, too).

    No, the troubling part is that all of those things that Dayton Moore and so many others saw in Hillman — his bustling energy, his likeable personality, his sense of perspective, his ability to inspire and motivate the players — those things have been missing in action. The Royals have played lackluster baseball. They have gone backward defensively. They are so unfocused that Hillman last week made a point to say they’re catching pop-ups better. They have by far the worst plate discipline in all of baseball. The Royals’ young players have not improved enough and in some case regressed. This is not a well-managed baseball team.

    And everyone seems to know it, especially the players. It should be said up front that Major League Baseball players often grumble about their manager. But multiple sources who are around the club every day say that these Royals openly mock him. A new Trey Hillman joke is almost a daily occurrence, and it’s hard for a manager to recover from being a clubhouse punchline.

    It would be easy to run a long list of quotes from unnamed sources about Hillman — they line up around the block to say that the Royals don’t look ready to play, that there’s definitely a lack of respect in the clubhouse, that Hillman often seems out of his depth — but let’s not do that. Instead, though, let’s look at some of the more public stuff.

    For instance, catcher Miguel Olivo came out last month and said that he absolutely would not come back to Kansas City and that Hillman obviously did not like him. The two had a conversation after that and said the air was cleared. Apparently so. Olivo has caught each day since then, missing only the second game of a doubleheader.

    Royals outfielder José Guillen has been an even thornier problem. For one, Guillen has never hid his up-and-down feelings about Hillman — whatever you may think about Guillen, he does not hide his feelings. But what has shaken things up is that Guillen has had a whole series of incidents this year — just off the top of my head, he showed up for camp out of shape, there was the altercation with a coach, the lashing out at the fans who booed him, the ESPN Deportes story that said he wanted out of Kansas City, the quote when he said he had no fun playing at home, and so on — and there has not been a single, public rebuke of the Royals’ highest-paid player by Hillman. It has left some in the clubhouse to wonder if there are two sets of rules, one for Guillen, one for everyone else.

    “Put it this way,” says one of those unnamed sources. “It doesn’t mean a whole lot if you call a team meeting to talk about playing better fundamental baseball, and José Guillen isn’t even a part of it.”

    Others have complained too — about bullpen use, about Hillman’s hands-on approach, about quirky game decisions, about his defensiveness. A couple of weeks ago, Hillman pulled starter Gil Meche, even though he had retired 17 batters in a row and had only thrown 104 pitches. The bullpen blew the game, and the move baffled people in and out of uniform. Hillman, though, refused to even acknowledge that it was a questionable decision.

    “I don’t understand why there would be second-guessing,” he said after the game. “It’s a no-brainer for me.”

    More than anything, many feel he does not communicate well, and that was supposed to be Hillman’s greatest strength. Olivo’s biggest issue with Hillman seems to be that he was never told, man-to-man, that his role was being reduced.

    And the Olivo situation is not isolated. Before the season began, Hillman said he intended to move Guillen to left field, something he apparently had not discussed with Guillen first. That didn’t go over well, and Guillen began the year in right field. When Hillman decided to have starter Zack Greinke open the second half — effectively naming him the No. 1 pitcher on the team — he did not have a short meeting with opening day starter Gil Meche to let him know. Meche, being a team guy, said that this didn’t bother him — he felt it was the right move — but others in the clubhouse muttered that it was needlessly disrespectful to the staff leader.

    Then there was the Jimmy Gobble game. After a game in which Gobble got ripped for six consecutive hits (the last a long home run) and was then left out there to die against six more batters, Hillman was asked if he could talk about what Gobble was obviously feeling. He callously said, “Nope.” Many wondered why he had left Gobble out there to roast in the first place, but nobody understood why he couldn’t show just a little empathy for his fallen pitcher.

    It’s just so strange because this isn’t at all like Hillman in Japan. True, Major League Baseball is a different game with different pressures, players can be much touchier than in Japan, where a manager is treated like the CEO of a company. Hillman has struggled with that adjustment. For instance, players still talk about that day in spring training when, immediately after a game in which the Royals ran the bases sloppily, Hillman called an impromptu team meeting at home plate and undressed the players in public while fans filed out. Royals general manager Dayton Moore loved the teaching moment, and so did many fans — send those spoiled players a message! — but several Royals thought it was a Mickey Mouse move, pointlessly disrespectful, and the same meeting would have carried a stronger message behind closed doors, without the public embarrassment.

    Are the players right? Maybe not. But in the end, Trey Hillman is not going to win with moves that impress Dayton Moore or fans. The job of a big-league manager is to get through to players, to get the best out of them, to demand their best and win their respect, and the fact that it is still a touchy move six months later (and the fact that the Royals have run the bases disastrously much of the year) suggests it backfired.

    What makes all of this so baffling is that Hillman seemed like a man in complete control in Japan. Players were unrestrained in their praise … they obviously loved the guy. And you could understand why. He worked hard, yes (Hillman still works ridiculously hard for a baseball manager, 18-hour days usually — nobody questions his work ethic. In fact, some think he works too hard). But even more, he also had a light touch, everyone marveled at the way he worked with different personalities, they way he overcame the language barrier, the way he could make players feel at ease and also the way they sacrificed for the team. His Fighters won the Japan Series in 2006 and then, despite losing their biggest stars, went back to the Japan Series the next year.

    That’s the guy the Royals hired. Sure, you can certainly understand if, early in his big-league career, he is trying too hard. Hillman had a tough path to a big-league manager’s job. His father sold tickets for the Texas Rangers, Trey worked as a clubhouse attendant in Texas, he was a minor-league player briefly, a manager in the New York Yankees’ system for years, a front-office guy for a year, then he went to Japan. It was bumpy getting here, and from the start you could sense that Hillman was anxious, even as he kept talking about how he was not anxious.

    Still, he has not let his personality and passion come through. And this is the point. Trey Hillman is a talented baseball man. He’s an engaging guy. He’s a great baseball story, the little guy made good.

    But he needs to be that guy. Despite any rumors you might hear, Hillman will be back as Royals manager next year. Moore and the Royals would not — and absolutely should not — abandon a guy one year after sticking him with a limited team and a moody star.

    Instead, the Royals have officially told Hillman what I would tell him as well: Relax. You have the job. I would hope Hillman would go back to his baseball core, go back to all those philosophies that got him here: Baseball is a game played over a long season, and you can’t live and die every day, you can’t worry about what everyone thinks, you can’t get every decision right, and you can’t demand people’s respect. You earn that.

    People all around the Kansas City Royals have noticed a change in Hillman the last week or two. They see him smiling just a bit. They notice a touch less tenseness in his voice. They sense his defenses have lowered a notch and some of the best parts of his personality are sneaking through. Saturday, he talked a little bit about his situation with Olivo, but more he seemed to be talking about what he learned this tough season.

    “I could make several lists of things I’ll do differently next year,” he said. “Things that at the time when you do them you don’t think are mistakes. A lot of it is learning in a new atmosphere that you’re in and learning personnel and learning situations.

    “If you take it personally, I think it has the chance of having major adverse effects on what you’re supposed to do. There are times when you do take things personally, but I think the quicker you get a hold of your own ego and think about this right here,” — here Hillman touched the KC on his jersey — “and what this is supposed to stand for and what we want the Kansas City Royals to be … you’ve got to let those things go.”

    You do. Here’s hoping Hillman does let go. It’s too late to salvage this year, but it’s never too late to be yourself again.

  13. #12
    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    A couple of weeks ago, Hillman pulled starter Gil Meche, even though he had retired 17 batters in a row and had only thrown 104 pitches.
    "Only" 104 pitches, in 7 innings. Send him out there for the 8th, and his pitch count probably reaches 120. Not good for a guy with a history of arm problems on a going-nowhere team. To top it off, the lead was blown by the Royals' two best relievers - Ramirez and the usually rock-solid Soria.

    Say what you will about Hillman, but that's not really a valid example of poor management.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    I think it was more the way he reacted to people questioning him that made an impression.

    The move is certainly defensible, but to act like people questioning it have no merits is silly.
    When people say that I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to sports or writing, I think: Man, you should see me in the rest of my life.
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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    I wonder how the cultural difference between Japan and the US plays out in the player-manager dynamic. Japanese culture really highlights self-sacrifice, collective action, and hard work - arguably to a fault. Perhaps Hillman simply wasn't prepared to baby sit 25 grown men, constantly massaging egos and asking permission to make decisions. Of course, he has to deal with the reality he faces, but perhaps the Royals were a bit naive thinking his leadership skills would translate so easily.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Royals New Manager Espouses OBP

    Quote Originally Posted by Hoosier Red View Post
    I think it was more the way he reacted to people questioning him that made an impression.

    The move is certainly defensible, but to act like people questioning it have no merits is silly.
    True, his reaction was poor, and reveals a lot of the defensiveness mentioned throughout the article. The article does try to portray the move as questionable, but Hillman should have been able to explain it easily. Instead, he chose to become defensive.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful


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