The Mind of Bruce Bochy
Following a nice series victory of the Cardinals, I feel bad bringing some negativity into the world. That said, there’s something that needs to be observed: the contradictions of Bruce Bochy’s decision-making abilities. Who does and doesn’t get playing time seems to be arbitrarily judged off of…well…nothing.
After a torrid spring, John Bowker was handed the starting job in right field. He took walks, hit for power, and overall looked poised to take full advantage of the opportunity he was given. Two weeks into the season, without justification, he lost his starting job. Nate Schierholtz took over in right, and for some reason Eugenio Velez took over in left while Mark DeRosa was nursing a bum hamstring. Bowker wasn’t even really struggling when this surprise benching took place (he was hitting .250/.308/.417 when he playing time starting getting sporadic).
Velez in the meantime has one hit in his last 22 at-bats while hitting out of the leadoff spot. Bochy’s obsession with getting him playing time aligned with this team struggling to hit at the onset of the series in San Diego. Put simply, when Eugenio Velez has been in the lineup, the team struggles to score runs. And yet somehow, he continues to get playing time over John Bowker, who’s been relegated to pinch-hitting duties. As such, he’s now being judged off what he does with one at-bat a game, while Velez and Schierholtz continue to not hit.
It would be one thing if Bowker got to start the first 2-3 months of the year, and struggled the entire time. But that’s not what happened. He was given two weeks and less than 40 at-bats to keep his starting job. Now imagine the stress it puts on a young hitter when he knows that every single time he’s at the plate, his job is at risk because his manager judges miniscule sample-sizes. There’s something to be said for the link between job security and performing well.
The harsh reality of it all is that when Aaron Rowand comes back off the DL, Bowker will probably sent to Fresno and Velez/Torres/Schierholtz will continue to share time in the outfield. The team will continue to struggle to score runs, fans will get frustrated, and Bruce Bochy, being the “players manager” he is, will continue to have a man-crush on Eugenio Velez. I really wish there was some justification for Bowker losing his starting job, but the truth seems to be that he was simply phased out by a manager who doesn’t want him in the lineup.