Anyone who doubts that Jim Tracy is just Lloyd McClendon redux needs to check out today's Post-Gazette:
"And," he said, "you also have to consider that maybe Freddy is thriving the way he's thriving because of the niche he has."
Got that? Maybe the way to get players to hit is to play them less. Granted, there's no good evidence whatsoever to support this hypothesis, but it still sounds pretty awesome. I've got an idea: let's call up Ray Sadler, Simon Pond, and Brandon Duckworth from the minors and have them take the places of Jason Bay, Craig Wilson and Zach Duke. Then when the Pirates get eighteen runs behind, we'll sub in Bay, Wilson and Duke and the Pirates will stage a 19-run comeback because their "niche" roles will make them play like Jesus on steroids.
One might think Tracy was actually saying that Sanchez's success so far has something to do with Tracy's care in deciding who he hits against, but I don't see any evidence of that. Sanchez has only had eight at-bats against lefties, who'd represent his natural platoon advantage, and he's not hitting them much harder than righties this year anyway. Tracy has given Sanchez exactly the same number of at-bats at home and away. Sanchez is hitting well in both day games and night games. And I can't detect any pattern in the pitchers he's facing - they include hard throwers like Chris Carpenter and Roy Oswalt, softies like Glendon Rusch, groundball guys like Derek Lowe, and flyball guys like Eric Milton. If Tracy means anything by "niche" other than "he sits on the bench a lot," it's beyond me.
I don't know what I expect Tracy to say here - to some extent, he's in the unfortunate position of having to defend bad signings that he didn't make. But the only good baseball reason to play Joe Randa ahead of Sanchez is to try to boost Randa's stats so he can be traded. And even that's dubious. You can have them split time at third while having Sanchez get at-bats every so often in the middle infield as well. There's no good baseball reason for Randa to be the starting third baseman at this point.
Speaking of Craig Wilson, a not-so-wise man once said:
Maybe, just maybe, the idea that players get better by sitting on the bench is absurd.
UPDATE: Romo Phone Home noticed the Sanchez-Wilson connection, too.