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Ken Macha Felt Rebuffed by Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder

It was only 2008 when the Brewers seemed like an up-and-coming team. They reached the playoffs for the first time since 1982 and had their first 90-win season since 1992. Alas, the team lost ace CC Sabathia in free agency despite offering him a big contract, and Ben Sheets later followed. There was optimism in Milwaukee because the team still had franchise players Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, both of whom had become All-Stars and MVP candidates. Though last year’s team was in first place all the way until early July before falling out of the race, this year’s team never had a shot.

The easiest target for blame was the pitching. Yovani Gallardo was good but got hurt and only made 24 starts. Randy Wolf got roughed up to start the year before settling in. The bullpen was a mess aside from the mustached one, and every flier they took flamed out. The other targets were the aforementioned sluggers, Braun and Fielder. Expected to carry the offense, Braun had his worst season as a pro and needed a late surge to post nice season-ending numbers. Fielder was similarly bad, posting his worst season since his rookie year in 2006. While Braun has a long-term deal and Prince is searching for one, manager Ken Macha became the casualty getting let go by the team.

On his way out, Macha made sure he wasn’t the only one carrying the blame. He explained his efforts to reach out to Braun and Fielder that were turned down by the sluggers:

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Ken Macha Still Has Strong Ties to Moneyball Style

The Brewers have played well this year, leading the NL Central with a 30-21 record despite starting out the season slowly. They don’t have C.C. Sabathia or Ben Sheets, but they have a new manager in Ken Macha who has a pretty strong idea about how to run the team. Some of the former A’s manager’s principles include not running nor sacrifice bunting, and that’s brought on questions from the press:

[Macha] analyzed some statistics and came up with a few tidbits that support why he doesn’t let players steal more bases, and why he doesn’t sacrifice bunt as much.

Going into play Sunday, the Tampa Bay Rays were stealing bases at a success rate of 87% (82 steals in 94 attempts).

Macha and droves of other statistic gurus believe a team has to have a 75% success rate for steals to have a positive impact on an offense, but as Macha happily pointed out, the Rays were two games under .500.

If all that sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve read Moneyball — the book about the Oakland A’s. Macha maintains that his feelings on stealing bases and dropping bunts (he added that a team’s percentage of scoring is higher with a runner on first base and nobody out than with a man on second and one out) have also been referenced in Ted Williams’ book and essays by Branch Rickey. That may be the case, but I’m guessing all these notions were well-cemented into his consciousness by the A’s organization. Oakland may have altered its philosophy but it still sounds like some of the tenets of Moneyball are alive and well in Milwaukee. I’ve always felt that teams should play a style based on their abilities, and it seems like Macha’s way of thinking is working out with the Brewers.

(via Ben Maller)