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Making out the Arizona Diamondbacks lineup card

Torey Lovullo reveals his process

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Houston Astros v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Darin Wallentine/Getty Images

Few things draw more fan discussion, debate, and frequently rancor, than the lineup card. Certainly the 2018 season has been no exception, as debate and criticisms over Torey’s lineups have raged throughout this up and down season.

During the pre game press conference on Saturday night, Torey revealed some interesting thoughts and details about his process and mind set. Full disclosure, this topic was already written about by Katherine Fitzgerald at AZ Central She was the one posing these questions to Torey . It was a great topic and she asked some really on point questions.

What I will do here is post the full text of Katherine’s questions on the topic and Torey’s comments, as best I can transcribe from the recording.

KF: You’ve got Owings at 3rd today, has he practiced there much ?

TL: He’s played a couple of games there and done a really nice job. He’s had 2-3 starts over the last couple of weeks. It’s just a way for me to get him in the lineup. You know we are very full in the outfield, we have a rotation in the middle of the diamond. I want to make sure we are using all of our guys and he’s done a really nice job there. He started to swing the bat very well before the break.

“My mind set is this: We’ve had four days off and it’s hard for players when they get into a routine to take days off. I want to get everybody back in there as quickly as possible and get them back into the baseball grind, get their minds right and wrapped around playing. So this was an opportunity for me to get him in there vs. a left handed pitcher, and with the day game/night game it just made a lot of sense to get some players off their feet and get them ready for tomorrow’s game.

KF: How have you been balancing rotating guys back in, but also looking at lineups ?

TL: It has been a little bit of a challenge. Challenging in the way that David Peralta got 4 hits yesterday and is not playing today. But these players are built to understand there is a rotation and there is a reason for whats going on, and the players behind them that are playing are stepping in, are playing very capably.

“I’m building out lineups probably 7 to 12 days in advance to make sure I’m maximizing the chances for us to score some runs and putting out the best match-ups possible, whether it be offensively or defensively. But I feel like there is a strategy to it, and the players are starting to follow it and it’s been pretty good. They’re rested players and having productive at bats. As challenging as it has been for me, they’ve understood that there is a role and they’re following the process.

KF: Are you making these lineups known ahead of time so Saturday nights lineup (muffled), so when something happens like with Peralta last night you just stick with your decision or do you flip flop, how do you address that ?

TL: Yeah, I make the lineups, like I said, 7-10 days sometimes 12 days in advance. It’s a starting point, it’s a template that I use and I’m following it, but they’re changeable, it’s definitely changeable. If a guy has two or three homeruns or really nice at bats I would be foolish to not play them the next day. But at times I will because I want to make sure that I’m preserving some guys and getting the matchup ready for the next day as is the case with David Peralta.

There are constant adjustments to the lineups that are being made and the players know days in advance, or at least the night before whats going to happen. So David knew last night when he left the ballpark that he wouldn’t be playing today.

I just believe in that. I feel like the players that go to bed knowing the night before that they are or aren’t going to be playing is going to benefit them. They can turn off the engine and know, going to the park tomorrow, he can relax and get some good rest. It’s a hard time of the year and these players are grinding so when they can relax and rest when they need to it’s very important.”

KF: Do the players ever know as far as 12 days out [what the lineups are] ?

TL: No, the challenging part is that I don’t necessarily get the pitchers that far out, I’m projecting it, so I know we go to Chicago and San Diego and I projected all the way to the San Diego series. But they are all projections and could change, so that’s why things change a little bit but usually I know 3 or 4 days in advance it’s pretty firm so that’s when I start to relay my messages.

Personally I find the above fascinating, and I like the fact that there is a plan. The process certainly is not ad hoc. They have rotations, planned rest, look at match ups, and create a solid foundation for decision making. He adjusts the plan based on the situations that arise but it feels like the foundation he puts in place allows him to make better overall decisions. He communicates every step of the way with the players, so they know when and where they will play. I didn’t get the chance to ask a question, but next time I plan to ask him if he can share some of the details on what specifically he is evaluating when it comes to matchups.

There was another very important part of the conversation that took place, that was explored in the context of Steven Souza Jr’s struggles this year. You can also read about that HERE.

The part I want to highlight is the distinction between Torey’s role and Mike Hazen’s role. I often hear on the radio, and see on twitter, and sometimes even here at the Snakepit criticisms of Torey for being too loyal to his players. This really came to a boil over the Alex Avila situation earlier in the year.

TL: “I feel like if you’re one of 25 you’re here and I trust you. I know that we’ve had some players that struggled. The best way that I can say it is I have 25 children out there, they’re my boys. As long as they’re giving an effort and have an I care attitude, I’m gonna dust them off, posture them and push them out there and believe in them. So that’s a given. But when it comes to a strategy, when guys need to rest or maybe get pinch hit for or come off the field I’m going to do whatever it takes to help us win the game. Winning the game is the first priority. But giving guys opportunities and believing in them is a strategy that I wholeheartedly believe in.

Now when it’s time for us to make an adjustment or a move or change the roster that’s out of my hands. If they’re here, I’m going to believe in them. “

MY THOUGHTS: I’ve countered some of the complaints about Torey’s willingness to not only defend in public, but also stick with a struggling player and put him in the lineup, (or bring in from the bullpen, or give a start to a guy) with the fact that this is the roster he has. The roster decisions are made by Mike Hazen. Sure, Torey has input, but ultimately it’s Hazen’s call who is on the 25 man roster. From there, it’s Torey’s job to get the most out of each player he can. I believe that TL has an extremely high Emotional Intelligence and the way he applies that is far more important than any lineup or in game strategic decision he may make.

When asked further about the comment of treating the players like his children or his sons he made the comments below. I know that when I had managers, supervisors, mentors, etc that held similar attitudes it had a positive effect on me, and there is no difference for these players:

TL: I believe understanding every day whats going on inside of their world, having empathy, identifying the challenges that are placed before them every single day is crucial for me so that they can align with me and know that I care about them on a level that I trust them, have faith in them, and we’re going to do things together. I’ve learned those lessons from playing myself and having no relationship with a manager and I felt vacant and isolated. When I felt like I had people around me that believed in me that I was going to be a better player,.

I’ve kinda rehearsed through my own experiences, and I know from talking to players then when I was a player and now when I’m a staff member that that’s very important to them as well. They’re human beings that have feelings, they’re human beings that need to know that people care about them. I’m at the top of the food chain. If they feel like I care about them and believe in them they can do special things and they go out and do special things every single day.

I say hello to everybody and have basic conversations with everybody every day. I believe in that, it’s genuine, I think they believe it’s genuine. I make eye contact and say hello to everybody every single day.

One last point. We as fans sometimes often get extremely frustrated, and many of us have no issues voicing those frustrations with the players. As such, I think we might sometimes wish that the manager might also voice those frustrations to validate our feelings. Sometimes we want to hear the manager rip a player a new one just like we do ! Even in my game recap the other day I lamented Torey’s unwillingness to acknowledge Godley’s throwing problem. But here is the thing: TL has a different job, a different perspective, and a different responsibility than we do. There is no upside for him to give us the satisfaction we sometimes demand, because although it may be gratifying or validating for us, it certainly wouldn’t be for the player that he is charged with leading and inspiring to bring home the glory.