Baseball On My Brain

Look into my eyes…do you see a bunt?
May 24, 2008, 11:31 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

I’ve had this article by Alan Schwarz of the New York Times on my desk for some time now, reading it, re-reading it, then reading it online, hoping to come up with some tremendous amount of insight and understanding that I’d be compelled to share with you.

Hasn’t happened yet.

Maybe I’ve become too attached to numbers as my means of analysis…I know, hard to do in baseball, right? But Dr. Wang’s results seemed a bit too much to process for me, and while the results are interesting to study, the information in the article proved much more relevant.

There’s been an increase in attention towards the manager and his decisions as analysts and number crunchers try and figure out what makes teams win. Dr. Wang’s is definitely an interesting contribution to that research, although not sure if it really unlocks the door to anything significant.

As Manny Acta of the Nationals put it best, “I’ll adjust to what I have,” which I think tells the story of the plight of the manager better than almost anything. Sure, there are managers that probably are able to do that better than others – but at the same time, the manager lives between a rock and a hard place — he doesn’t sign the players that his GM gives him, nor can he go out there and hit, pitch or field. He has to find a way to take the 25-plus guys he’s given and make it work.

This underlies the importance of a healthy relationship between the general manager and field manager. If these two guys aren’t on the exact same page – then it becomes almost impossible to produce winning results on the field. If the field manager believes in stealing bases and putting the game in motion but is given a bunch of slow-footed, low-average but high power number hitters, the conflict becomes apparent.

And when that conflict becomes apparent through losing records, seemingly disenchanted players and thus frustrated fans, who is generally the one to take the bullet? The manager.

Which really makes me appreciate at times just how well things have line up to foster a healthy relationship and winning results. Most managers only have stints of a couple of years with the club, and they’re coming into a group of players who were there before them and are charged with the task of possibly changing a culture that wasn’t working prior to their arrival. In a way, it’s like trying to reroute a cargo train going full bore down the track without letting off the accelerator.

That in turn makes you appreciate when teams hang on to their managers in times of turmoil — or at least seeming turmoil. Remember – wins and losses don’t always indicate the climate of a clubhouse. There have been plenty of teams with lots of wins and not a lot of love in the clubhouse, and plenty of teams whose on-field performance didn’t reflect the chemistry they had.

So remember that the Chernoff faces that Dr. Wang puts forward on behalf on the 2007 managers may not be the true expression that each of them has. It might just be the mask that they are donning to the ball they’ve been invited to.


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