Connie Mack Award Ballot, 2012 Edition

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance asks all its writers to weigh in on postseason awards. I like that a lot. The first award is the Connie Mack Award for manager of the year. I like that less.

From my vantage point, managers do two things to help their teams win games. The easy thing is pulling the right strings on the field. Platooning where appropriate, bunting and intentionally walking only when truly advantageous, using the best relievers in the highest-leverage situations, and not overusing any pitchers. Many managers seem to struggle with these things, but they’re all probably right more often than they’re wrong. Even Bobby Valentine.

The hard part of a manager’s job, it seems to me, is keeping everyone happy. Starters need to rest occasionally, but they want the lion’s share of the innings/plate appearances. Bench players need to be used enough to make them happy, but not so much that the starters feel disrespected. Every player needs respect, but some need discipline, and some need extra motivation. Some managers are better than others at this, but I have no idea who does it well and who doesn’t. Except Bobby Valentine.

Baseball writers are as qualified as anyone to vote on player-based awards. We watch games, pore over numbers, argue with friends, blog about our thoughts and hope someone will comment so we can think about the same players/teams/numbers in different ways. Some players may bring value in ways we don’t see in broadcasts and box scores, but the vast majority of a player’s value is easily laid out in his fangraphs or baseball-reference bio page. Managers, on the other hand, do things every day that the casual observer knows nothing about. Except Bobby Valentine. I know Bob Melvin used platoons brilliantly this year, making valuable assets out of below-average hitters, but how much of the team’s accross-the-board overperformance is really the result of something he said or did? Did Robin Ventura’s presence help Adam Dunn and Alex Rios rise from the dead and enjoy productive seasons? Did Buck Showalter know that if he got exactly the right number of scoreless innings out of his bullpen, Adam Jones would bail him out? I have no clue.

Because I’m so devoid of quantifiable knowledge about managers, I decided to use a simple formula to pick my Managers of the Year. I’m not especially proud to link to my preseason baseball preview, as my expectations were more detached from reality than ever, but here it is. I’ll subtract my expected number of wins from each team’s actual number of wins and proclaim the manager with the highest score Manager of the Year, even if there are obvious factors at play in his team’s exceeding expectations beyond his performance. This isn’t fair to managers like John Farrell, who lost 18 starting pitchers and 13 position players to injury, dementia, or death at one point or another this year, but so it goes. Any other system would be fraught with speculation and uncertainty just the same. Here goes:

National League
1. Giants (Bruce Bochy) +16
2. Reds (Dusty Baker) +9
3. Nationals (Davey Johnson) +8
Pirates (Clint Hurdle) +8
Cardinals (Mike Matheny) +7
Dodgers (Don Mattingly) +7
Braves (Fredi Gonzalez) +6
Brewers (Ron Roenicke) 0
Mets (Terry Collins) 0
Padres (Bud Black) -4
Cubs (Dale Sveum) -5
Diamondbacks (Kirk Gibson) -9
Astros (Brad Mills) -10
Rockies (Jim Tracy) -13
Phillies (Charlie Manuel) -15
Marlins (Ozzie Guillen) -16

So there it is. Because I horrendously underrated the Giants this winter, Bruce Bochy wins my NL Connie Mack Award. I wasn’t impressed with the Melky Cabrera trade, which I thought was a buy-high trade, or by their lack of a suitable replacement for Carlos Beltran, though Gregor Blanco’s defense helped fill some of that gap. In Bochy’s defense, he gave Brandon Belt (118 wRC+) more plate appearances than Aubrey Huff (75), and survived the loss of Brian Wilson in the bullpen and Tim Lincecum (or the part of him that plays baseball, anyway) in the rotation. His most effective relievers (Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo) pitched the most innings, while Javier Lopez was primarily used against lefties and six different relievers earned saves, which shows flexibility. I’m ok with this pick.

Honorable mentions to Dusty Baker and Davey Johnson, whose teams I had making the playoffs, but with considerably fewer wins, and to Clint Hurdle, who nearly led his team to a .500 record despite employing, as far as I can tell, only one professional baseball player.

American League
1. Athletics (Bob Melvin) +22
2. Orioles (Buck Showalter) +21
3. White Sox (Robin Ventura) +20
Mariners (Eric Wedge) +4
Tigers (Jim Leyland) +2
Rangers (Ron Washington) +1
Yankees (Joe Girardi) -1
Angels (Mike Scioscia) -5
Rays (Joe Maddon) -5
Twins (Ron Gardenhire) -5
Royals (Ned Yost) -7
Blue Jays (John Farrell) -9
Indians (Manny Acta) -15
Red Sox (Bobby Valentine) -21

Can I take Bochy’s award back and give one each to Melvin and Showalter? Showalter seems like the somewhat obvious choice, as the Orioles were perhaps the worst team in the American League for half the season, but wound up winning 93 games, but let’s not forget Bob Melvin, whose club was similarly left for dead before the season and at various points during the season. Whether he had any material impact, Melvin’s team chased down the best team in baseball over the last three days of the season and had home field advantage (if we can call it that this year) in a playoff series in a year in which the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, and Angels were all so loaded with talent that it didn’t seem possible for another AL East or West team (let alone two) to emerge from that scrum and qualify for the postseason. I’d love to give Showalter bonus points for the degree of difficulty in the AL East, but the West was the better division this year, with Boston and Toronto walking wounded and the Rangers and Angels as good as or better than the Yankees and Rays.

Ventura should be in the heart of this discussion as well, since the White Sox had very little veteran talent (Peavy and Dunn- who knew?) and a much-maligned farm system (ok, we knew about Sale) coming into the year, but would have won the division if not for a late-season collapse.

I’m certainly happy with any of these three managers winning the Connie Mack Award, but Melvin gets my formal vote. ‘Cause, you know, I’m an expert on such things.

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This entry was posted in Athletics, Giants, Orioles, Postseason Awards, White Sox. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Connie Mack Award Ballot, 2012 Edition

  1. I love how you decided who to vote for by seeing who exceeded your own expectations. I may steal this method and include it in my method for voting. =)

  2. It really is a genius method. And somehow you matched my ballot (only picked top 3) perfectly even though I used completely different criteria. Well done.

  3. Pingback: My Manager of the Year Award Ballot « MLB Dirt

  4. Pingback: Walter Johnson Award Ballot, 2012 Edition | Replacement Level Baseball Blog

  5. Pingback: Stan Musial Award Ballot, 2012 Edition | Replacement Level Baseball Blog

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