One of my favorite things about being a Baseball Bloggers Alliance member is voting for awards, including those for the best player, pitcher, and rookie in each league. We’re also asked to vote for the best manager.
As I’ve said before in this space, I don’t consider myself qualified to assess managers’ skill or success. I have opinions about lineup optimization and bullpen use, and I remember when managers say asinine things like “I used him in the seventh because he’s my seventh-inning guy”, but I don’t know who best keeps his players motivated or who survives with the biggest egos and the delmonyoungiest Delmon Youngs.
So to vote for this award, I’ll do what I’ve done in recent years. At the beginning of the season, I ranked every team by my perception of its likelihood to win the World Series. With the regular season over, I’ve ranked all the teams by won-loss record, using run differential as a tiebreaker, and will now rank every team’s manager by the number of spots above or below my original prediction they finished.
This is an imperfect, by which I mean probably illogical, exercise. It will reward teams whose talent I didn’t believe in before the season, holding a bias for whatever reason, and punish those I thought were good (John Farrell comes out looking like Ned Yost trying to manage an elementary school chess team against a team of Russian computers). My hope is that whatever biases exist in my “analysis” cancel some of the biases other voters carry into this exercise. Let’s give it a try:
NL Connie Mack Award
1) Terry Collins, Mets
It’s a clean sweep for the Mets so far, as Jacob deGrom took my Willie Mays Award for the best rookie. I thought the Mets were the 26th-most likely team to win the World Series this year. They won’t do that, but 79 wins and a positive run differential placed them 16th. Collins gets those 10 points.
2) Bruce Bochy, Giants
Bochy would be a very reasonable choice if I picked more subjectively. He seems to use his bullpen well and has guided a good Giants team (2010) and two apparently mediocre ones (2012 and this year) to eight straight postseason series victories.
3) Mike Redmond, Marlins
I very nearly wrote “whoever manages the Marlins” and left it there. I thought Florida would be awful. Even after they lost one of the best pitchers in the league early in the season and one of the best hitters in the league late in the season, the Marlins finished a respectable 77-85, better than 11 teams.
AL Connie Mack Award
1) Lloyd McClendon, Mariners
I guess I didn’t think much of the Mariners. I’m still impressed that they won 87 games and contended into the last week of the season, even if their collapse was ugly. McClendon rode two pitchers, two hitters, and a solid bullpen to the precipice of the playoffs. I don’t know if he should get the credit, but it says here he gets it.
2) Mike Scioscia, Angels
I’ve never been a Scioscia fan, as he always had a rather uncomfortable small-ball bent, but I’ll admit that I’m impressed with his work this year. I can’t think of another team that bats its best hitter second in the lineup, a perfect strategy according to The Book, and I’m impressed that he milked 98 wins out of a pitching staff headed by a guy (Jered Weaver) with a 4.19 FIP and a breakout ace (Garrett Richards) who never pitched after hurting his knee on August 20.
3) Buck Showalter, Orioles
All hail Buck. The Orioles’ success in 2012 felt like such a fluke that I didn’t know where to assign credit, but they won more games than they lost again in 2013 and somehow ran away with the AL East in 2014, sweeping the Tigers on their way to the ALCS and finding themselves favored to win the World Series (which, if last week is any indication, is not a good thing). It’s becoming clearer and clearer that Showalter is among the stars of this team.