Friday, October 23, 2009

First to Third: How Much Does a Manager Matter?

With a two run lead in the seventh inning of game five of the ALCS, the Yankees sent A.J. Burnett back out to pitch the bottom of the seventh.  Burnett promptly put two runners on base, at which point he was relieved and the bullpen couldn't hold the lead.  Just an inning before, John Lackey was pulled, although he really didn't want to leave, and Darren Oliver surrendered three runs without recording an out as the Yankees pulled ahead.

At this point, many fans believed they could manage better than either Joe Girardi or Mike Scioscia.  I think in the postseason it is very easy to over-manage a game.  Quick hooks and questionable substitutions have been a staple of playoff games for a number of years, but how much do these decisions impact a game or series?  In his first postseason as a manager, Girardi has made questionable bullpen moves and has chosen to start the soft-hitting Jose Molina in games Burnett pitches over playoff veteran Jorge Posada.  Scioscia has had backup Jeff Mathis catch Lackey over Mike Napoli.  Joe Torre continued his history of questionable bullpen moves before the Dodgers were eliminated.  Charlie Manuel has stubbornly stuck with the erratic Brad Lidge and has been rewarded.  Aside from the umpires this postseason, the managers have been second-guessed the most, which raises the question: how much does a manager matter?

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Brian Doyle said...

Maybe Scioscia was afraid of pulling a Grady Little, but to pull Lackey (with I think two outs at that point) for Darren Oliver of all people in that situation just so he could turn Teixeira around was a disaster waiting to happen.

Managers matter, but probably the least in baseball as compared to about every other sport, which require, you know, a sophisticated pre and in-game strategy in games that are far more fluid.

Chris said...

Ok, first. I don't think any fan can say that they could manage these athletes on any team better than the managers. The ones who say that are products of knee-jerk reactions.

They got this far in the playoffs for a reason. Scioscia is one of the most respected managers in the league and has done wonders with his team this year. So to throw him aside is absurd.

With your comment about Molina catching for Burnett. Check the stats and notice that there hasn't been a connection with Burnett/Posada all year. Some pitchers/catchers don't mesh and it has been noticed all year by the team and the media. Molina is a career .333 postseason hitter while Posada hits .241. Granted Molina has much fewer chances but he hits when it matters and makes the most of his chances.

Did Mathis not come up big in this series? Both catchers are equal for the Angels and split time at DH/C while the rest of the team was hurt.

All managers are questioned. It's what makes talk radio so... 'fun'. Managers do matter especially in the big games. Yankee fans are ridiculous for calling for Girardi to be fired if they don't win this series and its comedic to see them complain about putting certain players in. How bout you blame the pitcher, Hughes, who can't throw a high fast ball to Vladdy and instead throws it over the plate.

Next article should be: Do relief pitchers matter because that seems to be what you are getting at.

Rob Burckhard said...

I don't think it's fair to compare Posada's career postseason stats to Molina since Molina's .333 batting average comes in 15 plate appearances. The sample size is entirely too to evaluate him as a hitter in the postseason. If he's such a great postseason hitter, why doesn't he catch every game?

In addition, I don't think firing Girardi if the Yanks lose is fair at all and I'm sure those comments are just knee-jerk reactions.

Many decisions by baseball managers once the game starts involve the use of the bench or bullpen, which is why it is so easy to second-guess a manager's strategy in those situations.