Saturday, 12 November 2011

On Rookie Managers

Ken Rosenthal has gone ahead and written something stupid again, so now, as someone who has never met him, I will (semi-) anonymously blast him for it on the internet.  First, scan through this article quickly, and try not to absorb much of it.  I'll wait here.  First, I'd like to point out that I know it's Parkes and Stoeten's thing to make fun of Ken Rosenthal, and I planned on just going ahead and letting them do it, but I see that Parkes only wrote a quick blurb about it yesterday on Getting Blanked, and I don't think Stoeten really updates DJF on the weekend, so I really have little choice.

Now, Rosenthal's main thesis is that he doesn't like the idea of teams hiring managers without any prior experience.  It's an opinion, and he's certainly entitled to it.  I'm not claiming that I can just hop in to blogging and start shitting on people who have been involved in baseball since before I was born, but just because he's been doing this for a long time doesn't mean that he should have free reign to write this kind of drivel and still be known as a respected sports journalist.

This article is essentially the exact thing that we need to get away from when it comes to thinking about baseball. I think the Moneyball movie did a really great job of making fun of old people who just spout out random one-liners without actually using their brains and thinking about what might actually matter when it comes to analyzing baseball.  Basically, anytime someone associates RBI's with a player's value, this is what I'm talking about.

This whole manager dilemma that Rosenthal raises just kind of sticks in my craw, I suppose.
The job is too difficult. The game is full of more qualified candidates. The risk involved with hiring a newbie is simply too great.
Is it, though?  What's so tough about it?  If it's so tough, why have writers and analysts essentially proven that bunting is almost never good, that trying to steal bases simply isn't worth the reward that the risk demonstrates, or that it doesn't matter whether a matchup is LHP vs. LHB if the pitcher has reverse platoon splits?  Why do so many managers mess these things up?  Is it because they're so busy doing other stuff that they just miss it?  Probably not, since most every time you see a manager during a telecast, he's sitting on his ass with his arms crossed.

I don't think managing a baseball team would be very hard at all-- the formulae are all out there somewhere, written on the internet for free.  Simply follow everything written down with regards to batting order, lefty/righty splits, and so on.  There's obviously a human element to the game, so you've got to keep your players gruntled (autocorrect is telling me that 'grunted' isn't a word, but it has to be... like, not disgruntled?), but baseball, like no other sport out there, is pretty much mathematically solved.  Basically, don't bunt practically ever, don't steal practically ever, don't bat your third worst hitter in the 4-hole just because he's a lefty with 20+ homeruns when 3 other options would do better.  Really, don't do fucking anything and you'll probably be alright in the longterm.

The difference between posting your optimal lineup everyday and posting your least optimal lineup everyday is worth about 1 win per season, and most managers are a hell of a lot closer to their most optimal than their least optimal.  It doesn't take managerial experience to put up anything resembling an optimal batting lineup though.

We can see from this chart that stealing 2nd base helps a whole lot less than getting caught stealing 2nd hurts us.  We'd like you to stop relying on such small sample sizes (I'm looking at you Joe Girardi).  I'd be shocked if the difference between the best manager ever, and the worst manager in baseball was any more than 2 wins a season, especially if the lineup thing is only worth 1.  Anyway, moving on.

A.J. Hinch, who was hired by the Diamondbacks in May 2009 without any previous coaching or managing experience, lasted just 1 1/3 seasons.
Well maybe if they won some fucking games and had a fucking pitching staff instead of rebuilding the fucking team.  The reason Hinch got the job in the first place?  He was the director of player development before being manager of a team who had 7 of their 8 starters in their farm system as recently as 4 years prior to his hiring.  Hinch wasn't looked at as a manager of the next 20 years, he was there to ensure the development of the young core of the team, who happened to go ahead and win the division this year.  I hate myself for using Bleacher Report as a source, but look at the comparisons this guy makes.  We see marked improvement in Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds (who has since been traded), Gerardo Parra and Miguel Montero.  This year, each of Upton, Montero and Parra were even better, plus the emergence of guys like Ryan Roberts, Paul Goldschmidt and Colin Cowgill (all were in the minors last year) were clearly a boost in the right direction.  Beyond that, there's a lot of volatility in both a team with a bunch of 20-something, and a division with 0 truly good teams.
Matheny and Ventura were more accomplished players than Hinch. They’re both considered great guys. But who the heck knows if they can handle a job that entails so much more than writing a lineup and running a game?
There you go again with that.  Why do you keep saying that it's so hard, or that there's so much work, but not say what it entails of?  Do you have to be a people person?  A stern voice?  A proven leader?  A winner?  I really feel like the only conclusion we can draw from the above D'Backs example is that Hinch must have been a bad manager, and Kirk Gibson must be a really good one, presumably because Gibson is so good at all of those little secret things that Rosey won't tell us about that a manager does, and why it's such a hard job.

Frankly, I find such choices disrespectful to all those managerial candidates who have paid their dues, people like Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, who is 60 and still waiting for his first full-time opportunity.
Maybe if he wasn't 60 fucking years old he'd get a chance.  There's a reason that a lot of organizations are moving towards a younger generation of management.  It's what Oakland did, and they made a movie out of it.  It's what Boston did, and they broke some stupid made-up curse.  It's what Tampa did, and they've made the playoffs thrice in the last 4 years in the hardest division in baseball, and they did it with a payroll lower now than what the Yankees' payroll was when George Costanza still worked there.  Hopefully it's what the Blue Jays are doing, but that's a story for a little later...  Why can GM's be wunderkinds, but managers can't?

Mackanin soon might get his chance with the Cubs or Red Sox. Sandberg remains a candidate for the Cardinals. And an executive scoffed at my notion of “disrespect” Thursday, saying that teams try to make the best choices and win as many games as possible. 
Well, teams do dumb things.
Well, you're right there.  Tony Reagins had a bunch of experience before being named as the GM of the Angels, and he acquired Vernon Wells on purpose last offseason.  You know who else does dumb things? Bow-tie wearing writers for FOX.  Such as:
And while “dumb” might be too strong a word to describe the hiring of a newbie, I find it difficult to comprehend how teams go to extreme lengths to analyze players objectively, yet frequently make gut calls when hiring a manager.
What, do you think they don't interview prospective managers now?  Teams go through lists of tens of candidates, interviewing them for weeks.  I would be thoroughly shocked if there was anything resembling a "gut call" when a manager is hired.

Rosenthal finally backtracks on all of his comments, negating any real point that he had, by saying:
Joe Girardi, another former catcher, was a bench coach for only one season before he became a manager — and was named NL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America in his first and only year with the Marlins.
Well the Marlins finished the season with 84 losses that year, and had a team full of budding stars with the average age of 25.4 years old.  They had a bunch of high-upside starting pitchers, plus Miguel Cabrera, Josh WIllingham, Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, and rookie of the year Jeremy Hermida when he was still good.  That was a pretty good team, and honestly, they probably underachieved to only win 78 games (80-82 pythagorean record).  He then went to the Yankees, where he had the liberty of an already-championship caliber team and trillions of free agent dollars, and will probably be celebrated as an all-time great manager by casual sports fan worldwide.

So yeah, awesome journalistic integrity there.  Basically, what I got from reading this was that Rosenthal likes the way old men think about baseball, and he's scared of newer ways of thinking.  The Earth was flat for like 80 bajillion years or something, until someone questioned the status quo.

Consider this: Why do you shower every morning?  Is it because you've calculated that your skin secretes oil, sweat, etc. at such a pace that every 24 hours, your hygiene has depreciated enough that you physically need a shower?  Of course not.  It's because mostly everyone in the civilized world showers every morning before work, and has made a habit of it.  We shower everyday because that's what everybody else does and has done for the last few decades since running water and shower heads started happening, so it became a social norm.  Well what if we discovered that showering daily is really bad for our skin?  What if we realized that our hygiene can be maintained equally well if we only showered every second day, since the oils secreted by our skin and hair are actually an evolutionary process designed intentionally by the human body?  What if there was a water shortage, and only enough water to shower every 2 days?  Let's suppose that all three of the above scenarios are deemed true (they kind of are, really); the transformation from 1-day per shower to 2-days per shower obviously wouldn't be instant, but would rather take a little while for word to get across, and for people to be convinced to the point that they could break their routine.  Let's assume that, for whatever reason, teenage males would be the first people to find out about this, and would therefore not shower before going to the bar on a Friday night.  Relative to all the males, prissy teenage girls the world over would be delivered this bit of news only when they see the oily hair of their boyfriends, and would then overreact, saying stuff like "OMG that's soooooo gross."  I'm likening Ken Rosenthal to a prissy teenage girl.

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