Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Manager Power in the 2009 Playoffs

While we all continue to not care about an average weapon on a great offense (Reggie Bush)getting back together with a great-looking girl that is only famous for having Bruce Jenner as a step-father (Kim Kardashian)...........

I intended to write this post about the MLB managers in the playoffs and how underappreciated Jim Leyland has been in his career. The guy has won in markets that have no business winning in baseball, having made the playoffs in Pittsburgh, won a World Series in Miami, and making a World Series appearance in Detroit. I was ready to talk about how he doesn’t get the accolades that Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre get because Torre managed in NY and LaRussa is a blow-hard SOB that loves the attention. Meanwhile, Leyland just sits back and smokes a dozen packs of cigs a day and wins games.

However, once I started looking at the numbers, I can’t really make the case. I know numbers aren’t the only way to measure a manager, but it is the most concrete way. So as I started to look at the numbers, I realized that this year’s playoffs will have a tremendous amount of managerial power. Excluding Joe Girardi because he only has 2 years of experience, the other 7 managers: Leyland, LaRussa, Torre, Scioscia, Manuel, Francona & Tracy have a combined 114 seasons, 49 playoff appearances, 10 World Series titles and 10 Manager of the Year awards. They have a .538 regular season winning percentage and a .563 post season winning percentage.

Between Leyland, LaRussa & Torre, we will be seeing 3 of the best managers of the 90’s – the only one missing is Bobby Cox with the Braves (who won’t be able to catch the Rockies for the wild card because the Brewers can’t play spoiler). And I guess it’s appropriate that the stars of the 90s are going to be big in the playoffs – considering television stars from the 90s are having a return to prominence this fall. Courtney Cox, Heather Locklear, Patricia Heaton, Kelsey Grammar and Ed O’Neil are all stars on new or returning to remade television shows. And Cox and Locklear are still bringing their A-game to the table.

While the exploits of Jim Leyland in multiple cities cannot be downplayed, he is the only manager of the 7 to have a winning percentage below .500 (at .496) in the regular season. Jim Tracy has the lowest post season winning percentage (.400), but he only has one appearance (before this season) with the Dodgers in 2004. The other disappointment in the post season has been Mike Scioscia, despite having a better regular season winning percentage than all of the managers except Joe Torre. Yet Scioscia is 16-20 in 5 post seasons, which is worse when you consider 11 of those 16 wins came during the World Series winning season in 2002. They have lost to the Sox 3 times in the first round, only winning one game – which is a bad omen for Angels fans as they open the playoffs with the Red Sox next week.

And it's worth mentioning that firepower is not just Joe Torre and all of his post season success. Along with LaRussa's 2 titles and 13 playoff appearances, in 10 seasons each, Francona & Scioscia each have 5 playoff appearances and 3 combined titles (2 for Tito & one for Scioscia).

What does this mean for this year’s playoffs? Obviously a manager alone will not be able to win the World Series. And Joe Girardi and his lack of playoff experience as a manager is leading the prohibitive favorite in the Yankees. However the experience and knowledge that these playoff tested managers bring to the table should mean that their decisions on pinch hitters, pitching changes and the daily line-up will lead to closer games and keep the less talented teams in each series and make for a good post season.

Leyland - 1/2 in World Series, 3-time MoY, 7 playoff appearances in 18 seasons

Torre - 3/6 in World Series, 2-time MoY, 15 playoff appearances in 28 seasons

LaRussa - 2/5 in World Series, 4-time MoY, 13 playoff appearances in 32 seasons

Francona - 2/2 in World Series, 5 playoff appearances in 10 seasons

Scioscia - 1/1 in World Series, 1-time MoY, 5 playoff appearances in 10 seasons

Manuel - 1/1 in World Series, 3 playoff appearances in 8 seasons

Tracy - 1 playoff appearance in 8 seasons

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