As part of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, my job is to spout my opinion on end-of-season awards and make sure we kick the crap out of the BBWAA (they deserve it). I figure with the Marlins season over, the playoffs in heat, and most importantly, my deadlines approaching, I’d get us started with these awards.
The National League Manager of the Year
Managers are extremely difficult to quantify. For these awards, we generally consider teams that overachieve, but how much is that is luck, sequencing/timing, and other minute effects, and how much of that managerial? I could go into a long study on pen management and lineup optimization, but what’s more likely is that I’ll use those for/against the managers whose teams overachieved this year. On to the show, I suppose!
3. Bobby Cox, Atlanta Braves
Truthfully, this slot would have gone to our favorite manager, Marlins skipper Fredi Gonzalez, but then I thought long and hard about it and decided that no manager deserves an award or even a mention (though I mentioned him anyway) if he starts a .280 wOBA player for 500 PA, the majority of them at the leadoff spot, which happens to be one of the three most important spots in the lineup. Cox, on the other hand, receives no significant demerits outside of playing Jeff Francoeur and moving Yuniel Escobar out of the second slot in the lineup, As you can see, neither of these are “playing Emilio Bonifacio.” It’s Cox by a hair.
2. Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies
I guess sort of have to mention that Tracy pulled a Jack McKeon and brought Colorado from ten games under .500 (quite similar to what McKeon did) and “led” the team to the playoffs. Truthfully though, the club was probably just underperforming with Clint Hurdle and they happened to wake up with Tracy. That pitching staff was for real, and Colorado had the right guys like Carlos Gonzalez wake up and play well. Some of that may be Tracy, some of it may not be. And let’s not forget that Clint Barmes, the slappiest of slap hitters on Colorado, was moved up to the second spot in the lineup for 62 games under Tracy’s watch. That probably cost the team close to a win right there, especially with the club wasting a pretty solid bat in catcher Chris Ianetta at the bottom of the order. And Brad Hawpe getting playing time over Seth Smith, when Hawpe is a known butcher in the outfield. The team is lucky they have pitching.
1. Tony LaRussa, St. Louis Cardinals
I’m not the type to call LaRussa a genius, but he was one of the least error-prone managers in the NL this year. Sure, it seems hard to mess up a lineup when you have Albert Pujols, but he went with the better player in Colby Rasmus early in the year when it appeared Rick Ankiel had lost his luster (and rightfully so, since Rasmus is the better player). He did not bat a slappy hitter at the top of the lineup and instead got a guy in Skip Schumaker who was a decent hitter to hit there. There are minor issues with his common lineups, but they’re not terribly large. And he did a generally decent job matching his best pen guys to the right leverage situations, so there can be little complaint.
A lot of the supposed good that happens in St. Louis gets also credited to Dave Duncan, so it’s even harder to say what LaRussa did to make his players better. What he did do was get a decent team, get a full season of Chris Carpenter, a surprise year from Joel Pineiro, and do nothing to mess that up. LaRussa wins!
National League Manager of the Year: Tony LaRussa, St. Louis Cardinals