Jim Riggleman is probably a heck of a guy. But the Nationals decision to retain him as their manager feels like settling for a Wal-mart brand cola instead of grabbing a Coca-cola. Yes, the Nationals improved ten games from the previous season in 2010. They won 69 games instead of 59 the two seasons before. But from this observer's mind, those ten victories came in the beginning of the year when the Nationals got off to a good start. On Memorial Day, the team was 23-23. They went 43-67 the rest of the way. The Nationals' record starting the first of June led to a .390 winning percentage over that span. That doesn't sound like progress in that light.
According to the Nationals' run differential, they should have won three more games than they did (called the Pythagorean win-loss percentage as developed by Bill James). The team's defense did not improve. Nyger Morgan was not corralled and got too many at bats besides based on his abysmal offensive performance. The Fan hates to be a bummer, but there just wasn't anything positive about Riggleman's results.
The Nationals were 5-13 in interleague play. They were 3-10 in extra inning games and 20-28 in one-run games. Surely a manager should be able to figure out how to win a few more of those games. There is a fine line between blaming the talent and at least getting the most out of your limited talent and this Fan doesn't see that line in balance for this equation.
Let's talk about one other situation that seemed to put a burr in this writer's saddle. If your team really isn't going anywhere, is there any reason to burn up a pitcher? It's one thing for Joe Torre to burn up his horses when he was fighting for a pennant--and the Fan isn't even sure that it's justifiable in that situation--but it's another to burn out a pitcher when there is really nothing on the line. Tyler Clippard is a fine young talent. Riggleman threw Clippard out there 78 times to the tune of 91 innings, a 50% increase in Clippard's innings from the year before. Clippard's stats don't indicate that he wore down as his peripherals were actually better in the second half than in the first. But time will tell if Clippard was overused and how his body responds to it.
In this writer's mind, a manager in Riggleman's position needs to be protecting his young talent. He is supposed to be a nurturer and a care taker for the talent of the future. But Riggleman doesn't seem to fit that mold somehow. The Nationals had the chance to make a bold statement and hire somebody like Bobby Valentine or another manager with proven results to take this team to the next level. Instead, they have settled for status quo by believing that going from bloody awful to just plain awful is progress. It's not and it wasn't.