In yesterday's post, I gave you my choice for the American League Manager of the Year. And while there were six viable choices for that award in that league, there are only really four choices in the National League. And as such, I will break things down between those four candidates and make my NL selection. Please keep in mind, like yesterday, there is no clear process for evaluating a manager. There are no stats kept on in-game moves to draw upon. There is no way to measure or understand the value of a manager in the clubhouse or in the dugout. Any selection for this award is strictly subjective. I would not quibble if the final pick went to any of the four on this list.
It is funny how Don Mattingly went from a terrible manager in the early part of the season to a brilliant one once Puig showed up and Hanley Ramirez got healthy. That only goes to prove that it is the players who win and lose games and not the manager. The fact is that Mattingly was the same guy all season. He stayed the course when things were bad and rode the wave when things were good. You have to give him credit for perseverance. He had some injury trouble all season too.
But I have some reservations. With the run differential, they should have won three less games than they did. But, Mattingly did not come across as strong when there was a backlash against Puig for some of Puig's more misguided adventures. Mattingly seemed more reactionary to that situation than strong. In my mind, Mattingly should have come out strong for Puig saying that Puig was his guy and then worked with him behind the scenes. Instead, Mattingly seemed to get buffeted by the public opinion and pulled Puig in the middle of games and sat him at other times. I just don't think it was handled well. Of course, I could be all wet as I am sitting thousands of miles away.
Mike Matheny is a strong candidate. Not only did he allow the young pitchers to flourish instead of that loyalty crap and sticking with veterans, but he handled each of them really well. He protected them when he should have and let them go when he should have. Plus, his team of coaches really handled the offense well and their approach was magnificent. I don't think that is an accident. The players have to buy in to an approach and that happened here.
I do have one problem with Matheny as a candidate. According to the Pythagorean win-loss statistic, based on the run differential, the Cardinals should have won four more games than they did.
Fredi Gonzalez will never get much love when it comes to this award. Heck, even his own fan base rails against him all the time. Apparently, nobody likes his in-game decisions and the feeling is that his teams win in spite of him and not because of him. I do not know if that is fair or not.
Two things seem to balance out over the course of the season. First, he stuck with Kris Medlen in the rotation despite a rough start to the season. You can perhaps say that he had nobody else. But even so, that was a great decision as Medlen became great in the second half. On the other hand, he stuck with Dan Uggla for far too long and how could Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton have been so bad.
Gonzalez did make a nice move when he shifted Jason Heyward to the lead-off spot. The win streak that happened after that could all be just coincident. The Braves were two games behind their Pythagorean win-loss record. I know I rely on that stat too much, but I do think it matters at least a little.
That brings us to Clint Hurdle. According to (I know, here we go again) the Pythagorean thing, the Pirates should have won 88 games. They won 94. We have not seen that sort of thing since Mike Scioscia's glory years with the Angels. But Hurdle's unbridled enthusiasm kept the Pirates buoyant through the tough times and in the end, crushed the Reds when it mattered.
The Pirates really are not a Cinderella team. Their steps of improvement last year make this year seem like a natural progression. But like my Francona choice in the AL, Clint Hurdles made less work more for the Pirates all season. He handled his bullpen brilliantly and despite a challenged offense, made it work to the tune of 94 wins and came within a disastrous series against the Cardinals of winning the division.
Clint Hurdle is my choice for the NL Manager of the Year. I would not be unhappy if Matheny wins as I think he was excellent as well.
My overall ranking of NL Managers:
- Clint Hurdle
- Mike Matheny
- Don Mattingly
- Fredi Gonzalez
- Davey Johnson
- Terry Collins
- Bud Black
- Kirk Gibson
- Dusty Baker
- Mike Redmond
- Ron Roenicke
- Bruce Bochy
- Walt Weiss
- Dale Sveum
I did not count any for Philadelphia because they switched mid-season.