[Ed. note - As a charter member of the St. Louis Cardinals chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) (along with fellow UCB members C70 at the Bat, Fungoes, and Stan Musial's Stance), PH8 been afforded the honor of carrying an official vote for a couple of the BBA's 2009 MLB Awards. You can find more information about the project at the BBA site.]
As is the case with subjective voting for subjective awards such as these, it is inevitable that those doing the voting have their own opinion of what the criteria for winning said award should be and place different values on different attributes or performances, good or bad, in their evaluation.
This will be no different.
When one thinks Manager of the Year, it is easy for the mind to drift straight to winning, and who is doing the most of it. After all, just because the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball, that doesn’t mean they win the AL East every season, right? Someone still has to point the way, to shepherd the team to success. Why shouldn’t Joe Girardi run away with the award?
The Hardball Times did a study in their 2008 Baseball Annual on manager wins and losses added and found the range to be only +2.29 to -1.88 over 162 games managed (minimum games managed, 1000). Not really that breathtaking, eh? (By the way, that’s a fascinating study the THT did, I recommend reading through it.)
So how then, can we judge who did the best job of managing?
My way, quaint as it may seem, is to form my opinion on which teams played better than expected. Which manager theoretically got more out of less? Again, realizing that this is an imperfect method, we assume that the manager might have anything to do with a player or two having a career season – but nonetheless, who are we to say that the players didn’t overperform because they were put into good situations by their manager?
Alas, the debate could rage on, but without further ado, my ballot:
2009 National League Manager of the Year
3. Tony LaRussa, St. Louis Cardinals
Before everyone starts screaming “homer vote,” let me explain. Number one, I didn’t vote him in at number one, so stop complaining! Second, the Cardinals sat in first place by one-and-a-half-games over the Chicago Cubs on July 24th, the day that the Matt Holliday trade was made. For that Cardinal team to be in that position with the lineup they entered the season with, and the injuries sustained to Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Ludwick, etc. was a small miracle in this fan’s book. Sure, the Cubs helped out a bit by being, well, Cub-like. Tony really did a number with this team to put them in position to run away with the division once Holliday arrived. Put the post-season aside for just a second. This was another masterful job by TLR.
2. Bud Black, San Diego Padres
Not much was expected of the Padres this season by any of the preseason prognosticators. In fact, our initial NL West predictions left the Padres completely off of the ballot (sorry Pads fans, no disrespect intended). Black ran out a bevy of pretty good young kids around Adrian Gonzalez and just let ‘em play. The result was a twelve game improvement over last season’s win total, a plus-eight versus their Pythagorean expected wins this season, and finished very strong at 18-11 in September and October (including 8-3 versus the two playoff teams from their division). With the once-messy ownership situation now resolved in San Diego, hopes are high for a return to the top of the division. Black may be just the guy to lead them there.
1. Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies
Not a bad result for a guy who wasn’t managing the team until 46 games into the season, eh? Tracy took over for Clint Hurdle with the Rockies a miserable 18-28 and guided them to a 74-42 rest of the season for a 92-70 finish that was good enough to win the NL Wild Card. The 74-42, or .639 winning percentage, to finish the season would’ve been good for the best record in baseball, had they played that well to start the season as well. Needless to say, this is one of those situations where it’s hard to ignore the one major difference between their start and their finish. Sure, the Rockies were probably playing well below their capability under Hurdle, and that can happen to any team under any manager (right, Cards fans?) – but Tracy ultimately deserves a large amount of credit for where this team wound up after being left for dead two months into the season.
So there you have it, the Pitchers Hit Eighth ballot for 2009 NL Manager of the Year. Please be sure to check out all of the other ballots being cast from other BBA members over at http://www.baseballbloggersalliance.com.