The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the tag “Dusty Baker”

Announcing the Winners of the B.B.A.’s Connie Mack Award

 

Ron Washington and Joe West

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

 

I am a member of the Miscellaneous Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

One of the responsibilities we have as members of the B.B.A. is to cast votes for various post season awards.

The following is an official press release announcing the winners of the Connie Mack Award for the best manager in each league. Check out the website and the many interesting and entertaining  blogs in the B.B.A.

WASHINGTON, BLACK WIN CONNIE MACK AWARD

Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers and Bud Black of the San Diego Padres were named winners of the Connie Mack Award by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, noting them as the best managers in their respective leagues for 2010.

Washington, who weathered a drug controversy in spring training, led Texas to their fifth divisional title since 1994 and their first since 1999.  While the voting was based on his regular season accomplishments, Washington also guided his team to their first ever postseason series victory when they eliminated the Tampa Bay Rays in five games in the American League Divisional Series.

Washington received ten first place votes in route to accumulating 74 total points.  He edged out Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who received 67 points.

In the National League, Black’s guidance of a Padres team almost universally expected to finish last to first place most of the summer helped him edge Dusty Baker of the Cincinnati Reds by the slimmest of margins.  The fact that the Padres fell just short of the playoffs while the Reds won the NL Central helped lead to the tight race.  Black garnered nine first place selections and 53 total points to Baker’s seven first place nods and 51 total points.

The complete voting results are as follows (first place votes in parenthesis):

American League

Ron Washington, Texas (10) 74

Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota (7) 67

Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay (4) 35

Terry Francona, Boston (3) 20

Cito Gaston, Toronto 9

Buck Showalter, Baltimore 9

Joe Girardi, New York 2

National League

Bud Black, San Diego (9) 53

Dusty Baker, Cincinnati (7) 51

Bobby Cox, Atlanta (2) 33

Bruce Bochy, San Francisco (3) 29

Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia (1) 27

Brad Mills, Houston 3

Mike Quade, Chicago 2

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance was formed in the fall of 2009 to encourage cooperation and collaboration between baseball bloggers of all major league teams as well as those that follow baseball more generally. As of this writing, the organization consists of 224 blogs spanning all 30 major league squads as well as general baseball writing.

The BBA is organized under a similar structure as the Baseball Writers of America, where blogs that follow the same team are combined into “chapters” and only two votes from the chapter on an award are counted. The blog chapters that are focused on general baseball were allowed two votes as well, which they could use both on the same league or split between the two leagues.

Chapters generally followed one of two methods when casting their ballot.  Either representatives of the chapter were given the ballots for voting or a “group ballot” was posted, accounting for both of their votes.

Ballots are posted on the respective blogs and tabulated on a 5-3-1 point scale for first, second and third. In the interest of transparency, links are given below for the ballots. Chapter affiliation is in parenthesis.  Those chapters that decided on the group method are noted with an asterisk.

American League

Camden Crazies (Baltimore)*

Boston Red Thoughts (Boston)*

Toeing The Rubber (Boston)*

The Tribe Daily (Cleveland)*

Motor City Bengals (Detroit)

Switch Hitting Pitchers (Detroit)

One Royal Way (Kansas City)

Seth Speaks (Minnesota)

Bronx Baseball Daily (New York)*

Contract Year (Oakland)

Jeff’s Mariners Fan Blog (Seattle)

Rise of the Rays (Tampa Bay)

Baseball Is My Boyfriend (Texas)*

The Blue Jay Hunter (Toronto)

500 Level Fan (Toronto)

Advanced Fantasy Baseball (Fantasy)*

Misc. Baseball (History)*

Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (Other)*

Blogging From The Bleachers (General)*

National League

Prose and Ivy (Chicago)*

Cincinnati Reds Blog (Cincinnati)

Astros County (Houston)

Feeling Dodger Blue (Los Angeles)

Bernie’s Crew (Milwaukee)*

Brewers Bar (Milwaukee)*

The Eddie Kranepool Society (New York)*

Dugger’s Corner (Philadelphia)

Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke? (Pittsburgh)*

i70 Baseball (St. Louis)

The Outfield Ivy (St. Louis)

Friar Forecast (San Diego)*

Advanced Fantasy Baseball (Fantasy)*

Misc. Baseball (History)*

Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (Other)*

Blogging From The Bleachers (General)*

Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf (Miscellaneous)*

Prior Winners

2009: Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles of Anaheim; Jim Tracy, Colorado

The official website of the BBA is located at www.baseballbloggersalliance.com.  The BBA can be found on Twitter by the handle @baseballblogs and by the hashmark #bbba.  Members of the BBA may be heard at Blog Talk Radio every Tuesday night with their call-in show, BBA Baseball Talk, which may also be downloaded as a podcast from iTunes.  For more information, contact Daniel Shoptaw at founder@baseballbloggersalliance.com.

Stupid Manager Tricks: Part 2 – The Sacrifice Bunt

This is the second installment of a periodic series called Stupid Manager Tricks.  In this series, I will continue to examine certain baseball strategies that have been commonplace in baseball for many decades, some going as far back as the Dead Ball days nearly a hundred years ago.

These strategies are part of baseball’s Conventional Wisdom, things a manager does when he wants to show everyone how aggressive he is, or when he runs out of ideas about how to coax more runs out of an anemic offense.

The problem with some of these strategies, of course, is that they are just plain dumb, Conventional Wisdom notwithstanding.

In the first part of this series, which I posted here on March 11, I took a closer look at the Questionable Value of the Attempted Steal.

In that blog-post, I presented evidence that the Pittsburgh Pirates of the late 1970’s, a team that I used as an example due to their vaunted aggressiveness on the base-paths, almost certainly ran themselves out of at least one, if not two, division titles due to the high frequency of unsuccessful stolen base attempts they piled up those two years.

The point I was trying to make then, and which I will be focusing on again today, is that being aggressive and being smart are not always one in the same  when it comes to baseball.

Which leads me to today’s topic, the Sacrifice Bunt.  Now, it is true to a certain extent that the Sacrifice Bunt has gone out of style.  Indeed , some teams, especially in the American League where the DH is the order of the day, hardly ever employ the Sacrifice Bunt as a strategy.

In fact, use of the Sacrifice Bunt varies widely from team to team.  The Cincinnati Reds used it 100 times last season, the most of any team in baseball.   The Orioles used it the least, just 13 times.

Not coincidentally, perhaps, the Reds manager, Dusty Baker, spent his playing days at a time when the Sacrifice Bunt was often readily employed as a common, in-game strategy, the 1970’s.

Conversely, Orioles manager Dave Trembley has never played pro ball at any level.  He’s been a coach or a manager his entire professional life.

Therefore, Trembley apparently hasn’t been indoctrinated with the Conventional Wisdom of “small ball,”  the philosophy first promulgated during the Dead Ball era that baseball played correctly involves lavish use of the bunt, the stolen base, and the spikes on the bottom of one’s shoes.

But how effective is the Sacrifice Bunt as a means by which a team can  improve its chances to score runs?

To more closely examine this issue, I will have an imaginary conversation with major league pitcher Roy Halladay, now with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Why a pitcher, you ask, and not a hitter?  Because it helps to know if a pitcher thinks this strategy makes his life tougher, or it he thinks it’s a silly waste of time.

And anyway, Halladay was available.  So here we go:

“Roy, thanks so much for joining us here today, especially on such short notice.”

“Not a problem, Bill.  Thanks for having me.”

“Roy, over in the A.L., when you were pitching for Toronto, was the Sacrifice Bunt something you used to guard against as a serious threat by the team you were pitching against?”

“You know, Bill, I hardly ever even thought about that as an issue.  My job, in either league, is simply to get batters out, however I can.  You want to try a Sacrifice Bunt, go for it.”

“Are you saying that the hitters were doing you a favor by attempting a Sacrifice Bunt, that they were, in effect, giving you one free out to work with?”

“Yeah, I mean, a major league hitter should be able to come to the plate and have a reasonable chance to put the ball in play, right?  So if they put the ball in play, without bunting, they just might end up with a hit, or maybe the defense makes an error behind me.  Now,  I trust my defense, which is why I like to pitch to contact.  Keeps your pitch-counts low, and you can work deeper into games.  But when a hitter puts a ball in play, anything can happen.”

“But Roy, isn’t that also true of the Sacrifice Bunt?  Once the ball is bunted, anything can happen.”

“True, but the goal of the bunt is to give up an out, while, hopefully, moving a runner up a single base.  As a pitcher with a lot of confidence in my abilities, that’s a trade-off I’ll take any time.”

“So basically, once a hitter sacrifices, assuming he even manages to get the lead runner down to second base, he has done one-third of your work for you.”

“That’s right.  And now I’m looking for the strikeout on the next batter because if I can get the K, the runner on second-base is a sitting duck.  He can’t be brought home, or even move up a base, with a Sac Fly ’cause now there are two outs.”

“And aren’t big innings much less likely to occur once a Sacrifice Bunt has been laid down, because for big innings to happen, you need multiple base-runners.  The Sac Bunt is playing for a single run.  A one-run strategy would logically lead to fewer runs scored because it creates outs rather than base-runners.”

“Exactly.”

“Now that you are in the N.L., you’ll probably be confronted with the Sac Bunt much more often.  Does this change your pre-game preparation?”

“Depends on the team, the players, lots of variables.  But again, my job doesn’t change.  Get guys out.  Prevent runs from scoring.  I like to keep things simple.”

But now you are also going to have to get up there and hit. How are liking that idea?”
“(Laughing)  Well, I swung the bat a few times in Inter-League Play the last few years, so it’s not an entirely new experience.  But yeah, it could get interesting out there.”

“Will you attempt a Sac Bunt if your manager asks you to?”

“Well, I’ll do what he wants, of course.  He’s the boss.  But I’ll probably break my freakin’ hand doing it”  (laughs again.)

“One final question, Roy.  Do you believe that when a team is facing a really tough pitcher, someone like yourself, that it just might make sense sometimes to try to scratch out a single run, because they know you’re going to be tough to score on, that you’re not going to give up too many runs in that game?”

“Well, you know, it’s kind of ironic if you think about it.”

“In what way?

“To use a Sac Bunt against a tough pitcher, whether it’s me or Lincecum or Carpenter, whomever, why would you choose to give up a free out to the toughest pitchers in baseball, the pitchers you can least afford to give up free outs to?”

“Good point, Roy.  Final question:  Is there ever a time, then, when a Sac Bunt should be used at all?”

“You know, if you don’t telegraph it to the whole ball-park.  Try using the element of surprise.  I mean, most guys square around before I’ve even gone into my wind-up.  Instead of trying so hard to get yourself out, why not try to be sneaky about it?  Maybe even get yourself on to first base.  (laughs ironically.)

“Well, if the Official Scorer believes you were trying to bunt for a hit, it goes against the hitter as an 0-1 in the box score.  An obvious Sac Bunt attempt doesn’t count against the batter, unless he strikes out trying.  That’s the hitters motivation.”

“I thought his motivation was to win ball games.  That’s mine.”

“Nuff said.  Roy, thanks so much for being here today.”

“Thanks for having me, Bill.  It’s been a pleasure.”

Well, folks, I for one can’t wait to see if Roy Halladay attempts any Sac Bunts this season.  If his manager reads the transcript of this interview, he just might decide against it. In fact, he might decide against attempting any Sac Bunts at all this year.

Because, Conventional Wisdom aside, there really doesn’t appear to be any logical rationale at all for utilizing this time-honored, yet badly flawed,  strategy.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Roy Halladay.

Next time on Stupid Manager Tricks:  Part 3 – Using Your Closer ONLY in the Ninth Inning.  (about one month from now.)


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