In baseball managers seem to play a significant role in the team. The managers manage the players, they manage the game and some fans would argue that they are the glue that holds a team together.
As a member of the more forward thinking baseball community I’m well aware that the little things that we can observe form managers like lineup cards and pitching changes is a very small percentile of the job in its entirety. However because those things are all that we can see they are also all the we can criticize.
In 2011 one could argue that there was quite a bit to criticize with Blue Jays Manager John Farrell. It seemed he had trouble identifying his pitcher’s strengths in the bullpen and didn’t give two shits about who was where in the Jays lineup.
At the beginning of the 2011 season, Farrell continually put Octavio Dotel up against left handers, when at that point he was pitching like a ROOGY. Furthermore, countless times he put Adam Lind in the cleanup spot against left handers despite Lind being the 6th worse hitter against lefties in the past decade (according to wRC+).
As the year wore and rookies were called up from the minors things didn’t exactly improve. Farrell hit Eric Thames in the 2 hole whilst he was slumping and Brett Lawrie anywhere from 5-8 whilst he was hitting like one of the best players in the league. I digress.
Though Matthew Kory’s (@MattyMatty2000) poop joke algorithm has declared John Farrell’s managerial decisions as poop on the scale of 1-Poop, one must remember one thing. That thing is that last year John Farrell was a Rookie manager. As any Rookie player would do, a Rookie manager also makes mistakes.
What I find more important, which is also what scouts look for in a Rookie is improvement. This year Farrell seems to have improved to levels unimaginable. For one there is not a bullpen decision of his this year that has been too out of line. For another it seems he finally realizes what Adam Lind is…a platoon player.
In response to his newfound recognition of Lind’s true abilities (or lack thereof) Farrell has taken to dropping Lind in the batting order and sometimes even benching him when the Jays are facing a lefty starter.
Furthermore, what has been described as a managerial trend in this short season and something Farrell seems to have embraced are shifts. If you have watched any number of the Jays games this season you probably have witnessed these shifts.
Particularly against lefties the Jays have played two different shifts. One shift where the SS, 2B, and 1B players all stay in their regular position, but Brett Lawrie over at third has moved into shallow right field. Another shift has done the same thing except Lawrie was instead moved to a position straight up the middle.
I’m sure there have been other slight adjustments that my eyes, always distracted by watching the pristine pitching performances put on the by the Jays, have not captured. Though for the particular shifts described above, they have seemed to be relatively effective. On multiple occasions the ball has been hit directly to the shifted player resulting in an out and end to the inning.
All of these changes, all of this improvement is wonderful. Where as last year it looked like John Farrell could become the next Jim Tracy with his managerial decisions, this year he seems to be moving towards the ever eternal Joe Maddon managerial territory.
Although good managerial decisions don’t necessarily add a whole lot to the success of a team, they sure don’t hurt. With good managerial decisions the players are happy, the fans are happy, and newspapers have to write about something other than the bad decision the manager made last night…everybody wins.