Yesterday I wrote about Buck Showalter and Mike Scioscia, two great managers having great seasons. There’s a third member of that group: Bruce Bochy. And luckily enough for me, Joe Sheehan just wrote about Bochy in his newsletter. Which makes my job a lot easier …
As Joe points out, Bochy’s Giants have gotten essentially nothing this season from Brandon Belt, and Angel Pagan’s missed a great deal of time, too.
Then there’s the rotation, which was once built around Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. One of those two lost his rotation spot, while the other is having an even worse year, banished to the 60-day DL following season-ending elbow surgery. Combined, the two have a 4.62 ERA in 242 innings — sub-replacement performance at a cost of more than $30 million. In the bullpen, Sergio Romo went from unhittable to a ROOGY in three months, and while he’s become a contributor in front of Santiago Castilla, he’s another important part of that 2012 title team who has barely dented the 2014 one: a 0.1 bWAR. These five players have combined for just 1.7 bWAR, most of that belonging to Pagan. If you tell me that on March 27, I certainly don’t pick the Giants to win the NL West.
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Earlier this week, I noted the seeming, relative unimportance of single players, and I mentioned Lincecum. But I skipped right past Matt Cain; remember, not so long ago those two were considered the collective bedrock of the entire franchise, and were paid as such; with their twin aces, anything seemed possible.
This season, the Giants have gotten little from their erstwhile aces, nor from those three other supposed stalwarts … and yet here they are, on the verge of winning 90-some games and quite probably a spot in Super Happy October Fun Time.
Is there another reasonable Manager of the Year candidate? At this moment, only five National League teams have positive run differentials. Granted, three of the other 10 teams are one good game away from being in the black … but two of those three are the Brewers and the Braves, and their late-season collapses are a lot more likely to get their managers fired than garner awards. The other is the Mets, who will finish with a losing record.
Matt Williams can’t win, because the Nationals have merely done exactly what they were supposed to do. Don Mattingly, same reason. Which really leaves only three candidates who deserve any support: Bochy, Mike Matheny, and Clint Hurdle.
Of course you have to appreciate Hurdle’s accomplishments, both last season and this. Last season, he got religion with the infield shifts. This season, he finally adopted Jordy Mercer as his every-day shortstop and he’s ridden Josh Harrison’s hot hand. I believe Hurdle’s one of our better managers. But he’s not quite had Bruce Bochy’s worries.
Mike Matheny’s had some real worries, particularly about his pitching rotation; he’s been forced to use 11 starters this season. He lost Yadier Molina for a long spell, while Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras haven’t been the Rookie of the Year candidates we expected. And the Cardinals might well finish with a better record than the Giants, despite their humdrum (+12) run differential. The Cardinals probably will finish in first place, while the Giants probably will not … and now that I’m thinking about this more, I realize I really couldn’t fault a voter, especially a St. Louis-based voter, for choosing Matheny over Bochy.
Speaking of St. Louis-based voters, wouldn’t it be great if everyone could know what they know? If one of them does vote for Matheny, afterward he might write a column explaining just what Matheny did this season that made him so valuable. But wouldn’t it be more useful if we could read that column now? And if all the other voters read that column, too? So here’s my plea right now, especially to those writers covering the Cardinals every day, and those covering the Pirates and the Giants, too: Please tell us what your managers have done this season that sets them apart. Tell us about some problems we’ve already forgotten, or haven’t even known about.
I suppose that Millenials don’t care about trivialities like end-of-season awards, just so much hardware that will wind up collecting dust on so many mantels. But there are still people who do care, so we might as well get them as “right” as we can.