Sortable statistics help track manager trends

Baseball is a sport of numbers: 762 home runs, 511 wins, a 56-game hitting streak. But while players’ baseball cards are packed with st...


Baseball is a sport of numbers: 762 home runs, 511 wins, a 56-game hitting streak.

But while players’ baseball cards are packed with stats, one key person in the game tends to be overlooked by fans when it comes to counting and analyzing: the manager.

Sparky Anderson, who has managed 1,834 games and won three World Series titles, went so far as to say that managers were a “necessary evil”. But thanks to a growing ability to follow the decisions of managers at sites like Baseball reference, fans can get a glimpse of the trends of the people who run their teams, which might help explain what exactly they are doing in these canoes.

Statistics show who stands out in terms of strategy and, more broadly, they show how the game is progressing. (All statistics up to Tuesday.)

There will likely be less than 2,200 flights this season, continuing a downward trend from their modern heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, when more than 3,000 was the norm. But some managers still think there is an advantage in being aggressive on the bases.

Overall, about 5.7 percent of runners on first base attempt to steal second base. That number skyrockets if they play for Don Mattingly of the Miami Marlins (9.3%) or Jayce Tingler of the San Diego Padres (8.9%).

Part of that is driven by the staff, of course: Mattingly had the Starling Marte (22 interceptions, before a trade to Oakland) and Jazz Chisholm (18) fleet. But Mattingly also loved to fly when he was manager of the Dodgers, reaching 11.2% in 2014.

All this theft seems to be helping the Marlins. They steal bases at a 79.5% success rate, well above the 67% that statisticians say must be achieved for a robbery attempt to be worth it.

In contrast, David Bell of the Reds keeps his runners stuck in the mud. Only 3% of its men on the first took off for the second. Considering the Reds players only succeeded 55.1% of the time, he might consider stealing even less than that.

Intentional marches, one of the least popular moves for statisticians – and many fans – just keep dropping. But there are still a few managers who find it useful to give a team a first foundation.

Nobody gives passes to even one percent of hitters, but Dave Martinez of the Washington Nationals and Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers always send 0.8 percent of them first. Unsurprisingly, they are managers of the National League, where walking the man in front of the pitcher is quite routine.

AHL managers Brandon Hyde of the Baltimore Orioles and Dusty Baker of the Houston Astros have been remarkably opposed to strategy, offering intentional walks just 0.1 percent of the time this season, or about once per 1,000 batters. Each has intentionally walked only seven men this season.

One of Hyde’s walks came to Shohei Ohtani last month, and she drew boos from Orioles fans, who in a season where their team has 31 games on third place (and already knocked out of the playoffs) probably just wanted to see the Angels superstar take his cups.

Baker spent most of his managerial career in the NL and steadily walked nearly 1% of batters with the San Francisco Giants in the 1990s. That number plummeted when he led the Chicago Cubs, the Cincinnati Reds and Nationals, and he plunged with his arrival in the AL last season.

Another game that annoys many new-age statisticians is decay: the consensus is that giving up a takedown usually costs more than what you earn by advancing a runner.

Don’t say that to Mike Matheny of the Royals, whose non-pitchers have managed to sacrifice 21 times this season, 1.8% of the time strategy was available. (Throwers are excluded from this statistic because those not named Ohtani almost always fire when they can.) Matheny has had a sacrifice decay rate as high as 2.3% during his career, and this has been noticed. In 2016, he said he was done answering questions about his tendency to crack players. “Beyond being fed up with answering them” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

But if you’re playing for Mike Shildt of the St. Louis Cardinals, Roberts of the Dodgers, or Bell of the Reds, you better swing the bat. Each has only made two non-pitcher sacrifices this season. (Shildt received “worst decay of the year” by FanGraphs in June after a failed sacrifice by José Rondón turned into a double play. Maybe he learned a lesson.)

In the 60s, 70s and 80s, teams used about 2.5 pitchers per game. As any fan who watches a game enter its fourth hour in 2021 can tell you, managers are using a lot more now. Each majors manager currently uses between four and five pitchers per game.

At one extreme is the Padres’ Tingler at 4.8 pitchers per game. On the other side, Tony La Russa of the White Sox at 4.1 years old.

You might think that a team with a poor pitching staff would call in more and more pitchers as the starters and middle relievers were bombarded. But, curiously, the use of pitchers by Tingler and La Russa does not seem to be explained by the quality of their staff: each team is fourth in the ERA in its league.

In case you were wondering, La Russa, 76, has changed over time. Returning to his first round with the White Sox in the 1980s, he was using 2.5 to 3 pitchers per game. That number increased as he went on, but his 1986 White Sox team, at 3.2 pitchers per game, was the only team in their 34 years of management to have surpassed their league in terms of use of launchers despite its reputation for having played an important role. in the defense of situational relief.

A new way to assess managers is their use of replay challenges. There are a lot of caveats: the sample size is small, and some managers may issue a challenge just to boost a player’s morale or send a message to a referee.

That said, it’s La Russa who leads the standings here: seven of his nine challenges have been successful this season, for a baseball record 77.8%. Coincidence or not, La Russa helped to create the proofreading system.

In contrast, Hyde of the Orioles and Bob Melvin of the Oakland Athletics had only one of 10 challenges canceled.

The man who likes challenges the most is Charlie Montoyo of the Blue Jays. He achieved 25, of which nine were successful (36%).

In some games, the manager is not very visible. But it’s hard to miss him when he receives the boot. Any Atlanta Braves fan can tell you everything after years of watching Bobby Cox manage the team, as he’s been kicked 162 times – the equivalent of an early shower season.

Tingler of the Padres and Aaron Boone of the Yankees have received the blow six times this season. For Boone, who is known for his theatrical reprimand of the umpsis a new personal best, surpassing his five ejections of 2019.

Gabe Kapler of the Giants, Kevin Cash of the Rays and Brian Snitker of the Braves receive the citizenship award: they haven’t been told to leave yet. (However, all three have been thrown in previous seasons, but Kapler’s total of four kicks in 523 games as a manager shows excellent behavior.)

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