Nationals Baseball: Riggle it, just a little bit.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Riggle it, just a little bit.

Jason Reid wrote his first piece on the Nats today saying how the Nats should give Riggleman a long term contract because, well, it isn't quite clear to me. Oh, he has reasons in there but the vibe that comes across is more of a "because" than a strongly argued position. Let go over the points

1) "In 237 games with the Nationals, Riggleman’s record is 102-135. In the 237 games before Riggleman led them, the Nationals were 82-155. That's progress."

He's right. That is progress. But 82-155 is TERRIBLE. It amounts to a 56 win season if measured out to 162 games. It's a record that if you pulled a guy from the stands during a game and said "Hey, you there! Manage this team." I'd give him a decent shot of improving. Plus it happens to coincide with a more concerted and well-planned effort to make the team decent then we've seen years. All in all if they didn't severely improve in the last 237 games we'd have to question whether Jim was in the right line of work. Let's not go crazy about Riggleman managing this squad to what amounts to a 70 win pace.

2) "Managers really earn their money directing bullpens when teams have weak rotations, and many Nationals starters lacked big league caliber stuff. Riggleman deftly handled the team’s relief corps, mixing and matching in one of the best performances I’ve seen from a manager."

Wow. That's high praise. I thought he did a decent job. He rightly realized early that Capps and Clippard were the only ones pitching well to start and he rode them hard. That might not be the best thing for a young team (If Clippard is as good this year I'll eat my hat. And by HAT I mean a Ham, Avacado, and Tomato sandwich), but then again it's not the worst (relievers are a dime a dozen). If Riggleman was so great at managing bullpens why did the 2009 Nats pen put up ERAs of 4.30 and 4.50 that June and July, then 5.07 and 5.42 in August and September when he came in?

Rizzo supplied Riggleman with decent arms, Riggleman used them correctly. There's reason to praise him here, I've seen managers that can't even do that, but best eva? I'm not going that far.

1) "It’s not hard to manage with essentially a one-year deal. It’s downright impossible"

This is really Reid's argument. It's too hard to make unpopular decisions like lineup changes and dropping guys from the rotation and maintain player support without a long term deal. That without stability players may stop listening to Riggleman because he won't be here next year. That may be true. Really, I would guess alot of "manager respect" rises and falls like "team chemistry", meaning players respect the manager when they feel the team is improving in wins and tune him out when they feel like they are losing more than they should, but I'll give that there is probably something to it.

Though Reid couldn't leave this effect, vague and hard to capture with hard evidence, just sitting there:

"Unless you’ve spent significant time in baseball clubhouses, it’s impossible to understand the dynamic that exists among managers, coaches and players — especially on bad teams."

That, my friends, is the "you never played the game" for journalists. A truth that matters, but one that shouldn't be used as a trump card. I'm not terribly bothered by it's use in this argument because the role of a manager is such a "squishy" thing. You're dealing with a lot of abstracts like "dealing with the media" and "motivating a clubhouse". It's hard to show any real effect when comparing most managers, but instinctually feels like there really should be one. But still, pulling out that line so early makes me wonder if every argument he makes might get pointed back to that one statement. Something to think about.

Oh Riggleman? I don't care. I think he can not mess things up, so if the Nats don't have a better option they are looking at then they might as well extend him. They could easily find someone worse.


cass said...

The question of how good he is seems beside the point to me. The Nats have no reason to extend Riggleman. He's not Adam Dunn. If they wait till the end of the season, they'll still be able to sign him pretty cheap. No matter how good he really is, the perception that he's a stopgap, ok manager in a pinch is out there and teams are not going to be clamoring for him. So the Nats can just wait and see how things once the season's done.

Now, of course, if the Nats make a surprise run this year (yeah, right), then yeah, his stock will go up, but I'm still pretty sure he'd happily resign, if with a bit of a raise.

Harper said...

I get what you're saying about but I don't think he's making a market analysis here. Reids arguement is that a manager is in a unique position where contract situation directly effects his ability to do his job. Not in a "distraction" sense, but a "they won't listen to me" sense. Even though they can easily sign him after the season, like you say, by not doing it now they are hurting him. I don't think I buy this argument but it is an difference between managers and players.

(of course if we are to believe this then you should pretty much never have a manager with only one year left on his deal. Which is kind of silly - do you always have to buy out that last year because it's necessary to have it there for a fair evaluation?)

David said...

Boswell did an analysis of Riggleman not too long ago. Here's a link:

Basically, Riggleman is the worst manager in, like, forever according to the stats. I'm sure there are a lot of extenuating circumstances, but there just doesn't seem to be anything in his career or his stint with the Nationals that would make me think he's the guy to lead the team into the future. I think Rizzo knows this, and while he likes Riggleman, I think he's on as short a leash as Nyger.

Harper said...

David - While I'm guessing Riggleman is just the victim of some terrible luck given the Pythag thing, the point is made. Objectively there isn't a good reason to keep him, which is likely why he hasn't gotten an extension. Rizzo would like to bring someone in who might be a positive. Of course when its hard to rely on anything objective when it comes to managers, the subjective often wins out.