As much as we like to pick on or praise Matt Williams, the truth is there hasn't been much to distinguish him from your prototypical modern manager. He bats the speedy CF first. He tries to set up a 7-8-9 finish to the pen. He bunts with the pitcher or when it's close late in the game. He follows the managerial course that years and years of baseball seasons have carved out. There's nothing in particular that makes him stands out.
In the regular season this is fine. Rizzo has built a strong enough roster that when it's healthy the Nats should be able to win 90+ games under standard operating procedures. But in the playoffs things are different and require more creativity and forward thinking from your manager. For a lot of teams it's a playoff type atmosphere from August on and if you've paid attention you've seen managers unable to change their ways to accommodate the situation. I spent most of early to mid August mad at Joe Girardi for failing to pull Betances and Robertson out of their set roles in the 8th and 9th. Betances has actually faced fewer batters per appearance in the stretch run than he did earlier in the season, as he has moved into the 8th inning role. Robertson has come in before the 9th one time since the start of July. He's pitched more than an inning just 3 times in those 30 appearances. And understand, Girardi is considered a pretty good manager.
What does a bad manager do? Here you go. Ned Yost didn't use his Kelvin Herrera to get the last couple outs in a crucial situation in the 6th because Aaron Crow is the 6th inning guy, Herrera is for the 7th.
Yikes. I feel bad for the Royals but that's a guy who shouldn't be managing. Not "shouldn't be managing in the playoffs", or "shouldn't be managing in the majors", but "shouldn't be managing, should be running a car dealership".
To be a completest there are actually two types of "playoff" managing. There's the regular playoff game, and then there's the elimination game. The regular playoff requires that forethought. This is the issue that Davey, an otherwise well thought of manager, ran into in 2012. You want your best players (primarily pitchers but it can be applied to injured offensive players as well) to be rested, but not rusty. To do so you have to properly take advantage of the days off given. Davey didn't. He gave Mattheus a 2nd day of work in Game 2, not Storen. Then afraid Storen might get rusty after the day off, used Drew in Game 3 when he didn't need to setting up the 3 days in a row situation that helped doom the Nats. (Lessons to be learned : If you are going to be afraid of rustiness, use all your key relievers the day before a day off if possible. If the way the series is going sets up a possible 3 days in relief in a row err on giving the reliever an extra day of rest)
Elimination game managing requires no forethought. Everything is about the game in front of you. What's the best way to get out of the situation presented right now. Does it mean using 6 relievers in a single game? Fine. Does it mean at least trying to use your best reliever for more than 2 innings? Fine. Typically managing is about managing assets to maximize wins over the course of a season. That goes out the window in an elimination game. You can't care about setting yourself up for the rest of the series because the rest of the series may not take place if you don't win the game. It's the ultimate extension of the philosophy that uses the best relievers in the most important spots, inning be damned.
I'm really interested to see what Matt Williams does in the playoffs. It's easy to say he'll be like the standard manager, but truth is we don't know. He's had little need to work outside the box this year with the talent he has and the Braves failing to put up serious competition. That kind of easy success will be harder to find in the playoffs. Who knows when faced with those stressful situations, how exactly the man will react?