Nationals Baseball: Still no worries about Davey

Friday, March 09, 2012

Still no worries about Davey

Davey Johnson is a proven manager but he has been away from the game for a long time.  There doesn't seem to be any negative effects of a long layoff on managing ability (of course assuming you think much of managing ability being impactful at all) but still it's good to kick the tires on the ol' jalopy here and there to make sure he's still running well.

This weeks minor check - Davey went out and noted that he wants Werth to be aggressive. Kilgore had a very nice blog entry noting how this could be problematic since a lot of Werth's value is being selective at the plate. But the comment got me thinking - is Davey himself too aggressive? It has been a decade since he last managed and that decade has dramatically shifted the ideas on patience, right?

Well sort of.  The real peak of walking came during the height of what most people would call the steroid era; 1998, 1999, 2000.  In other words right when Davey last managed. Then there was another peak at the end of the 2000s (Moneyball reaction?) but last year's NL walk total was the lowest since 1997.  No "strange new landscape" here.

Also Davey's teams never seemed to suffer from over-aggressiveness.  Here's the team's rank in walks for his tenures and two years before/after.

Mets :  9, 12  | 7, 5, 1, 3, 3, 9 6, 3
Reds :  9, 3  | 10, 4, 3 |  2, 10
Orioles :   4, 3  | 5, 6 |  5, 4
Dodgers : 11, 14  | 9, 5 |  9, 16

There's ALOT of noise here.  For starters I should be looking at walk-rate (Good teams score more runs, get more plate appearances, get more opportunities for walks) and doing it by player not whole team (you could bring in a great walking player and have him walk less but still make the team walk more. That'd be a GM improvement not a Davey one), but I don't see any reason to spend time doing that. The league is not real different from the times when Davey last coached, and there's no cursory evidence he makes his players too aggressive.  Nothing to see here, move along.


Donald said...

I grew up a Mets fan, so I really liked Davey to begin with, but I think the manager does make a difference. Not so much in the tactical, game-day stuff that Riggleman focused on -- double switches and defensive substitutions, etc. because I think too much of that boils down to luck.

I think where managers matter is in getting their players to play up to or above their potential. I think this is about setting tone, instilling confidence and providing insightful advice. Davey excels at this and Riggleman sucked at it. He had to rely on the players themselves to do this. That's why Davey's got a great record and Riggleman doesn't.

Anonymous said...

I strongly disagree with Donald's comment that Riggleman "sucked" at that particular aspect of managing. He was a very bright baseball mind and had the team playing really fun and exciting baseball. Let us not forget that at the time of his resignation he did have a winning record for the season. This is no slight to Davey at all and DC is fortunate to have had him take over, but give Riggleman some credit. He took a pretty weak starting rotation and a bunch of young potentially talented position players and did a really great job with them.

Donald said...

The reports I read said that he basically shut himself in his office and didn't really interact with the players much. When he resigned, you didn't see a lot of guys come out and praise him. Riggleman has one of the worst managing records of anyone in the majors ever. Granted, he's inherited some really poor teams, but at some point, either you decide managers don't matter at all, or you accept the fact that he just wasn't very good. I don't disagree that he has a good baseball mind. I just don't think he inspired the players or connected with them in any meaningful way. And I think that's where managers actually make the difference. Not in the day-to-day tactics that he seemed to focus on.

Wally said...

I am more in Donald's camp, but for a slightly different reason. While I don't think manager's are tremendously impactful, there is one area where they are - they have to play the best players. I liked Riggs well enough, but I don't think he felt secure enough in his stature in the game to just play the best player, especially if that was a young guy. So we saw too many unnecessary starts for guys like Adam Kennedy, Pudge, Guzzie, etc. there was a lot of talk about respecting the veterans, and needing to find ABs for people, but I think that was coach speak for Riggs being worried that he would lose the clubhouse if he didn't play them (and also think it was partially why he lost it over the 1 year contract). Ultimately, that hurt the team. I don't think Davey cares about any of that. Derosa and Ankiel get playing time only if Davey thinks they are the best option right then. So that is an improvement.

I wasn't a Met fan, but I lived in NY while he was there. He is smart, credible and has the ability to create a confident swagger in players. He is perfect for a young, talented team that isn't sure how good they are.

But he is a bad disciplinarian. I don't think it interests him. So after a team has had some success and feels like they know what they are doing, he is the wrong guy. So in a couple of years, his shelf life will expire.

Donald said...

I agree with Wally that Davey isn't good with discipline. Hopefully, Rizzo has stocked the team with character guys that won't need that. Zimm and Zim will never be Strawberry and Gooden.

Nationals Anthems said...

Davey is demonstrably not great at helping pitchers and catchers call games. Check out the stats in runs saved by managers of pitching staffs at the BP link below. The best of all time was Bobby Cox (aided by Leo Mazzone). Davey is in the bottom 10.

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