Friday, October 27, 2006

Giants Botches Manager Hire: Bochy Ball is Here

As I posted on McCovey Chronicles when I first heard the rumor, "Color me very disapointed". Grant has posted a very reasonable take on the whole situation, that has calmed me down a little. And there are some very reasonable takes by other posters here. But I'm still not too excited.

One thing that is a plus, is I went through Bochy's record as manager in SD and in his 12 seasons as manager there, he is at +13 over his Pythagorean record, something only good managers appear able to do during their career, from my examination of managers good and bad of the past 20-30 years or so. And it is not like he has a good career record, he is only 951-975, a .494 winning percentage, and that was boosted over the past three seasons.

Only good managers are able to average over 1 win above Pythagorean over their careers, for the managers I looked at. Though it tended to be that winning managers had a positive total for their career and poor managers had a negative and was soon out of their job, there were exceptions. Tommy Lasorda was one of the exceptions, he had a long career but was much in the negative, he apparently costed the Dodgers a lot of games in his career. Felipe Alou was another, he was under .500 with the Expos but had a strong positive total and added to it as Giants manager. Joe Torre had horrible numbers in his first stint as manager for the Braves, but has been super good with the Yankees.

And now there is Bochy into my radar, never really noticed him before, which as Grant noted, is a good thing because there are a lot of managers who would have been much worse choices. It is good to have a manager who don't make so many hair pullling decisions, who is so inconsequential, you never noticed him. But is that how you want to have your manager choice be, "hey, you could have done worse, much worse."

Bill James Says

Well, HE didn't say it, but his Handbook has stats on managers, so I thought I would go through the data there, to learn more about our new manager, ranked by total (highest being #1) for stat.

  • PH: 1st, 7th, 3rd for 2003, 2004, 2005 in using pinch-hitters in NL. He appears to be big in L/R matchups, as he pinch hits often.
  • PR: 13th, 4th, T6th in using pinch runners in NL. He likes to run more than other teams, but not sure if that is related to very slow players or having a very fast bench player.
  • DS: T11th, 7th, 3rd in using defensive substitution. He has been a believer in defensive substitutions, but unsure if there might be one particular guy he replaces a lot or moves in to replace.
  • REL: 4th, 14th, 8th in using relievers. He appears to like to use his bullpen, like Alou, but not as extreme as Alou. Of course, it helps to have very good bullpen that don't blow up often and a good rotation that can eat innings, like Peavey.
  • LO: 13th, T13th, T11th in long outings. He appears to believe in the pitch count, he does not let his starters go beyond 120 pitches as much as the rest of the league. He has averaged 2 per year the past four seasons, though he had much higher seasonal totals early in his career.
  • SBA: 6th, 13th, T3rd in stolen base attempts. He likes to use the SB to get that extra base. It helps to have a speedster like Dave Roberts on the team too, that boosted him in 2005. Appears that he plays to his talent, if he has a speedster, he will utilize him and if not, then not.
  • SacA: 16th, 14th, T9th in sacrifice attempts. He does not appear to be a believer in sacrifice attempts, which is a very saber concept. But he has been doing more the past couple of years than he had in the middle of his tenure at SD, he had higher attempts early in his career and lately, must be personnel driven.
  • IBB: T7th, 12th, 10th in intentional BB ordered. Has not been a believer in IBB during his career, but the number has been rising from 2002 to 2005, though still low relative to the other teams.
  • PO: 15th, 10th, T8th in pitch outs. Does not believe in pitchouts, or did not believe in the Catcher's ability to throw the guy out.

And two new stats for 2005:

  • Quick: T2nd for 2005 in quick hooks. Means that after all managers and teams analyzed, he was pretty quick with the hook, which reinforces the stat above that suggests he uses his bullpen a lot. And he has been giving more quick hooks than avergae a lot.
  • Slow: 11th for 2005 in slow hooks. And he was below the median for the year, so he didn't do slow hooks as much as other sharks in costumes did.

So, to summarize, he is a big believer in substitution, whether for hitter, runner, fielder, or pitcher. He wants to protect starters, so not many long outings, lots of quick hooks, few on the slow hooks. And he likes the L/R advantage, so he PH and relieves a lot (meaning he probably needs two LOOGIES in the 2007 bullpen). He doesn't like to waste outs with sac attempts, but is will to risk outs to steal a base, and don't like to give up intentional walks.

That sounds like much of what a saber-oriented manager might do himself, don't give up outs, use L/R to his advantage, relies on all his players and their talent, managing to the talent level on the team.

My Other Observations

Not too many off the top of my head. First is he has been able to handle integrating rookies into the lineup, witness Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Barfield coming in like Will Clark and Robbie Thompson, plus Khalil Greene a couple of years back, plus young pitchers like Peavy, Hensley. That will be useful given all the young players we might have coming up over the next 2-3 seasons.

In addition, he was able to handle a bunch of vets on the roster at the same time. Last season he used Woody Williams and Trevor Hoffman a lot, and David Wells when he had him. He also juggled Piazza, Castillo, and Giles.

One good thing is he's an ex-catcher and that would balance off the pitcher-heavy expertise that populates the rest of the Giants brain trust. And he might be able to help Eliezer Alfonzo with his defense. But he won't be able to help the offense.

I wonder if he's keeping the staff or if they go. I assume they all stay. But I would rather he bring in a new hitting coach, it was ridiculous that Niekro had to go to Fresno to get his bad swing fixed so good he was bashing the ball all over the place in the minors.

Definitely a confirmation of the Giants stated intent to be competitive now, hiring an expensive experienced manager. Hiring any of the others would have invited doubt that the Giants were serious about competitive, but now they are clearly looking to win and they put up big money to do that in hiring the manager. Any free agents who were not sure before, should know now. That should make the Giants a bit more attractive to free agents looking to win.

He obviously was not sabermetic enough to satisfy Sandy Alderson at the top. Despite that, he still won the division twice in a row, pulling both titles out with strong enough finishes. And yet Alderson essentially fired him by saying there would be no extension, Bochy was a dead man managering for SD this season if Sandy didn't do anything else, like firing Bochy during the GM meetings after all.

Bland and Bleeh

If the best thing you can say about a manager is that he won't screw things up, that is not a good thing. However, his record against Pythagorean is pretty good, averaging 1 extra win per year, which is pretty good, most good managers like LaRussa, Baker, Alou, Torres, average at least 1 extra win per season. Still, he doesn't excite me, not like an Acta or a Black or even a Wotus would have. Wotus was noted to be a Magowan favorite, but Magowan left the decision in Sabean's hands. And Sabean went with the vet.

But despite what some say about how this is the reverse of his stated intentions for the team, that is incorrect, he said the team will get younger and Bochy is a good 20 years younger than Alou :^). Also, he never said anything much about the manager, it was always about the team composition, and Sabean has the rest of the off-season to wow us with the free agents that Bochy supposedly will attract to the team. Hopefully Bochy will provide good input into that for us, that, after all, is the reaons why the Giants wanted a manager in place before the start of the free agent period.

Mark Sweeney said in an interview that he would attract free agents, but SD hasn't really gotten anyone good except for Mark Loretta, who happens to be a free agent again this off-season and we need a 2B. But what we really need is another Adrian Gonzalez or Josh Barfield, to come in and do well, but those are trades and prospects. Maybe he can point out failed or stalled prospects out there who he can utilize. We will see.

But for now, I am wholely unsatisfied by this move. However, like Grant noted, it is not the end of the world either, in terms of who we could have gotten instead, it could have been much worse. But it is like kissing your sister when you could have been kissing some hot young babe instead, it won't kill you but it is not exciting either. Hopefully Sabean will wow us with his roster composition, I'm interested in seeing which youngsters Bochy thinks is worth giving a change and which are not.


  1. As I've posted at Lefty's site, I don't think Bochy's hire was bad at all. It's kind of a give and take, when you think about experience versus inexperience. You trade a known quantity for an unknown quantity, and it always seems the Brian Sabean goes with that he believes to be the "known" quantity.

    As you've pointed out, the Padres haven't exactly gone out and pulled in big name talent, but Bochy's done pretty well with that he's had (at least for the last couple of years). However, its hard to blame Bochy for SD's lack of big name pull. From what I understand, the Padres front office are pretty "closed-wallet". They don't like to spend a lot, and it seems to show.

    Perhaps with a team like San Francisco, where the front office may be willing to spend on more marquee players, Bochy will have even more to work with.

  2. I agree, Martin, I would have been excited by Acta or Black, even Wotus. And I am disappointed in Bochy. But I am not vain enough (despite my considerable vanity) to say my preference for the young, unproven guy was the correct way to go. After all, As I say on Lefty's site, I was not in the interviews, I don't know what A/B said. Maybe they disqualified themselves by poor, unknowledgeable answers, maybe they revealed flaws that we don't see. Maybe Bochy aced his interview, maybe he had great ideas and insight. The bottom line is, I do not know what went in to the decision. I am left disappointed. But I think it is wholly irrational, as many posters are doing, to pretend to know what Sabean is thinking and whast this means for the organization. It is hard to not be imnpressed by the Padres winning the division 2 years running - with their monetary policy and their stable of players.

  3. There's experience, and there's experience, you have to differentiate it. It gets back to the sitcom jokes about respecting your elders because of the wisdom they have acquired: well, some of them haven't acquired that much wisdom.

    I consider myself a baseball fan, not just a Giants fan. So I keep up with what's going on in the league and stuff like that. And over time, you see the big names who garner respect in the media for being a good manager. Bochy wasn't one of them.

    I will admit that I wasn't so big into baseball after the strike - I still have emotional scars regarding that - and will even admit that it was McGwire and Sosa's battle to pass up Maris that drew me back, so I may have missed Bochy's high points early in his managerial career.

    Yes, Bochy has done well the past couple of years, but I disagree that he hasn't had that much in talent, you throw in vets like Giles, Roberts, Cameron, Williams, Piazza, and especially Hoffman with youngsters like Gonzalez, Greene, Barfield, and expecially Peavy, plus whatever you categorize in the Japanese reliever (forgot his name) you have a pretty good set of players there, it is not chopped liver.

    So is it Bochy or is it Tower's applying Moneyball techniques that is to be impressed by the Padres winning the division 2 years running? I think it is more Tower, not Bochy, to be impressed about when you think of their success the past few years.

    I don't think that I said that the young, unproven guy was the right way to go, specifically, though perhaps I implied it (but I could be wrong, hurrying to write this). But there are things I admire about the three unproven guys, that I would have been happy if the Giants hired them. Acta is a stat guy and that BP article described in McCovey's made him sound very interesting. Black is a former Giants and had success with his young pitchers. Wotus was a successful minor league manager with literally no talent at all (Giants farm system barren during his tenure late 90's).

    I'm only hearing about Bochy's good qualities now, after the fact. That, to me, is not a ringing endorsement. But I have changed my opinion before, but right now I'm disappointed.

  4. That reliever was Otsuka. And, the Padres have a number of VERY good young players.

    Yes, this move doesn't inspire me they way a Manny Acta would have. I talked with a Dodger fan this weekend and he told me that Black won't leave SoCal. and that he'd be a choice for the Padres right now. In any case, I'm over my vitriol right now and prepared to give Bochy a chance. He's certainly no fool and HAS succeeded at the Big League level; he doesn't deserve such suspicion right now. So, welcome Bruce and good luck.

    Sabean? Okay, now do your job and get PLAYERS!


  5. Thanks for confirming my thoughts on Black, as I had stated in my previous post on the manager decision, Black's main reason for not pursuing a managerial spot is his daughters and yet one is still in middle school, so how have things changed?

    What changed is that clearly, within a year, Bochy was leaving the Padres post, which would be the ideal position for Black, who clearly wants to live down there, near his family. As I noted, he needed to get his name out there as a serious candidate plus get practice interviewing for a manager's job - learn what's asked, practice what you want to say, get feedback on your style and your responses. So he gets added to the Giants and A's wish list to get his name out to the media such that once the Padres job is open - as it is now - he would be the front runner to get it, instead of an afterthought as he would have been had he waited reactively instead of proactively prepare. That's a good sign for a manager, I would say, too bad he didn't want to live in the Bay Area where he grew up...



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