There was a great article by Jonah Keri about how Bochy is one of the best managers in baseball history on Grantland and I wanted to share it. But if you know me by now, I'm never too happy about baseball generalists writing about the Giants because they always get something wrong that I don't agree with. However, for the most part, Keri wrote a pretty clean article and very complimentary about Bochy, which I have been since late in the 2010 season when he started changing his tactics and strategies, sitting down low performing veteran starters in place of other players, culminating with the shocking move to leave Zito off the playoff roster, including the World Series roster.
Keri makes the great point about the bullpen. This section was very good overall. I think he's a saber, so I'm surprised he does not note that one of the things sabers want managers to do is use your best pitchers when it counts, not just as a monkey assigned to get the last three outs, whether it's a tight one-run lead or a safe four-run lead. But he did say it: "It’s about using your best players in the biggest spots. "
I'll end by quoting Keri:
Bochy is intellectually flexible enough to recognize important moments as they come and adjust his moves accordingly. In the playoffs especially, that’s a really big deal.Bochy and the Vets
This section has the information I've been looking for, for a while now, as I had read it somewhere, started quoting it, but then couldn't find it when someone asked. Chris Jaffe took raw team analysis data and grouped it into managerial and examined various aspects of a manager, for his book. What he found was that under Bochy, veteran hitters out-hit expectations, based on prior and next season stats, adding 270 runs over a 12 year period (basically his years managing the Padres). That's roughly 2-3 wins per year, just from that, and doesn't include what Huff and Burrell did in 2010, Pagan after he joined us, Scutaro in 2012, or even Morse this season.
So that means Bochy takes average teams and just from working with veteran hitters, make them 83-84 win teams. And I think this applies to the next section as well.
#FreeBelt Was A Concept That Got Bochy Wrong
I am so tired of this meme that mean Bruce Bochy don't understand young players. And I'm surprised that Keri didn't make the connection that he did not trust the young players in San Diego but trusted the young players in San Francisco (maybe it's the quality of talent coming to the majors?).
Bochy wasn't loyal to Huff, costing Belt playing time. Any Giants fan of that time should remember that the Giants CHOSE to place Belt on the roster, to see how he handles things, pushing Huff to Left Field (which ultimately drove him crazy, but that's another story). If that is considered being loyal, then I don't see it. If the vet is favored, wouldn't Belt have been moved to LF, like how the A's moved Mark McGwire to 3B because they liked that other guy better at 1B?
In fact, the Giants liked Belt so much that they kept him on the MLB roster even though he had a lot to learn, culminating in his famous learning of how to properly hold the bat in order to release his power, TWO years later, because Belt was hesitant to follow all of Meulen's recommendations. Only once he embraced ALL of the changes did he start hitting like the player everyone thought he was. But Bochy and the Giants get blamed for that delay in development when it was Belt who was fighting all the changes, like a wild stallion (giraffe?).
And think of this another way: if Bochy understands veteran hitters enough that they improve greatly under his guidance, perhaps he is a pretty good judge of what a good hitter is, and how to fix him, and that applies whether the player is old or young. So if a lot of the Padres top prospects fizzled under him, perhaps that was more a function of the GM not delivering a lot of talent to him. Remember, those were the brainiacs who drafted Matt Bush with the #1 pick overall, apparently because the Twins picking Mauer worked out so well, plus I think he agreed to a lower bonus (if I recall correctly). Because that's not my experience with Bochy at the helm of the Giants.
There are many instances of this, beyond just Belt. When Freddy Lewis was doing well, Bochy chose to keep Roberts on the bench and keep Lewis starting, even though Roberts was now healthy. He often kept Schierholtz in the lineup even though he was super cold, until he could wait no longer (it was go time, last two months). And of course, a lot of young guys have come up and almost immediately took starting/important jobs: Cain, Lowry, Lincecum, Sandoval, Romo, Posey, Bumgarner, Belt (if not for his DL injuries, he probably would not have seen much more time in the minors after he was brought up).
For more recent examples, how about Panik, Susac, Duffy, and Strickland? In particular, Bochy has put both Susac and Duffy into extreme pressure situations during the playoffs, when he could have gone to Arias instead. Instead, he has hardly been used, Duffy has been used a lot more than he has. And Strickland has been used in key situations as well, and he has had his ups and See You Laters! (four homers) A guy unfriendly with young players would not have done that.
He has run the Giants mostly as a meritocracy, and if you falter, he don't make it about the player being stupid, old, or lousy, he keeps their confidence up (just see any interview where he talks about a struggling player) by saying that he believes in the guy but that the player is just out of it, for whatever reason, and he needs to get production by using other guys, with the promise to return to the player once he and the coaches fix his problems.
The next section covered his numbers as manager, covering how his teams did or didn't beat Pythagorean expectations. So given the veteran hitters adding value which would show up in Pythagorean (83-84 wins), there is something extra that managers adds on top of that which Pythogorean does not measure.
Now the rubric here is that the average manager would just regress to the mean of 0 for his career. But this table shows that over the 20 years of managing Bochy has done, he is currently at 26 extra wins for his career. That works out to 1.3 extra wins average for his managing career. That puts us now up to 85 wins, assuming he starts with an average team, just from his managerial influence, an 81-81 team is on average an 85-77 team.
Coincidentally enough, my study on one-run wins found that he adds 4 wins per season on average in terms of beating the rule of manager regress to mean of .500 in one-run games, which is the same number of extra wins. Of course, if the team is a near playoff caliber team (mid-80's), adding 4 wins would put the team into the playoffs, either as wild card or divisional winner. And Natch, a good playoff team becomes a great one, at least during the season.
Gathering all the datapoints, just from eyeballing the data, one can see that there is some correlation involved between his bullpen value add, his Pythagorean out performance, and his one-run record out performance, but there are clearly years where they are polar opposites, so clearly not the best correlation.
Obviously a very complimentary article about Bochy, and makes a pretty good case for Bochy being one of the best managers around and ever.