Carleton: Which managers are best at handling ‘the grind’?

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on November 18, 2014:

If you talk to a professional baseball player about his lived experience, you’re guaranteed to hear a certain phrase within the first five minutes. Maybe even more guaranteed than hearing phrases like “throw a fastball”, “swing the bat”, or “comport with the platypus.” You’ll hear about “the grind.” By the time a baseball season reaches August, it’s hot, he’s tired, he’s been living out of a suitcase for four months. Every night he has to play a game that requires intense concentration and lasts for three hours. Yeah, I know, it’s hard to feel pity for a guy making $10 million per year, but these guys are human and those are rough working conditions, no matter how you slice it.

A couple of weeks ago in this space, I asked the question of whether we could measure the contributions that a manager makes behind the scenes. In that article, I found some evidence that certain managers appeared to be better than others at helping their players bounce back after a loss. But what about “the grind”? One of a manager’s jobs is to manage the 25 personalities on the squad and to keep them in tip-top playing shape. It’s why managers are so tuned in to giving players a day off here and there to keep them from burning out. Plus, a manager is nominally in charge of making sure that the clubhouse is a fun place to be and that the grind doesn’t feel so grindy.

We know that over the course of a season, plate discipline erodes as hitters presumably get more tired. It’s hard to get enough sleep out on the road and after a while even a fun job becomes just another job. Well, if players lose plate discipline, they are probably bleeding away strikes, and that can have a significant effect on a team’s chances. Maybe there are some managers who are just better at handling the grind, and in minimizing the penalty to be paid for fatigue and boredom at the end of a long season.

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Originally published: November 18, 2014. Last Updated: November 18, 2014.