Lindbergh: The MLB managerial meddling index

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at on August 14, 2014:

In the Opening Day entry of The Long Season, the late Jim Brosnan’s diary of his 1959 campaign, the then Cardinals pitcher expressed surprise that St. Louis manager Solly Hemus seemed as anxious as his players prior to first pitch. “In the majors,” Brosnan wrote, “the manager’s job is virtually completed by the time the umpire says ‘Play ball!’ It’s really up to the players then. If they do their job correctly and efficiently, the manager might just as well take a nap, as much as he’ll be needed.”

Brosnan, whose stories helped pave the way for Ball Four and other salacious inside accounts, didn’t work very hard to hide his opinions about managers, so he and Hemus never clicked. Not surprisingly, some managers don’t subscribe to the idea that what they do during games doesn’t matter. And although accomplished former skippers such as Earl Weaver, Davey Johnson, Tommy Lasorda, and Tony La Russa have acknowledged that in general, players win games and managers merely have the power to lose them, that doesn’t mean they folded their arms over their jackets and surrendered to fate. In some cases, they made even more moves for fear of missing out on a potentially important one. (La Russa, Joe Posnanski wrote in 2009, was “the Mozart of overmanagers.”) Despite Brosnan’s observation, it’s not good for a skipper’s job security if someone says he fell asleep.

So which managers have been busiest passing out orders during games this season, and which have come closest to Brosnan’s unconscious ideal? To determine how much each manager has meddled — or, to use a more neutral term, tinkered — I identified 10 areas in which a manager might try to make an in-game impact: changing the lineup; calling for an intentional walk, a pitchout, or a hit-and-run attempt; ordering a sacrifice bunt attempt by a position player (sac bunts by pitchers are par for the course); pinch hitting for a position player; pinch running; inserting defensive subs; challenging a call that’s reviewable by replay; and using a pitcher to face a single batter (which, while often effective, might be the most intrusive and disruptive action of all).

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Originally published: August 15, 2014. Last Updated: August 15, 2014.