Price is Right

Bryan Price: Manager of the Year

[Edit.: This post was submitted by Joe Atkinson, loyal member of the Nation. Joe is a native of Cincinnati but now resides in Evansville where he spends most of his days fighting off Cardinals fans and is co-founder and owner of Court Street Productions. Thanks, Joe, for your post. – SPM]

We like to dissect minutiae on this site.

Why is Brandon Phillips batting cleanup? Why would you bring Logan Ondrusek in there (or anywhere)? Why is Ramon Santiago even on the roster? (Though, to Santiago’s credit, he’s done a fine job of answering that question since BP went down last week).

I certainly won’t say that I’ve agreed with every decision Bryan Price has made this year. I don’t love seeing Ondrusek in high-leverage situations. I don’t like seeing Todd Frazier moved off third base (even if he probably is the second-best 1B option on the roster). And I HATE the Jay Bruce-at-first experiment, because it takes the team from Gold Glove-caliber defense at two positions to below-replacement-caliber defense at those same two positions.

But when I step back and look at the job Bryan Price has done in the first half of his first season as manager of our Cincinnati Reds (or as manager of anyone, at all, ever), I think Price has done an admirable job for a rookie. More than that, though, I think Bryan Price is the National League’s Manager of the Year (so far).

Let me take those two statements separately.

Bryan Price has done an admirable job for a rookie manager

The perfect historical comparison for Price’s first-half record is not readily available. So we’ll go with the next best thing:

Of the 30 active managers in Major League Baseball, the average first-season winning percentage is .483. This isn’t shocking; after all, most teams don’t hire new managers because the franchise is thriving. What is kind of surprising is that, almost any way you manipulate the sample size, the number remains remarkably consistent.

Time Frame # of Rookie Manager Seasons Avg. Winning %
All Current Managers 30 0.483
Since 2000 26 0.482
Since 2010 14 0.485
2014* 4 0.523
Bryan Price* 0.537

*   At All-Star Break

Clearly, the 2014 season has been something of an outlier in terms of rookie managers; of the four (including Price), three took teams that had winning records in 2013. Two of those were the result of managerial legends retiring (Jim Leyland in Detroit and Davey Johnson in Washington); the third was because Dusty Baker put that look on Bob Castellini’s face.

That aside, Bryan Price clearly is, to date, performing well above MLB average for rookie managers. And while I suspect we can all agree that he came in with a stronger team than many, I think we can also agree that most of those managers didn’t have to deal with the barrage of injuries (and the utter lack of depth behind those injured star players) that Price has.

So looking at the total body of work, Price has performed well for a rookie manager to date. Which brings me to my second statement:

Bryan Price is the National League Manager of the Year (to date)

As I said earlier: There have been many things to nitpick Bryan Price about. But here are the facts as they stand at the All-Star Break:

  • Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Mat Latos, Sean Marshall, Aroldis Chapman, and Jonathon Broxton all have spent significant time on the disabled list
  • Ryan Ludwick, Chris Heisey, and Brayan Pena have appeared in more games than Joey Votto or Devin Mesoraco
  • Of the Reds’95 games:
    • Jay Bruce has played in 78 games
    • Joey Votto has played in 62 games
    • Devin Mesoraco has played in 60 games
    • Mat Latos has made six starts. He left one of them after five innings with back spasms
  • The Reds’record is 51-44
  • The Reds are 1.5 games out of first place

Another fun fact, though it doesn’t quite fit in my “Manager of the Year”argument: Neftali Soto has appeared in more games than Johnny Cueto. With a lower batting average.

If you had told me before the season started that, at the All-Star Break, the first three headlines up there would be true, I’d have chalked this up as a lost season. If you’d told me that names like Santiago, Soto, Lutz, and Negron had been on the lineup card over the course of the season; that Jay Bruce had played multiple games at first base because we had no other options; that Alfredo Simon was still in the rotation because Tony Cingrani was utterly ineffective …well, I’d have told you that those last two bullets were pipe dreams.

But they aren’t pipe dreams – they’re where we stand today. Because Billy Hamilton is hitting .285. Because Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco are playing to the potential that, before this season, we only hoped they had. Because Alfredo Simon has pitched his way into the All-Star Game and guys like Santiago and Brayan Pena have gotten hot when the team most needed it. Even Kristopher Negron came through Sunday, popping his first big-league homer in his first big-league start.

Is there some luck in that? Probably. But there’s also evidence of the right guy sitting at the helm, calmly steering the ship through stormy waters. That’s what Bryan Price has done; he’s set a tone that doesn’t use the team’s bad fortune as an excuse (can you imagine what Dusty Baker would have told reporters about all of these injuries …or about not having anyone viable to plug in at 1B when Votto went down?).

Price’s message – to the media, to the public, and to his team – has been consistent: Yep, we’ve had some bad luck. We’ve had injuries, the front office hasn’t given us what we need to deal with them …and in spite of all of that, I expect to compete.

He’s set the expectation, and somehow, his paper-thin roster is meeting it. Will it last? Who knows. I’m in the camp that thinks Walt Jocketty needs to make something happen outside the organization to truly weather the current injury storm and remain relevant into the stretch run. But somehow, even with the front office’s complacent attitude to date, Bryan Price has kept the ship on course, no matter what the storm throws at him.

That, to me, is the mark of a great manager in the making. The small things will come with experience; looking at the big picture, the Reds not only have the best manager for the job … they have the National League’s Manager of the Year.

23 thoughts on “Bryan Price: Manager of the Year

  1. I’ve been saying for the last couple weeks that if the Reds win the division he should definitely win the award. The only reason you’re not hearing more about him in the race yet is our slow start. It’s pretty likely that at some point in the next few weeks we’ll at least get a sniff of first place, and when that happens I think Price will start getting more attention.

  2. Absolutely. Yes. Agree 100%. Price has done a yeoman’s job at the helm.
    Washington has had to deal with injuries also, but not to the extent the Reds. They had super prospect Anthony Rendon take 3B Ryan Zimmerman’s place when he went to the DL. Rendon has now taken over the 2B job. When LaRouche went down they had an experience ML player in Frandsen to replace him. But when Bryce Harper went down, they got very little replacement value from McLouth. But McLouth was an experienced MLB player. The Reds didn’t have those luxuries.
    A look around the NL teams and who would you vote for? ATL’s Gonzalez? NO. STL’s Matheny? NO. PIT’s Hurdle. Not this year unless they get hot. PIT has had several starting pitchers go down. MIL’s Roenike? If they keep fading, then No. LAD’s Mattingly. No, he has a roster that only money can buy. SF’s Bochy? Maybe.
    Lets see how they all finish, but right now it is Price.

    • Heh heh, most of your post could be construed as an endorsement for Walt as Executive of the Year……and there might be a kernel of truth to that. After all, Walt stuck with Billy, acquired Big Pasta and Manny for zilch, and traded away Hanigan to clear the decks for Mesoraco.

      Price has made a credible difference, definitely more good than bad. Without his influence, Simon isn’t a starter and Hamilton likely gets benched. But just the same, he can be faulted for having Chapman on a pace to only pitch 60 innings. The truth lies somewhere in between.

      • That’s an unfair use of stats to condemn Price’s use of Chapman. Chapman missed 34 games, through no fault of Price. During the 61 games he was available, Price used him 29 times (for 29.2 innings pitched). That’s an appearance in 47.5% of the games he was available for (@ 1 inning per appearance). If you’d extend that level of use for a whole season, that comes to 77 appearances, and just over 77 innings. What’s the problem?

        • Exactly- the only thing in question is not really valid- what could he do as a starter? Of course it is beat to death, but I am sure most would suspect the end result would be better than Simon. The true value would to use him in the playoffs and the only way for that to happen is if he transitions at mid-season. If he is not a starter, then his role has been fine. Not sure what the complaint is about unless people want him used in the 7th inning of a 4 run game when a team gets a runner on.

  3. I have the same questions as the editors have outlined in the first three paragraphs, but I have also reached the same conclusion that overall he is doing an admirable job. Perhaps his biggest assest is his ability to “manage” the players (the humans) on the club.

  4. When you have not 1 (Billy H), not 2 (Mez), not 3 (Todd F), but (at least) 4 (Afredo Simon) players that are having breakout years, you have to give a lot of credit to the culture the manager is creating.

  5. If the voters decide on which team is accomplishing more with less, that’s easy to see. Price by a landslide, at least so far, at least in the NL. If they go by who’s “on top”, I would have to say Milwaukee’s manager, or the Dodgers or Giants. As for the AL, several possiblilities there. The A’s, Angels, Seattle, Baltimore, Royals, several good arguments can be made.

    • I will include, I do believe we need to make some move to put us over the top. However, I’m just not worried about doing that. I simply like what I see going on right now. Even during the lackluster start, it seemed like to me that the players were more interested in winning every game, playing like they wanted to win every game.

      It’s not that I don’t want them to make the playoffs. And, I do hope Walt can find something out there before the deadline. But, I had said at the beginning of the season that I wouldn’t have a problem if the front office wrote this season off for the big club, look to develop the minors this season. And, then, a strong minor league system, then, we can have some pieces to make some moves. Or, even at some point in time, we are going to need players who can step in if/when we lose any to free agency. And, those players are either bench players or minor leaguers.

      And, with what we have, I just don’t think we have any pieces to make any moves.

  6. I think he’s done a great job given the circumstances, the bench players and all the injuries he’s had to deal. When we were 8.5 games, I felt there was no way we could have contended, yet here we are 1.5 games out of first with second half left to go. Most of the posters here would have you convinced otherwise, every time we’re down in a game they call for Price’s head

  7. Great article, and tough to argue with. The point about Dusty is right on the money as well. Dusty was ill-prepared to make out of the box changes/decisions when they were needed; not the same with Price.

  8. I also like Price’s attitude/comments after a big win or loss. Price after the big come from behind victory: “Perhaps the greatest game I have been a part of as a manager.” Dusty: “Well it is a long 162 game season and we don’t want to get too high or low … it only counts as one win.”

  9. Can you imagine this team with Dusty? Mesoraco starting twice a week. Billy Hamilton chilling and marinating on the bench. Todd Frazier swinging away. Zack Cozart in the two hole. Bernadina would have had 40 starts in CF batting lead off in April and May.

    /shudder

  10. in 1990 the Reds made the mid-season acquisition of Glenn Braggs to help them on the stretch run. I think we need someone similar, a player who may not be elite caliber but can put a ‘hurtin’ on the baseball from time to time. This team is VERY strong on fundamentals but lacks sluggers I hope we can find that type of prototypical player occasional outfielder but more used as late inning deep ball threat.

  11. Great post. I agree completely. He also seems to have a pretty good touch for when to sit a guy down: Billy took off right after being given a day in Arizona; Phillips sat in an important game (vs Milwaukee?) and came back a much more focused hitter (I suspect on that one there was some discussion and not just a benching.) There was also that meeting in the dugout in the middle of a game that seemed to spark the team. Oh, and if the Price hiring had anything to do with keeping Homer–and if it helps us hang on to any or all of Cueto, Latos, and Leake–then he should get bonus points :-)

  12. Imagine that rather than bringing Price aboard, Jocketty had gone out and brought in a $$$ free agent pitcher … I thought at the time that if Price was as good as they said he was with pitchers, that the Reds had leveraged a small market budget to the hilt by bringing in a man who would make the existing staff more effective.

    Jocketty complimented Price during one TV broadcast on having all of his coaching staff on the same page at all times. That is, simply put, a manager’s job. By implication, since George Grande had just mentioned the name, I took the comment to be that Dusty Baker did not run a tight enough ship to please him.

  13. I AM 80 YEARS OLD AND AM EXCITED BOUT THE REDS AND THE WISDOM OF PRICE AND THE JOY OF THE TEAM. SINCERELY,

  14. What an interesting article. Written at the moment just before Bryan Price steered his playoff contending ball club into fourth place.

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