Joe Sheehan of BP weighs in on Dusty. ($) I’m getting pretty uncomfortable with the stathead consensus about where Dusty Baker is taking this ballclub. It’s early, etc., and I’m hoping that Dusty is more talk than anything. But as Joe says, with

Baker not getting one of the most basic things about baseball: not making outs is the best thing you can do. Baker is fixated on the end result—the event that leads to a runner crossing the plate—and still doesn’t understand that in the big picture, keeping the line moving will put more runs on the board.

Sheehan also refers to a nonsensical column that I’m through discussing.

One other important trait about Baker is that he’s the Teflon manager. The local press fawns over him in a way that would be embarrassing if it wasn’t just slightly worse than par for the course in the profession. Baker’s anti-intellectualistic approach to baseball dovetails nicely with the pervasive press backlash against reality-based coverage and administration of baseball teams.

The depressing conclusion:

He’s the wrong man for the 2008 Cincinnati Reds. No doubt when the Reds fall short of their upside that the blame will fall elsewhere—on Wayne Krivsky, on Adam Dunn, on Edwin Encarnacion or Homer Bailey. The Teflon manager will go on.

I’m hoping this will work out, but acknowledging that I really have no evidence whatsoever to be hopeful.

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17 Responses

  1. CG Hudson

    If the Reds fail under Baker, 110% of the blame will likely lie at the feet of Krivsky and Castellini. Regardless of what one thinks of Baker, anyone with a pulse and a land line knows what they’re getting with Dusty. Here’s hoping Cincy ends up more like the Giants (successful in spite of their manager) rather than the Cubs (yuck!).

  2. Y-City Jim

    The Baker hiring sure seemed like a knee jerk reaction without much thought behind it.

  3. Dan

    I think I’m as stat-head-y as they come, but I’m trying to stay open-minded here…

    Is it possible that there are some managers that actually do have a positive impact on a team just through personality and the tone that is set?

    Maybe some guys settle in and trust the guy in charge more when he’s established, like Dusty, rather than wondering if the guy knows what he’s doing (maybe like Miley or Narron or Mackanin)?

    I don’t know, of course… I’m playing devil’s advocate I guess. Anyone buying?

    There is something to working under someone who you trust and who you know has more experience than you do.

  4. Chicken Little

    Well, I’m convinced. Let’s just cancel the season now, there is obviously no reason to see how things play out as Baker’s team will “no doubt” fail. Thanks, Joe Sheehan, for saving me from following Reds in what will assuredly be a most disappointing season. Perhaps there is room for one more in Red Sox Nation?

  5. Chris

    I actually believe Baker has a skill at getting good performances out of veterans, and to a lesser degree, keeping clubhouse egos in check (I say “lesser,” because his last season in Chicago was total anarchy).

    I am just afraid that that good stuff will be wildly outweighed by stuff like playing Juan Castro, or screwing up Joey Votto.

  6. Mark in CC

    If the end result is winning, I am glad we have a manger who is fixated on it rather than Fantasy Stats. It is all about the W.

  7. Y-City Jim

    I think a manager can be skilled at getting the most out of his players if:

    1) the manager is trustworthy
    2) the manager is fair to all
    3) the manager is respected by all

  8. Andy

    I’ll buy, Dan.

    The thing thats driving me nuts about this debate is how each side is totally dismissive of the other. If knowing stats and playing percentages was all it took to be a good manager, MIT should be cranking them out left and right. At the same time, being willfully ignorant of modern analytics and managing from the gut and conventional wisdom is just as flawed an approach.

    Stat-heads need to acknowledge that the human element plays just as large a role, and guys like Baker would be well served to allow the numbers to be a factor in his decision making. The optimal manager would be somewhere in the middle of the two.

    Personally, I’m still reasonably optimistic about this year. I’m sure whether or not Dusty puts the optimal lineup out there every game, he’s going to make some decisions we don’t agree with. In the end, he could start Castro and Hopper every game, as long as they win nothing else matters to me.

  9. Chad

    I don’t think I’m seeing things the same way as Andy. I think only Paul Daugherty is dismissive of the other side.

    I really believe that there is something to Baker’s reputation for being a good manager to play for, and being able to get more out of his players.

    If he’ll just play the right players (and not screw up Joey Votto), he will be very successful. Unfortunately, I’m getting very concerned that he doesn’t have much of an idea who the best players are.

    If Baker plays the best 8, his skill in getting more out of players (or however you want to describe his reputation) will be a huge boon to this organization. That could all be canceled out by playing Norris Hopper instead of Jay Bruce, e.g.

  10. Chad

    In addition to playing his best 8, Dusty needs to “first do no harm.” This passage sums up my concerns:

    Joey Votto has hit .289/.385/.476 in the minors. He’s ranked as one of the top infield prospects in baseball by nearly anyone who ranks top prospects. Here’s Dusty’s idea: let’s change his plate approach.

    If Baker can help Votto improve, great. But the fact is that Votto has a clue, his approach at the plate has been demonstrated to be successful, so just yelling at him to swing more seems like a very poor idea. When Baker makes statements like this — “(Votto) needs to swing more. I’d like to see him more aggressive.” — I get very nervous. Perhaps being more aggressive would make Votto less productive.

    If nothing else, it’s an interesting debate to have.

  11. Y-City Jim

    Maybe Dusty could have helped Brandon Larson.


  12. Dave from Louisville

    I agree with Andy.

    I was against the Dusty signing at first, but now I think he’s the only guy that can make this team a winner this year. There is really something to be said for a guy who motivates his players, addresses them when he sees something he doesn’t like, and can relate to them. I mean he even speaks fuent Spanish, that’s huge in itself.

    Don’t you guys remember how horrible it was when Narron would address EE not running out fly balls. That drama was horrible, but Dusty doesn’t mess around.

  13. Chris

    I agree with Chad (and I guess, disagree with Andy). There just aren’t any statheads out there dismissing any non-mathematical aspect of baseball. Not in the last 8-10 years, anyway. In contrast, certain writers are beating up on the same Moneyball straw man.

    It’s not impossible to find a manger who can both motivate players AND display a rudimentary understanding of how the game works. It’s fair to criticize Dusty Baker for being utterly lacking in that part of his job – and to ridicule the “sportswriters” who send him poorly-supported Valentines.

  14. Jared

    …and still doesn’t understand that in the big picture, keeping the line moving will put more runs on the board.
    That’s just a completely ridiculous comment. Suppose (or, I guess, realize) that there is a certain range of aggression in batting that will have the best possible outcome. The entire range of aggression is from the pansy-ass, never swing up to never take a ball. People are acting like Baker is at the far right of the range here. As if he doesn’t have a clue.

    Baker is here:

    Not here:

    Hopefully peak efficiency accounts for at least this much:

  15. Chris

    I don’t know what you were trying to draw, but I think I get your point.

    Let’s look at it another way:
    Adam Dunn hit .264 .386 .554
    Joey Votto hit hit .294/.381/.478 at Triple-A and .289/.385/.476 in CIN.

    Dusty Baker thinks there’s something wrong with their approach.

    And notice what you haven’t heard: “Brandon Phillips (33 walks in 702 PA) might need to be more selective.”

    If a guy finds fault with Dunn, but never says boo about Phillips, that tells me he’s way, way out there on the scale.

  16. Dan

    On offense, we just want the Reds to score as many runs as possible. No matter where you fall on the “traditional vs. stathead” spectrum (or whatever it’s called), we can all agree on that, right?

    I think the point here is, we all (no matter where we lie on that spectrum) need to be open to finding out something we didn’t expect about run-scoring.

    What bothers me about Dusty is that I don’t think he’s open to that at all. I think he thinks he knows how baseball works and darn these geeky stat guys if they think they can tell me any different.

    Same for Daugherty… Joe Morgan… Chris Berman… there are a bunch.

    This is what I resent in general — a good debate that is being short-circuited by some people simply not listening or not reading or not thinking about it. Just flippant, dismissive remarks.

    Daugherty put up a thread a few weeks ago asking for people to explain why wins and losses aren’t enough to rate Blanton on. I thought, great! He’s open to debate and wants to hear other viewpoints explained.

    Well, Daugherty never reappeared to comment on that thread, and now is still dismissive of those who disagree with him as “stat freaks.” It’s really maddening.

    Again… not maddening that he doesn’t agree. Just maddening that he won’t even participate in the debate.