Our good friend OhioJim, long-time commenter here at the Nation, made this interesting post in Saturday’s recap thread:

Also there is a very big presumption being made by a lot of folks that just because Baker’s game management skills are his weak point (and I agree with that), that some other manager would have done better (or even as well) with this team. Given the upheaval of all the injuries to key pieces and the failure of the front office to bring in a single true MLB level replacement, I think it is very possible that instead of doing better, this team might have well imploded WITHOUT a manager who has Baker’s skills to manage personalities.

While we are criticizing Dusty’s daily in-game shenanigans, isn’t it also fair to consider whether Jim has a point here?

This is actually the reason that I haven’t called for Dusty to be fired, unlike nearly everyone else on the planet, it seems (I think I may be in the minority among RN editors on this issue, for what it’s worth). It’s the point I made in our last podcast. I’m perfectly willing to believe that Dusty’s purported strengths as a manager — things we can’t see on the field every day — are (a) a much bigger part of his job than anyone wants to believe, and (b) a key ingredient in the fact that the Reds have qualified for the playoffs for the third time in four years, winning 90+ games in each of those seasons.

Sure, a boatload of others could have made better on-field decisions than Baker. I feel confident that I could have. But there’s no way I could do the rest of Baker’s job. No way in the world.

I haven’t changed my mind that his managerial weaknesses are magnified in a short series (i.e., the playoffs, in contrast to the long season), and it’s why I don’t have particularly high expectations for the 2013 post-season. He’s not a good manager. But he’s not the worst. He isn’t even the worst manager the Reds have had in the last ten years.

Before you call for Baker to be fired, you’d better have some idea of who will replace him. And keep in mind that Sparky Anderson ain’t walkin’ through that door.

Blame Chad for creating this mess.

Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

Join the conversation! 103 Comments

  1. I will re-assert that I think Dusty’s philosophy turned stale a couple of years ago. That has nothing to do with his management of his roster which — on any give day — either fails or succeeds on levels outside his control.

    I don’t like the Reds hitting philosophy that was amplified last night in the lethargy. If Ludwick comes through, we don’t even have THAT discussion.

    I’ve always wondered if **being careful what you wish for** is a good idea. We could have Larry Bowa or we could have Sparky Anderson.

    I don’t want Dusty to go. I want Dusty to win.

  2. I’ve come to regard Dusty in much the same way I regard Andy Reid in the NFL. Game to game, when we’re all watching, he pulls some pretty perplexing and maddening shenanigans.
    But, my God, his teams win a lot of games year after year after year. He has to be doing something right in game preparation, in how he manages personalities and the overall tone he sets.
    Of course, much like Reid, all those Ws and playoff appearances have not resulted in any championships. Let’s hope that changes soon.
    Hell, I’d even become a Chiefs fan for the year if it means Andy and Dusty can both lead their teams to the promised land. (Not sure why it would matter, but I really want a World Series.)

  3. No thanks. I’ve had my fill of Dusty Baker. And I’m not a Dusty basher. Current MLB managers that I would prefer managing the Reds over Dusty Baker:

    1. Bob Melvin
    2. Clint Hurdle
    3. Kirk Gibson
    4. Don Mattingly
    5. Joe Maddon
    6. Tito Francona
    7. John Farrell
    8. Buck Showalter
    9. Joe Girardi
    10. Jim Leyland
    11. Bruce Botchy
    12. Mike Matheny
    Even Bryan Price.

    I wonder how well Bob Melvin would do with the Reds?? He has won back-to-back AL West division crowns with not many stars, if any. He could be lured away with what the Reds over pay for Dusty Baker: $3.5 MM per year.

    • @WVRedlegs: I like some of those guys, too. None of them are available. Give me a name you prefer who is available.

      The Andy Reid comparison is right on the money. People in Philly were ready to run him out of town because he didn’t win any Super Bowls, ignoring the things he did well and jumping to the conclusion that *anyone* else could put them over the hump. The Eagles had a lot of lean years before Reid under guys like Rich Kotite and Ray Rhodes — just like the Reds 15 year playoff drought with the likes of Bob Boone, Dave Miley, and Jerry Narron at the helm. Sure Dusty can be infuriating with all the bunts and the odd lineup choices, but give the man credit for three playoff trips in four years. He’s done something.

      @Steve Mancuso mentioned Jaffe’s book, and one of its conclusions was there was that in-game decisions by managers make a difference of one or two games a year… not ten or twenty. Baker’s had a lineup full of holes with a bench *below* replacement level. Lost Votto & Rolen for half a season and still won 97 games in 2010. Lost Cueto and half his bullpen this year and will end up in the neighborhood of 93 wins.

      I’d much rather ride this out with dusty than turn this over to a Ray Knight caliber guy, cause that’s what we’re really talking about. Maddon, Francona, Showalter et al are never going to come here.

      • @seanlahman:

        John Farrell was not “technically” available either, but Boston made the effort to get him as manager, and the rest is history. Boston went from last place to first place in ONE year in arguably the toughest division in MLB. So, it can happen, there is precedent. The Reds need to grow some stones and take a similar approach this winter.

    • @WVRedlegs: Dead on. This idea that we’ll never know how bad it could be is so pessimistic and weird to me. Dusty Baker has been run out of two cities on a rail. He did nothing with the Reds until he got a ton of young talent, and he still hasn’t been able to parlay that into a single playoff series win. Pretty soon, that talent will be on the move.

      I would take any of those guys over him. I would love Bryan Price to get a shot. That said, I would probably take most guys managing in the minors over him too. Barry Larkin?

      • @al: Barry Larkin was talking about the importance of bunting on something I saw him on a few weeks back. That ruined my desire for him as a potential manager.

    • @WVRedlegs: We’re on the same page concerning Dusty. The only name on the list I would remove is Bryan Price. Its best for all concerned to not have any remnants from the Dusty regime remaining in the dugout.

      • @Sergeant2: Marine Corps, I bet.

      • @Sergeant2: Isn’t Price signed to a ten year deal or some such thing I do not think that it would matter who the manager was, Price would be retained. To relieve yourself of the one coach that many think is top level, would be silly. He has done wonders with his pitchers and they might mutiny if he were to be fired.
        As far as who would be a good manager for this team, if you could have anyone, is an interesting question. I would take Leyland in a heartbeat; he has a track record of winning. I think someone with a little more fir would be best so I would favor Kirk Gibson, or Showalter.
        If we have to be real, then I would look for someone that was a winner as a player, but was perhaps not a great player. I know this is sacrilege, but Jose Oquendo. Dont think you could get him? Alan Trammel? I wonder if Scott Rolen would consider it?

        • @redmountain: Know I am dreaming here, but who would be the perfect guy for this team? Pete Rose. Can you imagine what energy would flow from that man, if he were allowed to be a manager? Yes, I know it can never happen, but Rose would be the perfect guy to awaken this team. Remember, it was the team he developed that Pinella won a World Series with in 1990. Oh well, back to reality….

  4. Sometimes the nearest exit is the one right behind you…Bryan Price.

  5. While it irks me to agree with this article, it is persuasive. My knee jerk reaction is, “but we’re winning this many games because of the talent not the manager,” and while that may be partially true, one only has to look at teams with superior talent that are not making the playoffs (Dodgers and Red Sox last year, Yankees and Nationals this year) to realize that talent isn’t the only reason we’re succeeding.

    On the other hand, the “we’ve made the playoffs 3 out of the 3 years, keep dusty” is eerily similar to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra. That is the same thinking most of us have criticized in the handling of the chapman situation.

    So it’s a complex situation. Good food for thought.

  6. This is something I said a while ago, I think Dusty is a good manger & if his X & O’s were a little better, he would be a great Manager. And to be frank if some of the players just executed, those X & O’s would look a lot better, but that’s another story. I agree he doesn’t get near enough credit for how this team has played with all of the key injuries, new players & playing in a tough division. We could do a lot worse & there are not a lot of Great Managers to be hand in MLB

    • @skatedog: Nice post. I agree with all except what is the true value of the X’s/O’s? I really don’t know and I probably over value it. Does it count more in post-season as Chad suggests. That is my real problem. With Dusty at the helm, can the Reds bring a WS Trophy to Cincinnati?

      Side item: if Walt is not the best GM in baseball, he has to be in the top two or three. And if he is, are we somewhat wasting he extraordinary talent? Face it gang, he has assembled a very talented bunch.

      • @CharlotteNCRedsFan: Can’t argue with the assertion about the X/O’s especially in the post season. I like our team, but I think we have overvalued this team the whole year. Losing your number one pitcher, starting left fielder, & some of the players failure to execute a simple bunt, I know most of you don’t like the bunt lol, to be honest I think their right where they should be & would have been lucky to win the division. Yes I hope they get hot & somehow win the whole thing, but if it doesn’t happen, I don’t believe if we had another or better manager we would have did much better.

        • @skatedog: One last point and I’ll let it go: is the sum value of the on field talent, equal or greater, than its individual parts? To me, this is the core question that needs an answer.

      • @CharlotteNCRedsFan: Nor do I know the true value of X’s and 0’s, but I read a review of a book (conveniently forget the title and where I read the review–maybe espn magazine) which, I believe, took a sabrmetric approach to analyzing the importance of managerial strategic decisions and found little to indicate that they influence winning and losing much at all. Pretty much what I intuitively believe–it’s execution by the players. A manager may help influence a player to come closer to maximizing his talent, and he may foster positive intangibles. I agree with Chad’s article, at any rate, and doubt that this collection of players would be more than 23 games over .500 with a different manager.

  7. There’s a book by Chris Jaffe titled “Evaluating Baseball Managers: 1876-2008” that is must-reading for anyone interested in this topic. Look for it at your local library. While the bulk of the book discusses individual managers, including Dusty Baker, a big chunk of it is devoted to the question of what makes a good baseball manager. His conclusion, which is consistent with what Chad says here, is that about 50 percent of the job is the locker room/behind closed doors/managing people stuff and about 50 percent is the lineups/batting order/in-game strategy stuff.

    The difficulty in evaluating managers is that the behind closed doors stuff is behind closed doors.

    That means the only way outsiders can measure it is by inference or player interviews. Dusty Baker’s teams have held together, so we infer he does a good job with the in-house role. But maybe it’s the players who hold the team together. Or maybe the causality runs in the other direction – on field success leads to teams holding together.

    How rare is the skill of managing a clubhouse? There may be a few spectacular failures, like Bobby Valentine with the Red Sox last year, but don’t most players swear by their managers? I suspect that by and large you don’t reach the point of being considered for a job like that without being pretty solid or more at managing people.

  8. And before we get too sanguine about Baker based on reaching the postseason, keep in mind that if the Baker Tax has cost the Reds winning the division, then his being the manager has subjected the team to a coin flip play-in game. It’s worth half what a division championship is. My biggest complaint about the way this team has been managed this year (both GM and on field managing) is the sense of complacency with regard to winning the division.

    Much like 2011, when we rested on 2010 too much, we’ve done the same in 2013 based on 2012, only it’s being partially disguised by the Wild Card system.

    • @Steve Mancuso: As far as a sense of complacency, does this really apply to the GM? IMO, Dusty loves the Willie Harris, Izturis type players. Yes, these should be areas where it wouldn’t take much to upgrade but does Dusty insist on having these guys? Does he have the power to insist?

      As far as a major deal, unless you move one of the current starting players (starting pitching); do the Reds have the carrot(s) to dangle? Yes, Hamilton and Cingrani would bring some talent but do we want trade what is left of our future stars?

      • @CharlotteNCRedsFan: From the GM side it wasn’t as complacent as 2010. The Choo trade was bold. Ultra complacent would have been another year of Drew Stubbs (who I liked as a player). To me, the Chapman decision, the lack of steps at the trade deadline and the year-long failure to replace Ludwick (should have known he wouldn’t come back quickly with that particular injury) are my three main demerits for the GM. Even without a big trade deadline move, finding better bullpen pitchers would have been easy and helpful. The Byrd and Morneau moves for the Pirates cost them virtually nothing. We wouldn’t have had to trade Hamilton or Cingrani or anything approaching that.

        • @Steve Mancuso: All I’m wondering is this more Dusty than Walt on all your points. DB seemed to love Stubbs’ potential and seems the same way with Ondrusek. Would Dusty even want Morneau or Byrd? Might be concerned about team chemistry? Could the Reds take on the additional salary? Would Bob C. allow it?

          I believe that Dusty wants to stay with “his” guys, no matter what. It is probably one of the factors that lead to some of Dusty’s strong points that Chad lays out. Of course, I have no real knowledge of any of this but just trying to piece things together based on the two mens history.

          • @CharlotteNCRedsFan: Yeah, that’s the million dollar question. Actually, probably tens of millions. Jocketty has the final say, but we’ve never had a good sense of how much clout Baker has in the equation. On the one hand, Baker is plainly loyal to his guys. On the other hand, he’s often lobbied publicly for trades/needs.

            Also, as you point out, there may be ownership constraints.

            All that said, most of the trade moves would have been relatively inexpensive. The Chapman decision was sufficiently public that it’s hard to believe it was all Baker. Jocketty may have relented on his own or he may have felt pressure based on not wanting to do something perceived as so “risky” especially when everyone knows the manager wants that to go the other way. I still place a large amount of blame on that on Jocketty for not following through.

            But yeah, it would be fascinating to know the inside stuff on this.

    • @Steve Mancuso: Steve: there is simply no way of knowing if there is a “Baker tax” at all, let alone that it cost the team the division. I (and I suspect most of the commenters here) am years past imagining that I might have been a better player than somebody whom I imagined to be under-performing, but after the knees and eyesight are gone, the hubris lingers on, knowing no age restrictions. It’s easy to imagine oneself making brilliant strategic decisions that catapult the Reds to a WS title over more talented teams. I suspect that the reality would be disheartening, but because the idea will never be tested, the idea can continue to be put forth as truth.

  9. The sad thing is, while we tend to imagine that every other team is adapting to modern analysis and ideas, I think Dusty-style old school baseball is still the dominant paradigm around the league. And just changing the manager ain’t changing the school.

    “Closers” won’t be going away any time soon.

    • @RC: I agree with your synopsis. However, I think “closer” is a relative term. Many (probably most) closers cannot be starters, either because they lack the pitches or they lack the genetic arm strength needed to throw 100 pitches every 5 days. Chapman is fine with pitches (see Johnson, Randy) and has shown in Cuba and Spring Training that he has the stamina (alebit not yet proven for 162 games) to be a starter.

      I think if we had Hoover or LeCure or someone as a closer we wouldn’t be complaining about them only pitching 70 innings. The problem is, most of us think Chapman has what it takes to throw 200 quality innings a year rather than 70 “super quality” innings.

      Hope that wasn’t too rambling.

  10. Good points Chad.

    To me, it hinges on the post-season success or lack of. If the Reds do not make NLCS, he should be a goner. If we do and lose the NLCS, I would hope Bob/Walt would “look” for options. Unless the solution was a certain upgrade, and I’m thinking Mike Scioscia if available, I would be okay standing pat. Obviously if we get to the WS, he is staying no matter how it turns out.

    But one more year of bumbling and fumbling would take all the love of the Reds I have, to watch all the games. But of course, I will.

    Kind of a wildcard but does anyone have an opinion on Kevin Kennedy? I’m very impressed with him on MLB-Radio.

    • @CharlotteNCRedsFan: I don’t get the love for Mike Sciocia, other than he’s a veteran guy who we all recognize.

      • @Johnu1: We can start with a World Championship. I watch the Angels a lot and that team is made up of a bunch of parts that don’t fit together. Talented? Yes, but that line-up flows like it could use a colonoscopy. Would love to see Billy Hamilton in the hands of a Mike Scioscia.

  11. As well, we tend to overlook that the other teams played better. (Part of that was that they beat the Reds too often.)

    But the success in St. Louis wasn’t in Dusty’s control. Winning a divisional title with 6 rookie pitchers … or in Pittsburgh, where they actually got a good catcher to help the pitching … so the question is:

    How do the Reds keep pace? They actually did, except Frazier bottomed out, Ludwick got hurt and unraveled the batting order … and the staff ace missed most of the season.

    The bullpen was rearranged.

    And Houston moved to the American League.

    Asking Dusty to deal with all that is a fairly large order. Hell, the president has less on his plate.

    My frustration continues to be an irregular offense, and I still wish Jacoby would go. To what end that would help … dunno. Just wish it would happen.

    • @Johnu1:

      “Frazier bottomed out”…again, I’ll compare Frazier to Phillips.

      ISO: F-.171 P-.139 BABIP: F-.274 P-.281 OBP: F-.315 P-.311 SLG:F-.406 P-.400 WAR: F- 3.4 P – 2.5 (all from Fangraphs)

      If Frazier has bottomed out, what about Phillips, who is not in his second year and, if you’re going to attach expectations to contracts, should be markedly better than a second year player.

      • @Bill Lack: I hadn’t mentioned Phillips because I wasn’t trying to compare Frazier to anybody else. I was trying to compare Frazier to Frazier.

      • @Bill Lack: Thanks for pulling this info. I think Phillips’ slightly higher BA than Frazier and, of course, those pesky RBIs (I kid) are blinding a lot of folks to how similiar Frazier and Phillips’ seasons have been. The thing I find most interesting is how good Frazier has been on defense, which makes up that WAR difference. (I think he gets a slight bump b/c 3B has a better positional WAR adjustment than 2B, but I could be wrong).

  12. I’m not so sure about this. It has been pointed out here many times how little he holds his players accountable for bonehead stuff like baserunning blunders, mental errors in the field and poor at bats. In fact, he seems to encourage the poor approach we see from a lot of the batters. Does anyone really think that he and his staff are responsible for any of the good habits of guys like Choo and Votto? Yet I feel like they can be held, to some degree, responsible for the bad habits of guys like BP, Frazier and Ludwick.

  13. Changing managers is similar to buying a different used car; you know that they both have problems, you just have a better idea of the problems of the used car that you already own. So when you ask the question, who out there is better, the problem is that the established managers that you would be willing to trade in your used-Dusty for are probably not available. (Showalter, Francona, Maddon, etc)

    • @DK in Erie Pa: Guess the bottom line is: can the Reds win a WS with Baker? Your point is a good one but remember guys like Sparky & Madden were very light on resumes when they took over ball clubs. Do you trust Walt to do better than Baker? Personally I do, based on the track record. Just believe WJ has a baseball IQ that is off the charts.

      • @CharlotteNCRedsFan: I don’t know if the Reds can win WS with Dusty. I don’t know if they could win without him. He reminds me of Marty Shottenheimer; great at making a team good enough to make playoffs, but not good enough to take them all the way. I’m not sure that’s a fair comparison, but that’s what comes to mind. That being said, as me my feelings about Dusty AFTER the postseason.

        • @DK in Erie Pa: he is like Marty and Norv Turner. Those dudes couldn’t be trusted to coach in the post season. They had the best teams but would get upset each year. Like Dusty!

          • @Zabka84: It’s very hard, looking at them objectively, to call the Reds the best team. They are good, yes, with weaknesses, yes, and there are number of other good teams, only one of which will win the WS. Any list of managers will include only one who wins it all this year.

  14. My question is this . . . At what point do owners/GMs begin to recognize how the Charlie Manuels and Dusty Bakers are great with the players and the “chemistry stuff” but are leaving wins on the field from the lack of tactical skill? . . . When will these analytic/decision science staffs ultimately have some dominion over the on-field decision making? . . . It may begin with real time flows of information to the manager that give him a statistical sense of what is appropriate to do at various points in a game but may ultimately evolve to include some direct oversight of managers’ decisions (or even usurping of a manager’s dominion over in-game decisions.

    I do know this. I believe the so-called “Baker Tax” has cost this particular team (at least) five games this year. I also believe that his strengths (the “chemistry stuff”) may well have added some wins this year. So, why not have the best of both worlds? . . .

    • @Drew Mac: Well some GMs clearly do already. I don’t know if you read the links in the Series Preview for the recent Pirates series, but there were two long, well documented articles about how Neal Huntington totally changed the entire way the Pirates operate, placing enormous emphasis on analytics. Manager Clint Hurdle, who describes himself as an old-school guy who was skeptical of sabermetrics, was forced to adopt it by the GM and is glad he did. Much more open minded to it now. So it is possible with the right GM. Jocketty, who has his own set of strengths, is certainly not that GM.

  15. The even-handed, fair analysis is just one of the many reasons I love RN. I’m not a huge Dusty fan myself, but there are always two sides to an issue. Keep up the great work!

  16. I am not a Dusty fan. I view a manager one way: did you get the most out of the people you have?

    Dave Miley did a much better job of getting the most our of players. I was sad to see him go.

    There are thousands of coaches who are capable of managing the x’s and o’s of the game, so there must be a lot to handling stars.

    But it seems to me that stars want to win also. In today’s world, Bryan Price would be my guy because of how well he has grown stars like Cueto, Latos and Bailey.

    Why Billy Hamilton is not starting more now with a team struggling to score runs is on Dusty. Why Billy wasn’t brought up earlier this year is on Walt. I mean really, you brought up Donald Lutz who is not the talent that Billy is

  17. It’s a fair argument, but I can’t say I’m swayed. If the “average” number of games a manager can cost a team is 2, that means there are probably managers who cost their teams more, those who cost their teams fewer. I’m guessing Dusty is on the high end of the scale.

    What we’ll never know, I think, is how much of a say Dusty has in player acquisition. If the Willie Harrises and Willy Tavareses of the world are the result of Dusty wanting “that type of guy,” it furthers the case against him. If that’s the GM telling him, in effect, “Here are your players, good luck!” then we can’t really say that is Dusty’s problem. (But we’ve seen Dusty campaign pretty openly at times, like in the Chapman-for-closer drama, so who knows if it doesn’t go on to a lesser extent in the background over player acquisition.)

    Incidentally, while he is acknowledged as a titan of “player’s managers,” should I find it odd from that episode when media asked Dusty about baserunning blunders or whatever, and he finally said something like, “You go ask them, I’m tired of it.!” Makes me wonder if his role — in the players’ eyes — is just to leave them alone.

    My choice would be to let Walt try to find somebody else. I feel like we’ve seen what Dusty can do.

  18. I made Chad’s point here a few weeks ago, got blasted for it. This team could have utterly collapsed this season, but didn’t. I’m willing to give at least a little of that credit to the manager. Someone posted here a while back, maybe last season, saying that in San Francisco they got to the point where they figured Dusty could win you four or five games with his people skills, and lose you four or five games with his bonehead decisions, so it ends up a wash. I think that’s probably a good way to look at it.

    Funny thing is though, I am actually in favor of letting Dusty go, solely because so many of his decisions aren’t just wrong, they’re indefensible. How long did we have to watch Drew Stubbs strike out four times a night before he got moved out of the leadoff spot? How many starts did we have to suffer through Corey Patterson and Wily Taveras? How many times do we have to see our worst hitter (whomever he may be) bat second? And do we need to mention Adventures in Bunting? These, to me, are indefensible transgressions. But the biggest reason I want him out of here is because of the Chapman decision. I realize that one is NOT indefensible – there are points to be made on each side. I just think he may have ruined this guy’s career by forcing him into the closer role this season, and that’s unforgivable.

    As others have mentioned though, who do we get? I love Girardi and Showalter and Maddon, but they ain’t available. And I honestly don’t understand the fascination with Brian Price. It would be nice if it was like the old days when you could pluck a young unknown talent from the minors to take over the big club (a la Sparky) but these days it seems like the stage is too big and most of those guys wilt…

  19. I mentioned Oakland’s Bob Melvin above. I am making an assumption, but if he works for Billy Beane, wouldn’t it be safe to assume then that Melvin is into the “new-school” of sabermetrics? And not the old school that Baker subscribes to. Look at what Melvin has done the last two years with no stars and young players. Two division crowns. Just think what he might achieve with a roster that includes Votto, Bruce, Phillips, Choo maybe, BHam maybe, Cueto, Latos, Bailey and Chapman.
    The sky’s the limit. With Baker, I’m afraid the NLDS is the limit.

    • @WVRedlegs: Another great point. Bob Melvin was the manager Billy Beane needed. He gets that the team is built to be used in a certain way, and he’s ok to do that. He understands that players are going to be coming and going a lot on Billy Beane teams (no one is getting locked up for $20mil over ten years, that’s for sure), and that things like platoons are going to be central.

      A manager like that, and this team would be in first place.

  20. Here’s a name: Manny Acta. Everything I ever read from him was very smart, and the talent on the teams he managed in CLE was terrible. I hope he gets another shot somewhere, and I’d love for it to be with the Reds.
    check this interview out: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/acta-and-chernoff-optimizing-the-indians-offense/

    Here’s a quote from that article from Acta on bunting:

    “I’m not big on bunting guys from first to second. I don’t think it’s a secret, because the facts are out there. It’s been proven that a guy has a better chance of scoring from first with no outs than from second with one out. I have to have way too much of an advantage late in the game, bullpen-wise and great hitters lined up, to do that. At first and second with no outs, I usually only do it with the bottom of the order, or maybe the top guy in the order, depending on how he’s swinging the bat. It guarantees me a runner on third with less than two out and another runner in scoring position. But I probably won’t if we need multiple runs. If it’s the heart of my order, it won’t happen.”

    • @al:

      I wasn’t an Acta fan. But the more I see of him on ESPN, though I don’t watch alot of ESPN, the more impressed I am with him. I just didn’t know who Manny Acta really was. By listening and watching them you can get some insight to who they really are. I find myself tuning into what he has to say more often. Smart and a good baseball IQ. When he and Larkin are on the set together, its usually a good show.

  21. Let’s say that after last year’s collapse vs the Giants, instead of extending Dusty’s contract Bob Castellini had decided to go get Terry Francona. He was very available, has Reds connections, and would have had credibility with the players. Don’t you think we’d be in better shape?

    How about Davey Johnson as a replacement? He said the other day he’s not done managing.

    Sorry, on other occasions I’ve given Dusty lots of credit for intangibles. I just find it hard to do that the day after he decided to put Ludwick back at cleanup based on the awesome power numbers he’s been putting up and the failure of Bruce in that role /s/

    • @Eric the Red: If the genius owner would of let this clown go and signed Francona this team would of clinched the division last week.

  22. This post echoes my sentiment from a year ago. But for me I’m afraid the train has left the station. I like the man and many aspects of his management. But I feel he is as much in the way as he is leading the way. I don’t want him fired. In fact I’d love it if somehow the Reds convince him to stay in the organization as a special assistant to the GM. I just want someone else to manage the team after next year when his contract runs out.

  23. I love that the Reds are contending every year for a playoff spot starting in 2010. Those are Dusty Baker years. But correlation does not imply causation, and Baker never bats, throws, catches or runs. With the starting pitching staff the Reds have built, some of the best defense in either league, and at least a few strong offensive studs (Votto, Choo, and Bruce are all elite this year ) this team SHOULD make the playoffs. But I don’t see Dusty Baker making a difference to put them over the top. Three things really bother me there. First, in-game tactics can be (not always, but often enough) critical in a short series. I think all agree this is not his strong suit. Second, he seems to have predefined roles in mind and has a hard time imagining creative, effective alternate options. When he said that Chapman hadn’t been used for a long time because the situation never dictated it (meaning the Reds never had a lead at the end of a game with one inning left and a three run lead or less), that blew my mind. The manager decides when a player gets used, not the game situation. He’s figured that out with Hamilton as his new “weapon” but can’t seem to apply the same thinking to Chapman, other relievers, double switches, pinch hitting, and the like. Third, he doesn’t seem to acknowledge any responsibility for the details of player performance. Base running mistakes, dumb plays on the field, poor approach at the plate (think Ludwick lately and Phillips and Ludwick in the 9th last night) – he is (largely) responsible for calling out players for those mistakes, helping them avoid them and make better decisions, and generally help / ensure that the players maximize their abilities. For those three reasons I don’t think Dusty Baker is good enough for THIS Reds team. They should make the playoffs (not the same as will) for any manager. I think it’s time the Reds looked for someone who will take them to that next level and win a ring.

    As a brief aside, I’m curious to see if anyone agrees with me that Bobby Cox was a good but never great manager. Same issues – took some amazing pitching staffs to a lot of division titles but only one ring in a dozen or so chances.

    Finally, as for who I might propose as an alternate. Available now: Bryan Price, Barry Larkin, Ryan Hannigan, Bob Brenly. Available with proper persuasion: Bob Melvin, Bruce Bochy? Someone who isn’t stuck in the old school on in-game strategy (for example, who understands that pretty much only pitchers and light hitting suicide squeezers should ever bunt), can think outside the box (for example, see Hamilton AND Chapman as weapons), and take responsibility for mental mistakes and teach players to play smart as well as hard.

    Barring all that, how about Bob Costas and Bill James in the weirdest co-manager it just might experiment ever?

  24. Dusty is a decent manager. I just don’t trust him managing a tight post season series.

  25. Would Mr. Castellini pay Dusty Baker 3.5 Mil. to sit at home next year, while at the same time have to pay a new managers salary? Probably not.

  26. For all those people here who say they would like Bryan Price to be the manager, could I ask why? What makes you guys think he would be a good manager? He certainly seems like he is a really good pitching coach. I think he deserves a lot of credit for the development and continued success of guys like Cueto, Bailey, Leake, etc. But is there any evidence that he would be better making in-game moves than Baker? Or if he has a different philosophy of player usage (or even pitcher usage than Dusty?

    I’m really just curious. Not looking to be contrarian just for the sake of it. We all know a lot of catchers become managers, but I don’t feel the track record for pitchers (and therefore pitching coaches) is very strong. Bud Black has yet to set things on fire in San Diego. John Farrell is looking good this season in Boston, but his time in Toronto was solid, not great.

    • @down with dusty: I agree. The last thing I want to do is move him out of his current job…

    • @down with dusty: I think this is where you just have depend on the wisdom of your GM. Bob Howsam deftly chose Sparky Anderson. People were, “Sparky who?”. None of us know whether, or not, Price would make a good manager but I trust Walt to have a good idea.

    • @down with dusty: In one sense, you don’t know until you know, which is to say he might suck at in-game tactics, pitching staff management, and player management. But I see a couple of things that suggest to me that he might be a very good manager. Of these the simplest is that he seems to have a consistent, effective philosophy and he is committed to it. By that I mean not only that he preaches it on a consistent basis, but that he enforces it as well. He’ll tell the pitchers when they’re off the plan and he expects results. I think that combination of inspiring players to produce at their highest capabilities, motivating them to execute the plan, and demanding better when they don’t can be extremely effective.

      Now granted, I say all this like I have direct first hand knowledge and of course I don’t. But the indirect information I have is compelling. I see a focus on aggressive pitching (after years of nibblers), more strike outs and fewer walks, and sound repeatable mechanics. I hear in player interviews that he is a proactive and motivating coach. And I see the results in pitchers’ health and innings pitched, and in consistent improvement from nearly everyone on the staff.

      Give me a manager who coaches and motivates his players to get better, and demands improvement and I think the Reds are better off than with their current manager. If it turns out he’s a sound tactician then the Reds would be a lot better off. I think it’s worth a shot. On the other hand, if you could get Bob Melvin to manage and Bryan Price to stay as pitching coach I wouldn’t be disappointed at all.

  27. Price’s job is to work with pitcher, not manage defenses or baserunning or lineups. I would be surprised if he doesn’t know as much about that as anybody else in an MLB dugout. Whether he considers it a strength is always a question. Players tend to do well for managers they respect. It’s a thin line, sometimes. If the Reds changed managers today, it would be Speier, not Price.

  28. Happy Birthday, one day late, for Big Bob Castellini. For our present to you, I give you a wish or proclmation from the fans. Please insruct your players to wear the team’s uniform pants to just below the knee with red stockings. Be daring, and show a little stocking. Your team is the redlegs, is it not? Honor your team’s heritage, and bring back the Redlegs for this playoff run. Rally around the Redlegs!!

  29. To be fair with the 2012 Reds, going into the NLDS, they had Cueto, Latos and Homer … then they lost Cueto, asked Latos to pick up the slack in G. 1.
    Homer pitched a near no-hitter in G. 3. We remember not walking Arias and a variety of other sins.

    We did not have our ace, 19-game winner for more than a half-inning. To say Dusty blew that one is a little unfair.

  30. My two cents on Bryan Price as a manager: He’s been invaluable as a pitching coach. If the Reds hire a new manager and it isn’t him, do we lose him as pitching coach? That risk alone would make me seriously consider trying him. While we don’t know about his in-game decision making and how willing he is to consider new ideas, there is one thing that I really like about the way he handles the pitchers. To a man, they all say that Price communicates challenges to them all the time. He never lets them get satisfied/comfortable. Brantley has talked about this before, that Price really pushes the pitchers to the next level, no matter how well they are doing.

    Who here doesn’t think that sounds like something that would be good for the entire team?

    • @Steve Mancuso: Inspiration, motivation, and clear expectation. Those are the hallmarks of an effective leader. IMHO Bryan Price needs to be the pitching coach under the next manager, or the next manager. I’m good either way. Barry Larkin manager, Bryan Price pitching coach (and then maybe Eric Davis for hitting coach?)

  31. When we give due credit to Dusty Baker for the team making the postseason again, shouldn’t we also acknowledge that the pitching, mostly the starting pitching, has been primarily responsible for that? And how much credit does Baker deserve for that? Some, surely. But not nearly as much as the pitching coach does.

    • @Steve Mancuso: Good point, steve. I would think it’s fair that Baker get some credit for the success of the pitchers since most people here (including myself from time to time) think he is more than partly to blame for the hitting. It’s not right to say that Brook Jacoby is just a puppet of Dusty and then assume that Price has complete autonomy over the pitchers. Maybe this is the case, but I’m not going to assume that.

      • @down with dusty: Except 1) Dusty was a position player, not a pitcher, so he–and his Hank Aaron stories–bring that experience to the dugout; 2) Dusty was a hitting coach; 3) Dusty has publicly expressed a hitting philosophy that seems to be the one practiced by the team, so he deserves some of the credit or blame, whereas to my knowledge he’s never “set” a pitching philosophy for the team.

  32. Personally, I like Baker and wouldn’t replace him. That said, my beef with Baker is that his teams always seem involved in player shenanigans. I think of the Steroids in S.F. and Chicago…the giants always had players that were jerks and would fight in the dugout. The Cubs had their own steroid issues and it always seemed that Dusty’s cubs were involved in pissing matches with other teams in brawls, beaned batters, distracting accusations of some on field injustice…blah blah blah. I see the same sorts of things happening on the Reds now since his arrival. I understand that teams in contention often have more heat…it’s just as a fan I can’t stand it. I don’t like fights in hockey either. I appreciate managers who at least maintain the illusion of running a tight ship with a team of likable players. I think a little too much gets out of control ie reds brawl with st. L and now this year with Pirates. Too many players foam at the mouth under Baker.

    • @rewquiop: Every team that matters has issues of some sort — clearly the LA-SD beanball war and the subsequent pool dip … just one. I won’t list any other examples but it seems some of this is a bored media and a way-too-self important TV booth mentality.

      I can’t think of any teams (except maybe Minnesota) that wasn’t involved in a plunk-fest of some sort. The national fan base is not distracted by it. As Reds fans, we notice it.

      The “brawl” with the Birds finally stopped being a big deal when the networks decided to stop showing it on the pre-game report before every game, and pining over how “heated” the series was likely to become.

      Most of them are bored when it’s a regular game, especially the Pittsburgh TV guys. (Darn, nobody threw at Phillips again today.)

  33. We know I don’t like Dusty Baker … but I find a flaw in the premise of the initial idea that Baker deserves any credit. In large part …

    “Given the upheaval of all the injuries to key pieces”

    Yes – Ludwick, Broxton, Cueto, Marshall have been four injuries that the Reds could have done without, however, I don’t think any injury could be qualified as a key piece. Cingrani stepped in for Cueto and did just as good if not a better job during his starts. Baker tried everything in his power to mess Cingrani up; including moving him to the bull-pen. Lets not forget, Cingrani went from being a starter (a good one) to a reliver; then was asked on 1 days rest to throw 90 pitches against the Rangers in relief (when Cueto went down a second time). A man’s arm can not go from starting every five days, to pitching every other right back to starting every five days. The Reds are very lucky his injury is to his back, and not his elbow.

    Parra has been a much better lefty than anyone could have dreamed, and has taken the role of Marshall in stride. With Marshall back, this will certainly give the Reds a needed second lefty, but I don’t feel anything was lost with Marshall out.

    JJ Hoover is Jonathan Broxton. They’re the same pitcher to me and considering how valuable Hoover has been (especially during that stretch of no runs allowed), I don’t miss Broxton at all.

    And then there’s Ludwick. He hasn’t been quite right since his return and if I was going to concede one injury hurting the most, it’s this one. The left field platoon has not been good all season, but with Hamilton now available to play center and Choo to play left, I scratch my head wondering why Baker is not using that combination more often (Hamilton / Choo / Votto / Phillips / Bruce) is one hell of a top 5 to me.

    You look around the league at what other playoff teams have had to deal with in terms of injuries, and the Reds have it the easiest to me. Ramirez and Kemp have been out half the season in LA, and they took it in stride … the Braves had their entire outfield on the DL twice this season, and Heyward / Gattis have missed a ton of time (Hudson, Beachy gone for ATL) and the Cardinals missed Molina for a month, and now Craig likely for the season. The Reds however, have benefited from full seasons of all their best (Votto, Choo, Phillips, Bruce, Bailey, Latos etc.).

    To me, it’s the other teams who have performed with injuries to key pieces, not Cincinnati.

    • @FrustratedRedsFan:

      Also, to further this point. I would like to say that the Reds have not come back from a 4 run defect this season. There the only team not to do this, and likely the only Reds team ever not to do this.

      When the Reds win, they grab a lead and hold it. So rare to see them come back (like they did in Pittsburgh last week) … but that kind of lay down attitude has to fall on Baker doesn’t it?

    • @FrustratedRedsFan: To piggyback on your point, number of starts:

      Latos 31
      Bailey 31
      Arroyo 31
      Leake 30

      Neither the Cards or Pirates can sniff that kind of rotation stability. Outside of maybe Detroit, can any MLB team?

    • @FrustratedRedsFan: You can add Carpenter, Garcia and Motte to the players the Cardinals have gone without this season.

      • @Sergeant2:

        I don’t know that I would add Motte to that list (he was just brutal), but yes very true about Carpenter and Garcia and even Westbrook. Guys like Wacha, Kelly and Lyons have filled in very nicely for them over the year.

        The Reds have been very stable from an injury perspective.

        • @FrustratedRedsFan: I find the Cardinals’ resiliency to be a testament to Matheny, his staff and a very strong farm system philosophy. That’s a plus for them and, comparing it to Baker and his staff, makes the Reds look pretty lame.

          St. Louis thrived with 6 rookies in their pitching mix. The rooks the Reds brought up, Cingrani aside, were cannon fodder.

          St. Louis is using Rosenthal and Seigrist in the back end of their bullpen with Maness as setup guy.

          Reds are lucky to get Chapman an inning every 10 days.

          I would agree that philosophy is paying off with this season. It ain’t all luck.

  34. If the Cardinals lose tonight you can thank me. I’ll be at Busch Stadium tonight cheering on the Washington Harper’s to be a fly in the Cardinals ointment. Go Reds!

  35. Baker is batting Ludwick fourth again tonight. He gets no credit from me for batting a dude with 7 xbh’s in 97 at bats in the clean up spot.

    • @Zabka84:

      It’s very confusing, because the line-up he started on Sunday against Locke just lit it up. With Niese going tonight, I don’t understand why he wouldn’t play the exact eight he did on Sunday.

  36. He is the worst coach in professional sports. Are you serious with this article?

  37. I’m a well-known Dusty defender, primarily because I remember most of the preceding 7 or so managers. He doesn’t do everything I want. Last night, for example, I thought Heisey was a bad choice in the 9th with 2 out and Hamilton on second. He bunts more than I like, because it is clear the Reds have cruddy bunters. In the long game or buntathon the other day in Houston, the actual studies show that bunting gives a team a better chance of scoring ONE run, even if bunting diminishes statistically results in fewer runs. But with Chapman in reserve, the strategy of scoring ONE run was sound, if (of course) they could actually bunt. The game was won when Bruce delivered with one out and the bases loaded, which was the exact situation that Dusty tried to set up by bunting Phillips in front of Votto, only to have Phillips pull a TOOTBLAN running to first.

    Some of us, me included on occasion, assume that if the alternate strategy had been chosen, say playing Frazier (not Hannahan) against AJ Burnett (.205 v. RH, .271 v. LH), then Frazier would have turned into Hard-Hittin’ Mark Whiten and hit 4 homers that night. Last night, for example, Ludwick was a bad 0-5 hitting fourth, but Bruce was 0-4 plus an IBB hitting 5th; it wouldn’t have mattered which guy made which out.

    Most of any team’s game management problems, to me, are the result of team flaws. For Dusty, this has been a bunch of under-achieving right-handed hitters. Neither Phillips, nor Frazier, nor Ludwick (or other LF), nor Cozart (until lately) had a good year, and all were even worse against right-handed pitchers. Dusty had to manage around that issue, and the results got a bit ugly at times. With Cozart, for example, I think Dusty believed Cozart was a much better hitter than he showed (which his last 8 weeks have proven), and was hesitant to move him down in the order for confidence reasons. (I think he should have done so earlier.) Other than Ludwick, they are starting to come out of it.

    What Dusty has that we don’t is boatloads of patience. That is a strength, but like any other strength, it can sometimes be a weakness. Let us remember the long droughts and slumps that Jay Bruce kept going through, pretty much until this year, but Dusty always stayed with him and didn’t get down on him. He and Uncle Walt last year lost patience with Mesoraco, and he got sent down, but, properly, they never revealed the issues, and Mesoraco has flourished, probably because he learned from it.

    “Dusty hates young players” is a myth. Votto, Bruce, Cozart, Frazier, Mesoraco, Cueto, Bailey, Leake, Latos, Chapman, LeCure and others–the heart and core of the team–have all developed well under Dusty and his staff. Virtually the entire roster has turned over since 2007.

    It could be far worse than Dusty Baker. And if you don’t think Dusty is absolutely tickled to death about Billy Hamilton, you are nuts. Just plan on Dusty’s being patient with him.

    • @Big Ed:

      There are certainly strong points in your statement Ed. I agree that the right handed hitting for the Reds this year has not been a positive, and I also agree that Dusty is very patient (with his veterans, not with his young players though). Twice this season Cingrani has been pulled after 4 innings with a lead, not allowed to pitch the fifth for a win (while he allows Latos to give up 6 ER at home vs Milwaukee and 107 pitches so he can get his W through five).

      But I feel you are trying your hardest to dig up any positive thing you can say about Baker, rather than looking at what’s right in front of you. Yes, the right handed talent on this team has been sub-par, but it’s probably the only bad thing you can say about this team. Choo / Votto / Bruce is about as good as any team can have it from the left side of the plate. Hamilton as it turns out is the fastest man alive and Baker has decide to “go slow” with speed (irony to say the least).

      The starting rotation has been terrific and the bullpen also terrific. I cannot get on board with anything to the tune of “Dusty doesn’t have the pieces”. He has shown that his first move in the bullpen in the most critical of games this season has been Ondrusek and Duke. He has shown that through five months, Aroldis Chapman was nothing more than a paperweight in the bull-pen … used only when you’re winning, never when losing (to hold small deficits). He has shown that even with all of his players healthy, he cannot put together the line-up that makes the most sense (and gives the Reds the best chance to win).

      Sure, in seasons past perhaps he should have been given more credit for developing certain players, but the game of baseball is about “What have you done for me lately.” To me anyway, Baker shows night in and night out, he is not the manager for this team.

  38. This team would have clinched the division last week if he wasn’t the manager. HE is the reason this team is NO fun to watch.

    • @EastCoastVibes: I’d say that with Cueto, maybe the Reds would be 3-4 games ahead. Did Cingrani pick up the slack? A little. I don’t think Dusty is that big a difference to say they’d have the NL-C won by now. This is a tough division.

  39. He has single-handedly blown 10-15 games this year by himself. Cozart hit 2nd for 60+ games. Batting orders that make no sense (Cozart/Izturis 2nd, Ludwick 4th.) Using the wrong relievers in the wrong situation every single night. Not using Chapman enough, let alone throwing him 2 innings in a game. SAME EXACT MISTAKES since he’s been here. No plate discipline, pathetic approaches, little league baserunning, guys not knowing how many outs there are. More mental mistakes than a last place T-ball team. Neftali Soto, Hannahan, Ondrusek and Zach Duke PLAYING this week with a pennant on the line. I could write a 200 page book why he’s a joke.

    • @EastCoastVibes:

      The game against SD earlier this year sticks in my brain when thinking of Baker and some of these utility guys. Jack Hannahan made an error in the 1st inning that cost the Reds a run, then made another error in the 5th. Also in the 5th, Hannahan grounded into a double play (after having struck out in the 3rd). At this point (and even after the second error), I, along with most every else wanted Hannahan out of the game. It was crystal clear it just wasn’t his day. Mentally, physically … he wasn’t in it from the start. The clear cut, must make 100% of the time move should have been to remove Hannahan from the line-up and put Frazier in.

      No. Baker sticks with Jack, so he can make his third error of the game in the 7th and then ground out again in the 7th. That is not patience, that is clear cut incompetence and for whatever reason, many people would prefer to say Baker isn’t all that bad.

      IMHO, Baker belongs nowhere in the discussion for credit.

      • @FrustratedRedsFan: I remember firing my TV remote about 12 times that game for the reasons you just stated. He is a joke. Must be a slow day at Redlegnation to post an article giving this manager credit.

  40. Sorry that I can’t read all the above comments before posting one. I made a special point to give Dusty credit on the recap for several decisions he made in the Sunday win over the Pirates. I do that on a fairly regular basis.

    But overall he just makes me uneasy, he has certain biases for and against players that seem to lead to bad decisions.

    For example, in late August he said that Derek Robinson would be on the postseason roster. He didn’t say maybe, he stated it as a fact. I was surprised that he would make a premature statement like that. It’s a team decision that hadn’t been made yet.

    How did WJ feel about that statement ? A lot can happen in a month, and Billy Hamilton has happened. According to Paul Daugherty, there is support in Reds management for having Robinson instead of Hamilton in the post season roster. Is that Dusty ? Who knows, but the guy makes me nervous.

    He’s also talked recently about Cueto being the “real ace” of the staff. I love Cueto, but I don’t think the starts vs. the Astros and Mets qualify him as that.
    Reynolds shoud not pitch tomorrow, Latos should (every game is so important) and that would set up Latos for a play-in game. But Dusty might start Reynolds to line up Cueto to pitch the play-in game. Once again, I have Dusty angst.

  41. In my opinion, the decision I disagreed with the most this year was not bringing in Chapman to pitch to Neil Walker (?) in Pitt in the 8th on some Sunday mid-season. I can’t recall who was pitching, but they gave up a GW 2- or 3-run homer to a lefty when Chapman could have been brought in for a 4-out save. I think that’s the closest we can say to an actual decision not made that cost the team the game. Unlikely that Chapman gives up a homer to the lefty, and fairly likely he doesn’t give up 2 runs in the 9th.

    My $0.02.

    Take that game, assume it’s a win, and make Carlos Gomez not nab two homers from Votto and Bruce, and the Reds might be sitting 1 game in first at this point. Sort of wild to think about how 1 seemingly minor decision and a few inches of baseball travel distance take you from being in 1st with 5 to go, to being 2 games back with 5 to go. Admittedly, each team probably has a few moments like this they could point to and say “we could be 3 games better right now.”

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About Chad Dotson

Blame Chad for creating this mess. Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds" is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad's musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.


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