Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Mind of Charlie Manuel 

The upcoming season will be something of a make-or-break season for Charlie Manuel. I feel a great swell of pity for the man: he’s a mild, laid-back manager on a team whose fans lust for an angry, fiery leader who will kick dirt on the umps and spit and curse. Personally, I am suspicious of those who wear their emotions on their sleeves the way men like Larry Bowa did. The calculating manager will triumph over the emotional leader any day. Alas, the Phillies consecutive second-place finishes are not what the fans want to see after watching the hated Mets retool and turn themselves into a contender with their 2004 buying spree. So Charlie Manuel is on the hot-seat.

What kind of a man is Charlie Manuel? A micro-manager? A tactician? A roll-out-the-ball-and-play guy? Curious, I began to pour through the stats in the new Bill James Handbook (see my review from yesterday) and piece together an idea about Charlie Manuel’s managing style. I have a few thoughts:

1. How did managing in the A.L. shape Manuel? It affected Tony LaRussa when he took over the Cardinals after managing the White Sox and A’s for years and years. LaRussa wasn’t used to the tactical decisions he never had to consider with pitchers needing to be pinch-hit for, etc., and found the tactical-decisions to be difficult to make initially. Charlie Manuel was a manager for the Cleveland Indians from 2000 to 2002 when he was fired 87 games into the ’02 season. Manuel was 220-197 (.528) as the Indians skipper.

Generally speaking, it doesn’t appear that Manuel was too special or different from other A.L. managers. Now here in the N.L., Manuel and the Phillies don’t sacrifice bunt much, so I wonder if this is a product of Manuel’s days in the American League, where teams don’t sacrifice bunt much.

2. Are there any differences in Manuel’s style between 2005 and 2006? I noticed a few significant variances. First off, Manuel more than doubled the number of defensive substitutions in 2006, from 19 in 2005 to 49 in 2006. This is a big jump. In fact, Manuel was the manager who made the fewest defensive substitutions in 2005. Does this indicate a new emphasis on defense? I suspect so, and I think Manuel was reacting to the decline in the quality of the Phillies defensive alignment by trying to interject himself into the mix and devise a strategy for improving the Phillies defense (namely by removing Pat Burrell for Shane Victorino late in games). I think this is the mark of a good manager: recognizing his team’s weakness and devising a counter.

Manuel also shifted from being predisposed to pulling starters quickly to allowing them to go:

Quick Hooks / Slow Hooks
2005: 42 / 28
2006: 28 / 43

Is this a product of the Phillies pitching getting better in 2006 or is Manuel just more patient with his pitchers now? I suspect a combination of both. This bodes well for the Phillies 2007 pitching, since it seems that Manuel has more confidence in their abilities and the team pitching has been upgraded with the additions of Freddy Garcia and Adam Eaton.

The Phillies also ran a little less in 2006, attempting 117 steals, 26 fewer than in 2005.

I suspect that Manuel shifted in 2006, giving greater confidence to his starting pitching, emphasizing defense a little more than in the past, and being more comfortable with his team playing “big ball” as opposed to “small ball”.

3. How did Manuel stack up with his contemporaries? I noticed a few things that set the Phillies apart from the rest of the N.L. First, they utilized the fewest number of different lineups in the N.L. with 81. (Manuel used 80 in 2005, also the fewest in the N.L.) I personally think that is a good thing: players hate being shifted in the batting order, so stability encourages team harmony. Second, the Phillies utilized the fourth-most pinch runners in the N.L., and the second-most pinch-hitters. The Phillies didn’t try many sacrifice bunts and didn’t have many runners moving at the pitch. In terms of using pitchers, Manuel was pretty average, aside from the fact that he ranked second in the number of fewest Quick Hooks in 2006.

I think all of these factors suggest Charlie Manuel is a manager with an active mind, constantly analyzing his team, identifying weaknesses and devising countermeasures. Manuel’s use of pinch-runners and pinch-hitters are products of his trying to seek the edge in situational matchups. If he were more of an impatient manager he’d used more lineups than he did, or he would have bunted or hit-and-ran more. Instead, Manuel was trying to create opportunities for his team to get something done, but knew when to take a step back.

Generally, as I looked at all of the data I came to the conclusion that Charlie Manuel is a very, very good manager. Far from the image of him being a quiet, meek manager, I found Charlie Manuel to be a savvy strategist, keyed into where his team was weak and someone who made smart decisions about matchups without feeling the need to over manage. I think he’ll do a nice job managing the team in 2007, and I hope that Phillies fans have the patience to realize what a good manager Manuel is.

I believe you've lost your mind.
I agree with just about everything I read here and find it all interesting material. However, your saying Manuel is a strategist (and good) manager because he uses a lot of pinch hitters and runners and keeps the lineup the same. This may all be true but it doesn't mean it is right. Pinch running for Ryan Howard in the 4th inning of a tied ballgame may give him the aura of a strategist, but it doesn't come close to saying he is a good manager . (and i know he never did that, it was just an example)

And with the lineup. The first half of the year he had Howard at 5th or 6th. Was it consistent? Yes. Was it smart? No. It wasn't until he changed the lineup around that we started winning.

I don't hate Manuel. He is a good coach. But I can't honestly sit here and say he is a good manager.
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