Watch a baseball game with me and you will find out that I sure think I am a manager. But, who is the best manager of all time? Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, or Joe McCarthy might have your vote but I am (hypothetically) the best manager in baseball. What would I do?
Here we go.
Some managers are calling for a ban on shifts? This is ludicrous; my team will beat them. My pull-hitters will be push-bunting and learning how to force the defense to play more honest to their position. Most of their push-bunt attempts will be when they are slightly ahead in the count and my players will master this strategy. Once the defense plays them more honest and there isn’t basically a fourth outfielder, they will go back to swinging away. Plus, the use of this could get in the pitcher’s head; knowing before they throw the pitch that they may have to field their position could rattle a pitcher.
Kimbrel, Britton, Chapman, and Rodriguez are all elite closers. My general manager and I won’t look into the market for any of them. Ever. The ninth inning is just another inning, why am I going to pay millions extra for someone who just has extra pressure because it’s the end of the game? A guy with 35 saves costs a lot more in free agency than a guy with the exact same stats who pitched in a set-up role. So we will try to snag the Andrew Miller’s, Addison Reed’s, and Hector Neris’s for my team. There were 33 pitchers with at least 20 holds this past season; those guys will get the job done. One of them will appear dominant during the season and he will stick.
While we are talking about closers, why in the world does it seem that managers won’t bring in a closer unless it is a save opportunity? It may have cost Buck Showalter a shot at the Indians this year. We saw a glimpse of this from Joe Maddon and Terry Francona in the World Series, and it was used spectacularly. No, no, no I am not saying bring in the closer for multiple innings all the time. That would ware down my bullpen arms by the time September rolled around. However, if the bulk of the lineup is due up in the seventh inning of a close game, why wait to bring your closer in for the 7-8-9 hitters in the ninth? Or in a tie game in extra innings why wait until you score (or don’t score)? My “closer” will become awfully familiar with the seventh and eighth inning, which means if another one of my middle relievers has to pitch the ninth, so be it. More experience for him for when the postseason rolls around.
Admit it. You’re still reading because you want to know what crazy idea I am going to say next..
I want my pitcher batting eighth. Tony LaRussa style. Did this move make him one of the best managers the sport has seen? No, but I like it. In my mind it is having a second lead-off hitter. Yes, the pitcher may bat an extra time every couple of games, but I think in the end my team scores more runs that way. If the eight spot comes up time after time with two outs and runners on then I simply abandon this move. But I want to bring it back and give it a shot.
Last but never least, sacrifice bunts will be a rare sight. A team has 27 outs in a baseball game and managers want to waste one of those precious outs to move a runner? Not on my team. According to Baseball Prospectus, you have a better chance of scoring a runner from first with no outs than you have of scoring a runner from second with one out. Pitchers don’t bunt well and usually end up leaving their runners hung out to dry. Swing away. There will be seldom occasions where I will use a bunt to advance a runner. The majority of the bunting done on my team will be suicide squeezes, those score runs, runs win games.
These five moves don’t win me 140 games, but I see them giving my team more wins than they would have had following managerial status quo.