How will Tuesday affect the decisions of Buck Showalter moving forward?
Buck Showalter most likely regrets his decision not to use Zach Britton in this year’s AL Wild card game. Regret, though, can be a tricky phenomenon. For instance, regret likely played a large part in Showalter’s decision to not use Britton. How so? Well, when Showalter was quoted defending his decision after the game as saying that “it’s an away game,” he was really saying that he feared using Britton only to have a lesser pitcher blow a lead in a save situation with Britton unavailable. Showalter was saying that he feared he would regret making a decision that could lead to that sequence of events.
This type of decision, one in which we make a decision in the attempt to avoid what we imagine to be the worst outcome possible (as opposed to trying to make the best decision possible), is fairly common place. How many times have you not applied for a job because you do not know if it would be any better than your current job? How many times have you not asked someone on a date that you wished you had? How many times have you not raised your hand in your class when you had a question? How many times have you decided to go back to the same restaurant instead of trying the new place? How many times at that same restaurant have you ordered the same thing? We so often choose the devil we know versus the devil we do not know, we so often choose the safety of the routine and of inaction often for no other reason than our being people—social organisms wired to fit in, wired to not do anything we might come to regret. It is therefore not surprising that even people at the top of their fields like Showalter could convince themselves into making poor decisions if only to avoid future regret.
Zach Britton's absence was the big story, but the Blue Jays' win was about much more than Buck Showalter's curious decision.
Because Twitter exists, there’s some chance that we’ll permanently misunderstand the Blue Jays’ win over the Orioles on Tuesday night. Because we can all document our feelings as Zach Britton remained unused through the ninth inning, then the 10th, then the 11th, and because we know everyone else was feeling it too, and because our worst suspicions about the whole thing seemed to be confirmed as the postgame press statements rolled in (no, Britton wasn’t hurt, yes, Buck Showalter was holding him back to protect an eventual, hypothetical lead), there’s a good chance this great baseball game will be forced to live in the too-short shadow of a single decision.
Why we might be overestimating pitchers' offensive abilities. Yes, OVERestimating.
You can see what Buck Showalter was going for on Tuesday night. Mark Reynolds is a hitter. Not always a great hitter, but one of the couple hundred best in the world, and very capable of ending the game with one swing. The guy behind him was a pitcher. Not a terrible hitter, pitcher-wise, but a pitcher. In the categories our brain creates, pitchers are non-threats. Given the choice between a threat and a non-threat, the decision to intentionally walk the threat to face the non-threat feels obvious, if you don't do the math. But you should do the math:
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Is there a better way to vote for Manager of the Year?
Manager of the Year is stupid. Manager of the Year voting is stupid. Given the former, it's not clear that the latter matters in the least, but indulge me.
Despite the language in the above paragraph, I'm not a 2002 stathead, though I certainly was once upon a time. I can't pretend today that the semi-tangible, semi-measurable aspects of managing a baseball team that fans love to talk about are the most important aspects, because it is highly likely that they are not. Computers and front-office nerds alike (hold the jokes, HOLD THE JOKES) can do an excellent job deciding when to bunt (never), when to substitute a relief pitcher (as often as possible), and how to construct a batting order (Barry Bonds leading off!), yet we've heard more in recent years about the possibility of a player-manager (Paul Konerko) than nerd-managers. (And no, Joe Maddon does not count—he was briefly paid to play the game of baseball, after all, and I'm talking about putting Paul DePodesta or Ben Lindbergh in the dugout, not an ex-minor-leaguer who happens to wear glasses and listen more carefully to his team's analytics department than most dugout men do.) This absence of nerditry would suggest that baseball teams making seven- and eight-figure bets on their personnel and leadership decisions value significantly the immeasurable side of managing that includes dealing with personalities, keeping an eye on low-level health issues, and even actual coaching. Sure, teams can be subject to biases and path-dependency just as anyone else can, and the size of the gamble doesn't mean the play isn't stupid (heyyyyy Wall Street), but we can't go off half-cocked on these teams and demand firing Dusty Baker every time he bunts, either.
If the Orioles want to extend their surprise season beyond the wild-card game, they should make the most of what got them there.
An Orioles fan might put money on the O’s to win their wild-card play-in game against Texas tomorrow night, but a betting man wouldn’t, at least with even odds. Then again, by now the betting man may have already gone broke backing Baltimore’s opponents.
The Orioles have spent the whole season surprising people. First they flouted the expectation that they couldn’t compete in the AL East, then the near-certainty that they couldn’t sustain their early-season success (or, for that matter, their success later on in the season). To reach the Division Series, they’ll have to have one more surprise in store.
Did we see the Orioles' success coming when Buck Showalter was hired?
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
A few days after the Orioles hired Buck Showalter, Steven Goldman wrote the response reprinted below, which was originally published as a "You Could Look it Up" column on August 3, 2010.
What role have Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter played in the Orioles' 2012 turnaround?
The Orioles’ storybook season added another amazing chapter on Thursday night, as the O’s pulled off a startling four-run comeback after blowing a five-run lead in the opener of their huge four-game series against the Yankees at Camden Yards. This is Baltimore's first meaningful baseball September in more than a decade, and on the night that the Orioles unveiled a statue of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr, they erupted for six home runs to move back into a tie for the American League East lead.
The Orioles have finished under .500 for 14 consecutive years and have lost 91 or more games in nine of the last 11 seasons, including each of the last six years. But if the season had ended yesterday, the Orioles would have been postseason bound, which represents a remarkable turnaround under General Manager Dan Duquette and Manager Buck Showalter. Credit also has to be given to former GM Andy MacPhail, who hired Showalter in 2010 and laid the groundwork for this team.
The finish to the season under Buck Showalter was nice but the organization would be wise to discount it.
The Orioles have been rebuilding since 1997, and in that time have run through at least six general managers. I say “at least” because for a time they had a duumvirate running the team, and the only thing we know for sure about the way they split the job is that the Orioles achieved the rare feat of being half as successful with twice the executive manpower. Given that, it’s not completely unrealistic for me to imagine myself as the GM of the Orioles—the man on the street, equipped with a modicum of common sense and education, couldn’t have done much worse than the professionals.