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:
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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?
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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.