Discussion: The Genius of Charlie Manuel

Last December, Chris Jaffe contacted me wondering if I could help him promote his book Evaluating Baseball’s Managers. It was the first time I had seen anybody truly try to quantify the effect a manager has on a ballclub. I had read articles here and there but nothing as substantial as Jaffe’s methodology.

I caused a bit of a stir on the Internets with my recent post that criticized Charlie Manuel’s in-game strategy. I pointed out that Manuel’s use of the bullpen was less than optimal, he used his worst pinch-hitters at inopportune times, and he often fails to realize when his starters are getting gassed. It is true that these examples may be extreme outliers and not representative of the whole. Maybe I’m unfairly cherry-picking these examples.

However, despite that my criticism of Manuel did not sit well with most people, I never heard any legitimate reason why Manuel is a great manager other than ends-mean reasoning such as “the Phillies have had great records and done well in the post-season” and vague generalizations like “he’s great at managing personalities in the clubhouse” (which I have admitted is likely his best attribute). I am truly interested in learning why Manuel is heralded despite what I and many other Sabermetrically-oriented fans deem as sub-optimal managing in terms of tactics. I think I really know why people were offended but I still want to hear some legitimate defenses. Many people reacted as though Manuel’s genius is a blatantly obvious thing, like the grass being green.

In the comments below (or in your own blog entry, or Twitter/Facebook, etc.), make as objective and logical a case for Manuel as you can. Be as specific and scientific as possible. Don’t just say “he’s great with the clubhouse”. Specify how many wins (like WAR) you think that quality adds to the team and which measures you use to justify your claim. What are Manuel’s strengths and weaknesses? Where does he rank among MLB managers, currently and historically? Where would the Phillies be without him?

Unrelated note: Some people have been complaining that their comments are being repeatedly held for moderation. I don’t know for sure, but I think it is due to posting too many comments in too short a period of time, thus causing my spam filter to assume that you are a spam bot. So if you are going to be a frequent participant in the discussion (which I wholeheartedly encourage), my suggestion would be to condense your posts, i.e. respond to everyone you’d like, but do so in one comment. Note that you can use HTML tags if you’d like to quote somebody else and differentiate it from your post as well.

I’ll check back later this afternoon and may potentially use the discussion as a jumping-off point for another article.