2014 Phillies Report Card: Ryne Sandberg
Grading players is easy. Every little thing a batter or pitcher does throughout the course of a season is run through a spectrometer whose readings spew statistics that traverse the visible range of objective (and subjective) evaluation. What’s left is a full color palette, hues unblended, from which an encompassing picture can be painted.
There is no such spectrometer for managers. How many of the Phillies’ 73 wins in 2014 came as a direct result of a decision made by Ryne Sandberg? Was the decision textbook or unconventional? Was it really good process, or did it just luck out? By the same token, how many of those 89 losses can be hung around Sandberg’s neck?
This is nearly impossible to determine accurately, at least without a running count of every managerial decision made in-game, complete with hindsight, which I lacked the foresight to compile for a post such as this, Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Judgment of Sandberg is mostly subjective, a style of analysis not germane to these pages. But as I struggled to find something to pull out of this season to use as meaningful content, I found myself thinking about Charlie Manuel and his tenure with the club. I found myself at odds with some of Manuel’s decision-making at points during each season, but he was, by all accounts, a well-liked and skilled handler of players. Sandberg, for his part, hasn’t appeared to make a seamless transition in that department, seemingly using the media as an outlet for some frustrations (never a good idea).
Bill wrote last month about bullpen orthodoxy, something Sandberg seems unlikely to separate himself from anytime soon, but there’s a larger point to be made about his pitcher use. The Phillies led baseball with eight starting pitcher outings of 120-plus pitches, three more than the next closest (Mets and White Sox). Four of those came at the expense of Cole Hamels‘s left arm over a five-week span from May 11 to June 21. To add insult to injury, seven of the eight 120-plus-pitch games ended in losses, and the one that didn’t was an 8-0 win in which Hamels started the eighth with 108 pitches and a four-run cushion.
Sandberg also allowed his left-handed relievers – Antonio Bastardo, Jake Diekman, Cesar Jimenez and Mario Hollands – to face 545 right-handed batters over the course of the season. There’s no easy way to filter switch-hitters out, unfortunately, so keep that in mind as that number is compared to the once-more-champion Giants, who had Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, David Huff and Mike Kickham combine to face just 235 platoon disadvantages.
Sandberg was promoted from his managerial post at Triple-A Lehigh Valley with the obvious intent of one day succeeding Manuel, which has been accomplished. If Sandberg lasts through the “rebuilding but not really but yeah kind of” period that the Phillies are undergoing, he’ll hopefully have a chance to make his own mark as a winner.Some things, like pitcher use and the presence of media spats, are red flags and merit attention, but for me to be able to say definitively just how much they may have cost the Phillies this season – as well as being able to define the converse and show how much they were outweighed but what he may have done positively – is not a call I’m prepared to make confidently.
Grade: A very tentative C+