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+

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15 comments

  1. Yo

    November 07, 2014 08:51 AM

    accepting all of the above, this doesn’t look like a long term relationship

  2. Chris

    November 07, 2014 09:56 AM

    I know a lot of people do not like Sandberg, but the jury is still out and he needs times. This team lacks talent, and many managers would make coaching decisions and mistakes based off how their players perform.

    Did Francona suddenly become a great manager once he left the Phillies? Of course not, he just got better players.

  3. GB

    November 07, 2014 11:04 AM

    Sandberg, as is the trend now around MLB, is a well known and respected ex-player who has spent time managing in the minors & gotten a shot to manage a ML team. He was turned down twice by his long time team, the Cubs, but finally got a shot with his original team, the Phillies, to see what he could do.

    Obviously, the timing was poor for Sandberg, but beggars cannot be choosers as they say. No one else was knocking his door down to manage their team and this was not the first time he had tried to get jobs. Therefore, the Phils saw a good PR opportunity to bring Sandberg “back home” and eventually have him take over from Manuel. The Phils knew the team was sliding downhill and they needed name recognition as the new manager – did not really matter what his coaching philosophies were or how he handled pitchers, the media or lineups or whether he could help develop young talent or what his staff’s capabilities would be…

    And they got exactly what they paid for…an ex-player with name recognition who is a mediocre manager and showed little growth in doing what this team needs a manager & his staff to do.

  4. Bob

    November 07, 2014 12:32 PM

    (1) Pitched the arms off his pitchers;
    (2) failed to employ platoons;
    (3) failed to go with lefty/righty matchups;
    (4) questionable pitch selection;
    (5) failed to develop young players and, in the case of Brown took a step back;
    (6) favored vets over youth;
    (7) played injured players;
    (8) poor communicator;
    (9) lost the clubhouse as evidenced by the pitchers who showed him up multiple times on the mound;
    (10) failed to give vets time off, e.g. playing Utley, Howard and Rollins every day;
    (11) batting order was questionable with Ruiz (high obp) batting at bottom and Howard plugged in 4 hole every day;
    (12) did not make adjustments even when Phillies were out of contention.

    I had high hopes for him after Manuel who I wasn’t fond of, and I thought he made some ok decisions at the beginning of the year. But there were too many head-scratching decisions as the season progressed. It’s difficult to say whether the FO imposed any limitations on his ability to make decisions. It seems that once the Phillies started losing, he panicked and just rode his vets and reliable pitchers into the ground. You can’t do that. If he were let go, that’d be fine with me.

    • ASK

      November 07, 2014 01:35 PM

      Bob,

      That’s a great list although I have a small quibble with #6. At which position(s) did he play a veteran who was blocking a young player who actually projects to have value? The only position where I think you could make an argument against Sandberg is 1B and, even there, it seems as though when he was ready to start giving Ruf more playing time at Howard’s expense, it seems as though an order came down from the front office to keep playing Howard.

      • Nick

        November 07, 2014 01:58 PM

        After getting called up on September 2nd, Franco sat nine games and only pinch hit in two additional games. If you’re going to start his arbitration time, they could have at least thrown him out there 90% of the time (unless injured).

        Ruf was used as only a pinch hitter 11 times and sat three games in September.

      • Bob

        November 07, 2014 02:01 PM

        In addition to Ruf at 1B, I would’ve liked to see Rupp behind the plate, Cesar Hernandez at 2B, and Altherr or Perkins or Asche in RF. Do they project as having value? Maybe, but probably not. Yet I would’ve liked to see them get some playing time and experience to see if they can even become passable bench pieces particularly in that lost season when the vets were worn down and we have a wealth historical knowledge on Chooch, Utley, and Byrd.

  5. mike

    November 07, 2014 01:37 PM

    he always left in diekman too long. but in his defense the righties were horrible.
    i will not blame ryne for brown sucking.

  6. Russell

    November 07, 2014 04:23 PM

    C+ is way to high when a coach loses as many as he did by his own decisions! !!!!! It’s time the Philadelphia Phillies go get a GM and a coach !!!!!!!!! GM -f coach-f-

  7. Boxscore

    November 07, 2014 04:42 PM

    I think he was a puppet for the front office. His public comments made Andy Reid sound good. After the September callups they kept saying they were trying to win as many games as they could, which meant keep playing the veterans.

    I think C+ is right.

    • tom b

      November 07, 2014 06:24 PM

      playing those vets to win more games? seems to me they proved all year that they were incapable of doing that.

  8. Billy Mack

    November 07, 2014 04:08 PM

    Sandberg was fine, amaro gave him a lousy team.

  9. tommy

    November 07, 2014 05:31 PM

    bring charlie back sangberg would be a good asst

  10. Callison fan

    November 07, 2014 04:35 PM

    I wanted so much for Sandberg to be a great manager, but he seems comatose in the dugout, doesn’t appear to know when to change pitchers and either hasn’t the imagination to fiddle with the lineup (such as benching a non-productive Howard) or is a toady to Amaro, taking his orders from the boss to be as bland as could be.

    I hope he manages (pun intended) to grow a pair, take a smidgeon of Bowa’s emotions onto himself and use the knowledge that he must have gained in a Hall of Fame career before it’s too late. But if the 2015 Sandberg is a clone of the 2014 version, he needs to go.

  11. JAMES A. KRUMM

    November 07, 2014 10:54 PM

    This is not about players but is something important to me since I watch most all the TV games when they’re on & can find what channel there on. It about the person who does the play by play + A LOT MORE ! He might seem like a likable person but it’s all about ‘Things that DON’T have to be said”- that bothers me & I MEAN A WHOLE LOT ! If I were a blind man watching the game (why would a blind man watch a game,) he wouldn’t – let me explain. HE DOES PLAY BY PLAY AS IF ALL THE VIEWERS WERE BLIND or knew nothing about baseball, which MOST of us do !!! He does not have to tell us the player swung & missed at the pitch or it was a foul ball (by 200 feet) – all things like these but MANY,MANY other things similar to those calls that are NOT needed to be said, that is why I’m watching it – not listening to it on a RADIO. Do you get the picture. SIMPLE PUT, HE JUST NEED TO SHUT HIS BIG MOUTH A LOT OF TIMES & that is “very annoying to listen to” – inning after inning, game after game. I’ve tried turning on the radio guy’s (who are good & even they don’t say as much as he does !) HE IS A PLAIN PAIN IN THE ASS ! Never had a problem with any other P. x P. in all of my 77 y.o. – heard a lot since the mid 40’s., that is a lot of hearing & SEEING games, national & american leagues. Please pass this on to the owners, etc. Thank you very much (By the way, his name is “TOM McCARTHY”)

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