A narrative has begun to make Jim Riggleman the Reds’ permanent manager.
In response, another narrative has begun to continue the exhaustive national search for the next Sparky Anderson or Lou Piniella.
These two narratives have something in common. Most voices on both sides have a history of saying that it doesn’t matter who the manager is. That a baseball manager has the least effect on a team’s performance among team sports, is a long-held belief. Is that simply a narrative that has gained so much steam that it is become akin to a natural law? Is it an over-simplification of a complex equation?
You can’t have it both ways. Either a manager has an effect or he doesn’t. The answer, as with most topics that are not black and white, is somewhere in the middle. So did the Cubs win the World Series because of their great young lineup, a strong pitching staff or Joe Maddon? It’s still a team game even if it is dominated by one-on-one battles. Credit should go to all three.
Managers with an interesting personality like Maddon get more credit. Quick: Who’s the manager of the Houston Astros?
Riggleman is a good choice for what the Reds need today. The best any baseball team can do is to choose a manager who has a feel for the game and its changing nature, can relate positively to players and is not afraid to take chances.
The narrative in recent Reds’ history was that no manager could win with the players Bryan Price had to work with, which actually puts the bottom line on the front office. But he was heavily criticized anyway. I didn’t care for his handling of the bullpen and his misguided loyalty to players who weren’t performing. But before this season, the team played hard for him. Not sure that was the case in April.
Now the Reds are hot and playing like the .500 or a-little-better-than-that team I expected this season. Those who don’t want Riggleman give all the credit to the players. Those who want Riggleman give him too much credit.
Hot streak or not, Riggleman has had a positive effect. To argue against that is to say that managers don’t matter. And if you argue that Riggleman has had no positive effect – that it’s only the players – then you defeat your own argument that Riggleman is not the right man for the job. If the manager doesn’t matter, why do you care? Why even have a manager?
What has Jim Riggleman done to help this team?
- Brought a measure of accountability: The play is sharper on the field. If you actually watch the Reds night after night, you see this. Money makes players comfortable. It’s the manager’s job to keep them uncomfortable and playing for their job. Riggleman has sent this message better than Price did at the end.
- Manages the bullpen well: Yes, the starters are putting the relievers in better situations and the relievers are doing their job. But when you know your role and you know the manager isn’t afraid to make a change, you perform better. It’s part of the accountability.
- Stack the lineup with your best offensive contributors in the top six: With what he has to work with, Riggleman’s lineup choices have evolved into this even if we don’t always like the order of those six. Early on I wouldn’t have said this about Riggleman’s choices.
Schebler, for now, is the Reds’ best leadoff hitter since Shin soo-Choo had an .885 OPS in his only season with the Reds in 2013. That number was second only to Joey Votto. Schebler’s OPS today is at a career high .843. I began asking for Schebler to lead off last year as we watched Billy Hamilton continue to founder. And for your consideration, Colorado leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon has a career .854 OPS. Not sure Schebler is the permanent answer depending on who gets added to the roster, but for now he’s the Reds’ Charlie Blackmon in a hitter- and home-friendly GABP.
Tucker Barnhart at No. 2 doesn’t do a lot for me, but neither does anybody else. An on-base guy with enough speed to score from second on most singles does not exist on this team without depleting the middle of the lineup. So Riggleman is right now doing the most with what he has. (He could also move Votto to No. 2 and rotate Barnhart down to No. 6.)
Where does Riggleman fall short?
- He can be indecisive: Remember the bench Winker drama? Managers make mistakes, but that could’ve been a big one had it lasted.
- He likes to sacrifice bunt: Asking Scooter Gennett to bunt the other night made no sense. Giving up an out for anyone but a pitcher (except maybe the always dangerous Anthony DeSclafani) goes against the percentages of scoring runs.
- Batting Hamilton ninth: He should be batting eighth. Too many times the pitcher has come to the plate with runners on base and killed rallies. DeSclafani’s feat won’t be repeated until after the next comet fly-by.
There are unanswered questions as well.
- Can he keep a coaching staff happy and working well together? Does he delegate well?
- Will he become set in his ways just because a lineup choice works for a short time, etc.?
- Can he make his opinion count in personnel decisions? Riggleman and his staff know the players better than anyone else. I’m for this as long as loyalty doesn’t blind them.
The decision on a permanent manager should not be made on a whim. Winning streaks and losing streaks come and go and should not be a deciding factor, only a part of the equation. No one should get the job because “they deserve it.” The Reds must look at the long haul and create a list of what they want in a manager. And that list should be much longer than my short list.
Analytics have taught us not to rely on single stats to determine worth and contribution. Analytics has taught us to look at lots of factors, devise formulas that account for many things and make the best decisions possible with the information we have. No manager will fit all of the criteria any of us have.
If due diligence results in Jim Riggleman, then so be it. Even though Riggleman is the right kind of manager for today, I don’t think he will be the manager next season. But for now he’s doing the job this team needs of building consistency, accountability and confidence even if he gives the bunt signal when we don’t like it.
That’s a narrative the Reds can live with the rest of the summer.
Remembering Reds: Corky Miller
Among the Reds’ fan favorites is a man not known for his statistical achievements, but for simply how awesome he was.
Morgan, Bench, Robinson, Larkin, and Miller. All names that Reds fans recog…wait, Miller? As in Corky Miller? Absolutely. Corky Miller, the minor league catcher with 539 career MLB at bats. The Miller that holds a career .193/.277/.306 53 OPS+ and a 0.0 WAR, yet everyone knows his name. And adores him. His stats won’t jump off the page, but his laid back attitude and fu Manchu leave a mark on your memory.
Signed by the Reds in 1998, Miller did not reach the show until 2001. In his 11 year career spanning from 2001-2013 (didn’t appear in 2011/2012) Miller never played more than 39 games in one season. So how did he become a household name? Well, probably because he looks more like your fun uncle than your favorite team’s catcher. Now don’t get me wrong, Corky brought value to the teams he was on. He was as much as a coach/mentor as he was a ballplayer. You will still find him in the Reds organization helping the young catchers develop. Let’s take a look at some of Corky’s highlights.
Corky steals home
When you think about baseball players stealing home you might immediately think about the great Jackie Robinson sliding in against the Yankees as Yogi Berra losses his mind at the “safe” call. Hell, you might even think about Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez pulling off the impossible feat in the last scene of the Sandlot. Well, Corky Miller joined this elite group on September 27th, 2001. As Omar Daal of the Phillies threw to first Miller showed off his wheels as his much slimmer self had a perfect slide under the tag. Miller walked back to the dugout as if he’s done this 1,000 times. Incredible swagger.
The Dancing KING
Fast forward to late June 2013. Miller finds himself back in a Reds uniform for the first time since 2010. Looking more like the Corky we know and love, sporting the fu Manchu, Miller shows off his quick footwork. Juan Uribe flies out to Jay Bruce who’s throw home took Corky off to the left of home. Hanley Ramirez, not the best baserunner himself, runs past home, retreats, dances around the grounded Miller only to be tagged on the third attempt while flailing towards home. This is so ugly that it is absolutely beautiful.
The Next Cy Young
Corky was more than a catcher and fan favorite. He was an elite pitcher. Well, maybe not elite. Over his career in the minors he pitched 7.2 innings and surrendered 14 hits, 13 earned runs and struck out 2. But in 2012 while playing for the Louisville Bats he pitched a scoreless inning. Down 13-0 in the bottom of the 8th, Miller came in to throw some rainbows in the general direction of home plate. A fly out to left, a pop out to first, and a fly out to right Miller put down the Columbus batters in order.
While his career might not stand out, Miller’s impact has. One of the beloved players in the clubhouse, he has mentored many young catchers along the way. Here’s to many more great years to Corky!
How a Shortened Season can Help and Hurt the Reds
step back and attempt to look at the way the Reds can benefit from a possible shortened season and how it could hurt them.
The world is in an obscure and unsure place. Today we were supposed to be watching a parade and cheering on the Redlegs. Instead, we are confused about the future of the 2020 season as we watch the 7th straight episode of a Netflix series, perfecting social distancing. How the 2020 season will be played has yet to be determined. I want to take a step back and attempt to look at the way the Reds can benefit from a possible shortened season and how it could hurt them.
Each day that passes without baseball is a day closer to a season without 162 games. For the sake of argument, let’s say the season is somewhere between 75-100 games. What ways can that benefit the Reds?
1. They can get healthy. Suarez, Senzel, and Galvis (amongst others) have battled some spring injuries. Extra time off only helps their recovery and could lead to a 100% healthy “Opening Day” lineup. Although Galvis is not a top ten talent at short, he is much better than the current back up options. Luckily, he should be ready to go and 100%.
2. The rotation can be a great strength. We all know how strong the current rotation is. The Reds could adjust the strategy because you won’t be worried about getting starters 32 starts and 200ish innings. With a compact season, you could let starters go deeper in games, or even go to a shorter rotation because you won’t be trying to strength out the innings over several months. Bauer and Disco are both on contract years and will be laser-focused on making the most of their fewer starts to prove their value come next offseason. If the league goes heavy on doubleheaders, Mahle and a few others could step up into the expanded rotation and stronger than many team’s depth starters.
3. How a shorten season benefits Votto? As Joey ages, he will need more days off, especially if the decline is steady. If Joey does not have to prepare himself for 162 games, it could lead to better results as he would be fresher. We all know he can get off to slow starts and avoiding that would be crucial in a shortened season.
How can the shortened season hurt the Reds?
1. David Bell is still a new manager. Fresh, unproven, inexperienced. At times in 2019, he cost the Reds some games. There is little to no margin for error in a short season. Each game means more and the lineup experimenting with playing players out of position won’t fly. Managerial experience will be extremely important in 2020 and hopefully Bell has improved after year one.
2. Lack of important experience for prospects. Tyler Stephenson, Jose Garcia, Jonathan India, and many other prospects are missing out on developmental time. This one really stings. A couple of the Reds top prospects are projected to be on the 2021 roster but needed some time in higher levels of the minors to learn and iron out a few things. You can train and work with coaches during this time, but the actual game experience cannot be overlooked.
3. Pressure. Obviously, every game counts each season. But a shortened season stresses the importance of each game. The Reds cannot afford to go on a losing streak as they did at the beginning of 2019. The expectations for 2020 remain high, and the pressure to perform is building. The adjustment to the MLB for Shogo must happen fast. Senzel has to stay healthy. The margin of error shrinks and pressure goes up. Iglesias cannot struggle to close out games or he’ll be replaced.
The 2020 season won’t be ideal. No one wants it to be this way. Watching 162 games a year is a joy and I will miss the routine of watching the Reds every night. Let’s hope this shortened season feels and plays like a playoff series where every aspect of the game is emphasized and more important. Here’s to everyone staying safe and healthy, and the Reds winning the pennant.
Take a look at a few thoughts before we get this 2020 season underway!
What is this team’s greatest weakness and how do they go about addressing it? (@GeraldSHuber)
To me, it has to be defense. (Here’s an article I wrote about it: https://bit.ly/2wft1Bs ). Tucker and Casali are fine but not spectacular, Votto is mediocre, Moose is an unknown, and the outfield defense leaves you wanting more. Galvis is great at short, but many others could be troublesome. If defense is your greatest weakness, you probably have a pretty good team.
How many years until we see Jose Garcia? (@smoffe87)
Everyone’s new favorite prospect, and he should be. The future is bright. Garcia has yet to reach AA, where he’ll likely start this season. In high A Daytona he hit .280/.343/.436 with 8 HR and 37 (!) doubles. No need to rush the 21-year-old, but he likely is the SS in 2021 if all goes according to plan. The lack of depth at SS could rush him if injuries happen or he hits the cover off the ball.
Who will lead off? What do they do with Schebler, Reed, Mahle, and other players without options? (@StachlerJames)
Shogo Akiyama should see time as the leadoff. A career .376 OBP who has been closer to .400 in recent years (NPB league) has a chance to be a real difference maker.
Schebler, I think, will end up being traded or DFA. Reed has a tough first start, but its early and he looked great in limited time last season. Another lefty in the pen not named Peralta or Duke is welcomed. Mahle has an option and likely is headed to Louisville to get regular starts. The Reds will likely need him to start at some point during the season. Sims likely earns a pen spot, Travis Jankowski could be the final spot if injuries occur. His speed and defense are useful.
Is Senzel going to be a utility player or end up getting traded? (@GerryYnciarte65)
Being a super utility is not a bad thing. Ben Zobrist was a hell of a player in that role. However, I think Senzel will be seeing plenty of time in CF splitting with Akiyama. His bat is too good to be a true bench player. I don’t think he will be traded. It feels like he would have already been moved if that was the plan.
If Tucker or Casali get hurt do they let Farmer catch or Stephenson? (@OdeToRedsWS)
Catcher organizational depth is lacking. Stephenson could be the option if he is hitting well in AAA Louisville. I think we see him at some point this season. Only other catcher in the organization with MLB experience besides Casali and Tucker is Francisco Pena (190 AB .216/.249/.311). His stats are underwhelming at the plate but he’s a veteran and that carries value. Sadly, I doubt we see former Red great Ryan Lavarnway in 2020. Add Garcia and Stephenson to this lineup in 2021 and that team is very strong.
Over/Under….When do the Reds give up on the mix-n-match platoon ideas and have a regular lineup? Line is May 31st. (MTGPackFoils)
The days of the “same lineup everyday” are gone. And they should be. Putting out the same lineup doesn’t always mean the results will follow. Some players hit lefties but not righties and some hit righties and not lefties. Play the best players for each situation. Platooning can lead to the best results at times. So OVER. (More on that here: https://bit.ly/38cbCXD)
What are your thoughts on Shogo playing mostly center or left, if Senzel is healthy? (@Win1SuperBowl)
As it stands today, the outfield is crowded. It will play itself out. Akiyama can play all three OF positions and I could see him getting at-bats in the corner OF when Senzel is in CF. There’s true competition for at-bats this season and that’s absolutely a good thing. Players will have to earn their playing time.
Who is the backup SS? (@GebzillaG)
Kyle Famer. He ‘s such a unique player who can play all over the field. He was a college SS and has worked their early this spring. Across all levels he’s seen 76 innings at SS and hasn’t recorded and error. Blandino could also be the back up SS. Blandino has 60.2 innings at short in the MLB and is a .941 fielder there. 1692 innings at short in the minors with a .951 fielding %.