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Monday, September 01, 2014

Nitkowski: Wanted: Major League manager…sort of.

Right after Bo Porter was hired [as Astros manager] I was told he was the only candidate who answered “yes”€™ to the question, “€œare you OK with influence from the front office in every day decisions like setting the lineup?”€ There was a reason he was the only one who said yes, no one wants to manage a major league team where they are told what to do by someone who has never played the game or even done the job.

There is balance here. Influences from front offices are part of the new equation in baseball and the game is smarter because of it. Clint Hurdle told me the Pirates utilize a sort of hybrid theory and it is working well in Pittsburgh. He is open to advanced metrics, he listens, he gets it and he and the front office work well together to implement the new school of thought.

There is one essential caveat though, he makes the final in game decisions, including lineups and he is never second guessed on those decisions…

The Astros need two managers. One right now who is not competitive and will do whatever the front office tells him while they’€™re still losing. Then they’€™ll need one when they get good who is ultra competitive and has the track record to tell the front office to back off. Of course that guy will go through the interview process and immediately withdraw his name.

Something has to change or this will be the beginning of a cycle that never ends in Houston.

The District Attorney Posted: September 01, 2014 at 03:10 PM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, bo porter, clint hurdle, managers, pirates

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 01, 2014 at 04:50 PM (#4783235)
Player-manager Jose Altuve!
   2. ReggieThomasLives Posted: September 01, 2014 at 05:01 PM (#4783244)
Luhnow also needs to sacrifice several goats and purify himselve in the waters of lake Minnetonka if the Astros are ever to become successful.

Players always hate their managers. Either for not playing them enough, or not in their preferred role, or pushing them to play when they don't feel ready, or when the manager demands they sacrifice or pitchout when they think it's dumb. Yet somehow if the front office tells the manager to do one thing differently, the manager was beloved by all, and becomes the only reason these poor aimless souls could find a way to even lace up a uniform or swing a bat.

Baseball is such an anachronistic world, where an on field manager expects to be able to work completely independently of his bosses preferences or even demands. I think Houston really screwed up hiring Porter and still has one chance to fix it. They need to hire someone smart who understands people, esp. baseball players, but also has an open mind to using analysis and front office resources to make the best strategic and tactical in game decisions.

You have to hire someone like this before you start winning, or they'll get destroyed by the media whenever they fail to meet expectations.The Diamondbacks demonstrated this back when they were still a smart organisation and hired AJ Hinch, a super smart guy, well liked, a natural leader on virtually every team he played for, and well experienced in everything in professional baseball except being a manager. But he was handed a team that was expected to compete, but actually had a horrific bullpen, and AJ had no chance to survive his own learning curve.

Get someone with smarts and ability now, and by the time the team is talented enough to win he will no longer be that guy who never managed before and will have a chance at survival. God forbid he not know his reliever has to face at least one batter though, the shitstorm will make it look like Bo Porter got a free pass.
   3. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: September 01, 2014 at 06:23 PM (#4783304)
Luhnow also needs to sacrifice several goats


Next step: add Chris Truby & Albert Belle to front office.
   4. The Duke Posted: September 01, 2014 at 06:39 PM (#4783312)
I say, go the whole way and don't hire a manager. Hire Erin Andrews for the sole purpose of sauntering out to the mound to make pitching changes. Put a headset on her and tell her to do exactly what you want from the press box. That's kinda her job today.

We really aren't that far off from not needing managers. Look how close we are to not needing umpires. Except for balls and strikes, you could play on the honor system and use replay for close calls. Even on balls/strikes, I would say you are only 3-5 years away from fixing that issue. I would much prefer the game without the men in blue.

Luhnow, just do it.

   5. Weratych Posted: September 01, 2014 at 11:04 PM (#4783428)
Luhnow-tic should just manage. When your that smart and intelligent cut out the middle-man and do it yourself. He's already got his NASA buddy Sig the analytic's guru in the dugout with computer to make in game defensive adjustments. We should all be thankful that we have the opportunity to watch this incredible genius work. Would be great to watch him out manage all the other stiffs in division, Sciocia, Melvin, Washington and McClendon. What do those guys know about the game? None of them ever won a fantasy league championship.
   6. base ball chick Posted: September 01, 2014 at 11:24 PM (#4783437)
um
reggie

luhnow thought that bo porter WAS that kind of guy and obviously something went wrong

the FO needs to gather all the players and tell them straight out that they make ALL the decisions and the manager is just there to hand the lineup card and pull pitchers when the FO wants them pulled and all the rest and he really has no other function. pretend he is a robot. because that is exactly all he is, and the team is required to have one, so deal with it.

oh yeah - we're not available to complain to. you can just shut up and eat poop or we'll trade your ass out (see jarred cosart, bud norris, etc)
   7. starving to death with a full STEAGLES Posted: September 02, 2014 at 12:23 AM (#4783453)
We really aren't that far off from not needing managers. Look how close we are to not needing umpires. Except for balls and strikes, you could play on the honor system and use replay for close calls. Even on balls/strikes, I would say you are only 3-5 years away from fixing that issue. I would much prefer the game without the men in blue.
i am intrigued by your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

but seriously, let's do it. owners will love it because they'll save money; players will love it because they'll get rid of umpires; fans will love it, cause the game will go faster; umpires will ####### *HATE* it, which will make everyone else even happier because seriously, #### 'em. if they weren't so aggressively inept this wouldn't even be a thing.
   8. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: September 02, 2014 at 02:07 AM (#4783471)
Have a machine call balls and strikes, defensive team calls everything else. Review anything close. Why not.
   9. zonk Posted: September 02, 2014 at 08:33 AM (#4783506)
Is it really that difficult to find a manager who actually buys into the same sort of analytics that Luhnow wants to bring to bear?

Obviously, you'd probably have to go young - someone in his 40s, let's say - but rather than hiring based on a guy who answers yes to the question of "are you OK with influence from the front office in every day decisions like setting the lineup?" -- how about a guy that buys into the data and analysis side of things that the front office wants to be part of the decision?

Of course, we don't know the whole story here - quite possible that this is exactly what Luhnow asked/how he phrased it...

But - if I were a saber-GM, this is what I'd be looking for interviews... Not a marionette - but someone who understands and buys into what we're trying to do. I wouldn't expect to be handing him lineup cards - but I'd want to do things like have regular meetings, say, prior to upcoming series where we'd go over the data, look at the simulations, etc and rather than it being the "front office" decisions being pushed down to a robot manager, the decisions basically become "organization" decisions.

I find it hard to believe that no such hire is available -- hell, Earl Weaver was doing precisely this sort of thing in making his day to day decisions before anyone ever heard of Bill James.

I guess the big sticking point is that the manager is still a human being - and a human being is inevitably going to going to go 'gut' on occasion... and deviating from the probability path sort of invalidates the whole thing.

Still - I'm just saying that finding a puppet is always going to be an exercise in futility and a waste of salary to boot... Go find the guy that wants and will use this information, not the guy who agrees to just blindly plug and play.
   10. chemdoc Posted: September 02, 2014 at 12:14 PM (#4783730)
Is it really that difficult to find a manager who actually buys into the same sort of analytics that Luhnow wants to bring to bear?


It's not that hard. Tell him, Wash.
   11. The District Attorney Posted: September 02, 2014 at 12:29 PM (#4783746)
Go find the guy that wants and will use this information, not the guy who agrees to just blindly plug and play.
I agree with this...

I'd want to do things like have regular meetings, say, prior to upcoming series where we'd go over the data, look at the simulations, etc and rather than it being the "front office" decisions being pushed down to a robot manager, the decisions basically become "organization" decisions.
... but I disagree with this. Maybe the manager can meet with the analytics guys, or with the coaching staff (presumably also ex-players who "buy into the program") that is tasked with translating things from SQL into Athlete. i.e., he is consulting with people who either report to him, or are on his level.

But the manager shouldn't be asked to meet with his superior and justify, or pre-justify before acting, everything he does. He should have final say over lineups and in-game decisions, and he can't have that with the GM micro-managing it. "Suggestions" from your boss aren't really suggestions.
   12. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: September 02, 2014 at 12:29 PM (#4783747)
Is it really that difficult to find a manager who actually buys into the same sort of analytics that Luhnow wants to bring to bear?


They've found some. Two of the most expressly open to analytics and Saber stuff, at least upon their hiring, were Manny Acta and Bobby Valentine (before the Boston gig, at least). I assume A.J. Hinch was at well, given the nature of his appointment.

None of their tenures would be described as smashing successes.

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