Thursday, November 1, 2012

Comment: Bruce Bochy's Place in Baseball History

Like many MLB managers, Bruce Bochy is a former backup catcher who put his time sitting on the bench to good use learning game strategy and what makes a baseball team tick.  His last stop as a MLB player was with the San Diego Padres where he was a backup catcher to Terry Kennedy on their pennant winning team of 1984.  He played his last season at age 32 in 1987.  He went on to manage in the minor leagues as well as coach at the MLB level for the next 7 years before taking over as Padres Manager in 1995 at age 40.

Bochy was successful in his 12 year tenure as the Padres manager, guiding them to the most successful stretch in franchise history.  Under his management, the Padres made 4 postseason appearances and won 1 NL pennant.  He was named Manager of the Year in 1996, the only time he has won the award.  Bochy gained a reputation as being an excellent manager of pitchers, particularly the bullpen which was always a strength of his Padre teams.  At the same time, 2 specific incidents may have caused a negative perception of his overall ability as a game tactician and his ability to relate to and utilize young players.

In the 1998 World Series against the Yankees, there was one game, which seemed to be winnable, where he seemed to get outmaneuvered into giving up his DH.  Whether that occurred as a result of an unfamiliarity with AL rules or a tactical mistake or just how the game played out, may never be fully settled.  Later in his tenure, he stubbornly insisted on playing a rapidly aging Vinny Castilla at 3B over the younger Sean Burroughs who the Padres front office saw as their third baseman of the future until the Padres traded Castilla, essentially so Bochy could not play him anymore.  In retrospect, it is clear that Castilla was done, but also clear that Burroughs was not the Padres long term answer at 3B.

Despite 2 consecutive postseason appearances in 2005 and 2006, new Padres executive Sandy Alderson decided he wanted new blood in the manager's chair and allowed Bochy to interview for the Giants job to replace Felipe Alou with the distinct implication that the Padres wanted him out and would be relieved of having to fire him if he accepted a Giants offer.  The Giants, by this time were in the post-Bonds era and in dire need of rebuilding.  Many Giants fans, including I, thought that Bochy might not be the right choice for that particular time preferring someone with experience managing in the Giants minor league system who might be more patient and nurturing of young players.

Bochy's first two years with the Giants were rough as they lost 90+ games back-to-back.  Bochy came under intense criticism from many corners who saw him as a symbol of a rebuild that was much too slowly paced for fan's satisfaction.  Nicknames like "Melonhead", "Botchy" and "Bork" became part of the standard Giants fan's internet lexicon.  But while the talent challenged team struggled, you could see some qualities that make Bochy a good manager.  He brought order to the chaos that Felipe Alou had left the bullpen in, installed Brian Wilson as the closer,  and he maintained a positive attitude in the clubhouse, at least by all appearances, despite all the losing.  Things were looking up in the talent front too as Matt Cain emerged as a solid MLB starter and Tim Lincecum won his first Cy Young.

By 2009, things had started to turn around.  Cain was establishes as a solid MLB starter.  Tim Lincecum had arrived and 2009 was his second Cy Young season.  Pablo Sandoval came up mid-season and darn near carried the team to the playoffs.  They won 88 games.  We all know what happened in 2010 with the mid-season arrival of Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner to expand the homegrown core and bring home the first World Series Championship in San Francisco Giants history.  With his second World Series win in 3 years, suddenly Bochy is the toast of the town as well as all of major league baseball.  Yesterday, I counted at least 6 separate articles trumpeting his Hall of Fame credentials!  During the post championship celebration, Brian Sabean declared him to be a no doubt Hall of Famer.

From a statistical standpoint, Bruce Bochy has now managed 18 seasons, 2898 games with a .502 winning percentage, 6 postseason appearances, 3 NL Pennants and 2 WS titles.  I thought it would be interesting to run down some of the managers who are already in the Hall of Fame to get a better idea of just how Bochy's record might stand up.  Here is a list by year of induction:

2010  Whitey Herzog, 18 years, 2409 games, .532, 6 postseason, 3 Pennants, 1 WS.

2008  Dick Williams,  21 years, 3023 games, .520, 6 postseason, 4 Pennants,  2 WS.

2000  Sparky Anderson, 26 years, 4030 games, .545, 7 postseason, 5 Pennants, 3 WS.

1997  Tom Lasorda, 21 years,  3040 games, .526, 8 postseason, 4 Pennants, 2 WS.

1996  Earl Weaver, 17 years, .583, 6 postseason, 4 Pennants, 1 WS.

1994  Leo Durocher, 24 years, .540, 3 postseason, 3 Pennants, 1 WS.

1983  Walter Alston, 23 years, .558, 7 Postseason, 7 Pennants, 4 WS.

That's right, Whitey Herzog and Earl Weaver only won 1 WS apiece!   Durocher and Alston managed before expanded playoffs so if you went to the postseason, you were in the World Series.  As playoffs have expanded, it has become easier to build up postseason numbers. This can be seen in the records of 3 recently retired managers who are widely considered to be can't miss Hall of Famers:

Bobby Cox, 29 years, 4508 games, .556, 15 postseasons, 5 Pennants, 1 WS

Tony LaRussa, 33 years, 5097 games, .536, 11 postseason, 6 pennants, 3 WS.

Joe Torre, 29 years, 4329 games, .538, 13 postseason, 6 Pennants, 4 WS.

There are at least 4 managers with 2 WS titles who are not in the HOF and may never get there:

Tom Kelly, 16 years, 2385 games, .478, 2 postseason, 2 Pennants, 2 WS.

Danny Murtaugh, 15 years, 2068 games, .540, 5 postseason, 2 Pennants, 2 WS.

Ralph Houk, 20 years, 3157 games, .514, 3 postseason, 3 Pennants, 2 WS.

Cito Gaston, 12 years, 1731 games, .516, 5 postseason, 2 Pennants, 2 WS.

Kelly had that sub .500 winning percentage and no postseason finishes except for the 2 years the Twins won it all. Murtaugh's career was interrupted several times with health problems.  Houk won all 3 Pennants in his first 3 seasons managing the Yankees and those wins are widely credited more to the organization than him.

Where does all this put Bruce Bochy?  Well, if his managing career ended today, it would compare favorably with several Hall of Fame managers, but I do not believe it would be a "slam dunk".  Some voters might well look at his overall winning percentage and hold that against him.  At least 3 managers who will likely preceed him in being voted into the HOF have clearly stronger resumes and his resume is not clearly stronger than several managers who are not in the HOF and may never get there.

On the other hand, Bochy is widely perceived to have won with teams whose talent was not expected to get them that far, which boosts his stock in some minds.  He also still has several years left to manage in which he has the possibility of going to more postseasons, winning more pennants and WS  and increasing his winning percentage.

At the very least, it is way past time to put away the name calling meme's and acknowledge that Bruce Bochy is a very good manager who deserves consideration for the Hall of Fame even if his career ended today.


  1. the reason bochy will never get into the hall

    how in the hell is the hof gonna fit that huge melon on a plaque

    guess who?

    1. yup

      are scouts in the hof? cuz i would like to nominate barr

      truly the architect of the giants turnaround

      greatest steal from the bums org...ever

    2. I'm very happy Barr works for the Giants. He was directly responsible for drafting Buster Posey, well, that and the stupidity of 4 teams drafting in front of the Giants. Don't forget though that Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner were all drafted before Barr came over. It's been a team effort on the part of the front office.

    3. I don't know if there are any scouts in the HOF, but one guy who deserves to be there is former Giants scout George Genovese who was legendary at finding inner city kids who were athletic and finding ways to turn them into ballplayers. Unfortunately, the Giants ended up trading most of his prize signings away so they could be stars for other teams.

    4. Hmm... maybe I'll have to post a Blast from the Past about Genovese?!

    5. George Genovese was fired by Sabean.......

    6. I love Barr as much as anyone, but Buster Posey was really a no-brainer at the #5 spot in that draft, I thought. If you have the chance to draft someone strongly considered for the #1 draft pick and you are down a bit from #1, really, should be a no-brainer (though a certain Giants board preferred the name of Smoak, Justin Smoak; that would have been the worse mistake EVER!).

    7. I did not know George Genovese was fired by Sabean, but if he was, it had been some time since he came up with any great finds. The inner city kind of dried up as a source of players in the 80's and that was Genovese's playground. Thanks for the tip, though. I will read up on his life more and maybe write a historical post on him at some point.

      Not sure where I read it, maybe on CSN Bay Area or the Giants website, but Barr had been following Buster Posey closely since he was 16 yo, got to know him and his family quite well. Ironically, Barr moving to the Glants made his dream of drafting Buster a possibility. Given Sabean and Tidrow's tendencies in the draft, I'm not at all sure the Giants would have drafted Buster and paid him that bonus had it not been for Barr advocating so strongly for him.

    8. Maybe Anon might take another look at the dates: according to the info I found on the web, the Giants let Genovese go in 1994 and Sabean arrived in 1997.

    9. Thanks for clearing that up, Campanari. I think I'll still do a Genovese Blast from the Past.

  2. Haven't thought about this much...still trying to get around the fact that we won 2 titles with 2 almost completely different everyday lineups, but almost the same pitchers.

    Does it imply, at least in our case and maybe for playoffs only, that pitching is more relevant than hitting?

    1. Oh, I've always believed that pitching is what wins championships. I think ogc has uncovered studies which pretty much prove that too. Absolutely, no accident that the constant from 2010 to 2012 was the pitching.

      The other constant was Buster Posey. The difference between 2010 and 2011 was Buster Posey being injured and the diffrence between 2011 and 2012 was Buster coming back from injury.

    2. I also think that any knowledgeable fan watching would agree that against 6 different postseason opponents in 2010 and 2012, Bruce Bochy clearly outmananged every single opposing manager and some of those managers are held in quite high esteem.

    3. That he does.

      Bochy has shown he's very good at postseason managing. And he's also good at regular season managing, but he shines when it is 'do or die.'

      I agree with you on pitcihng.

      Years ago, when there was all this talk of trading either Cain or Lincecum for a bat, I was for keeping them both (and wishing for more).

    4. Cox - The Giants had ALL the calls (and errors) go their way in that series. Not sure I would say Boch did anything spectacular in this one.

      Manual - Sure. To boot, hearing Charlie complain about the series afterward was fun too.

      Washington - And he won Manager of the year? He was an embarrassment.

      Baker - He continues to be outclassed by every little league manager he comes across.

      Matheny - He actually did not do anything wrong, he just did not make the big moves he may have needed to make (start Carpenter over Holliday, for example).

      Leyland - Not really that Leyland did a bad job as much as Boch did a STELLAR job.

      I would saw manager - a - manager, Noggin went 5-0-1. Not a bad tally.

    5. With Washington and Matheny - that was their first time to the series. Bochy's 2nd and 3rd. He was quick on the draw - learned from his mistake against the Yanks with the Pads. You have to be proactive.

      We talked about it in these pages when it was happening - I thought Baker pulling his Cuban lefty was a criminal offense in game 3. I am pretty sure I said something about it that night. We hadn't got any breaks yet and the baseball gods helped us with Rolen, but Dusty might have opened the door just a crack first...

      I actually like Charlie Manual a lot. He's just a plain spoken baseball guy. He definitely is more of a hitting coach than a pitching coach though. And I like Leyland. No apologies, just owned it. He knew he had a flawed pen, and not enough of a team to really compete. He was just hoping for his big guys to run into some fastballs. Well, this is LOS GIGANTES you're talking about! We don't just let you run into fastballs.... its how we roll.

    6. Thanks for the shoutout DrB. BLSL, here is the link to my business plan for the Giants, there are chapters that explain the studies that DrB noted (they were by BP in their book, Baseball Between the Numbers, and an article in THT).

      Basic study results: pitching and defense wins championships, offense has very little to do with winning.

      Both tackled from different angles but came to same basic conclusion. BP used regression techniques, found very little correlation between offensive metrics and going deep into the playoffs. Key metrics they touted were these three: pitching staff K/9; strong closer (high WRXL, their closer metric); strong fielding (as measured by their proprietary metric for fielding). The 2010 Giants, as best as I could pull from their data, ranked among the top 10 or so that they had in their book. Of the ten, 9 won the World Series, and the only losing one lost to one of the other 9. Don't know where the 2012 team will rank, but I doubt as high because WRXL is a counting stat and Romo was only a part-time closer, and the defense was poor early on but stellar by season's end.

  3. Great post DrB!

    No matter what the Naysayers want to say, 2 in 3 years is unique and rare, luck is not the cause, Bochy and Sabean are.

    Thanks for once to Sandy Alderson, he really likes to screw the Giants when he can, but he really did us a favor by pushing Bochy our way, I've grown to love Bochy. Oh, and the reason he let Bochy free was because he was still on contract to the Padres, but if he signed with another team, they save the money PLUS get to hire the guy Sandy wanted, Bud Black, ironically, an ex-Giants pitcher.

    I think his low career winning percentage might keep some against him but as you note, he should have many more years to get above that. I also think that more championships are in his/our future, and that should make the winning percentage issue moot, just like Torres' years with the Yankees made people forget about how awful the teams he managed before did. The voters at that point will forget that he was the manager of the Padres and ID him mainly as a Giants manager.

    1. Interesting article by Purdy today, got a couple quotes about Sabean hiring Bochy and changing the philosophy of the Giants. There is some moralizing lines in there, but the gist is that at the end of 2006 they decided to hang on to their pitchers instead of flipping them, and build around the park with serious intent.

      The more I think about it, I think they are going to have offers out for these guys which are fair but short term, I really don't fear any overbidding on the Giants part for Affeldt, Pagan and Scutaro. With Gary Brown in the wings, Pagan really shouldn't be a 3 year plan. The 5 year plan is Brown, and he might even be ready next year, at least mid-season. Pagan can play the corners, but do you really want him there? And as good as his defense has been, Brown will blow it out of the water. And I bet there are some trades out there that could be similar to the Pagan deal. And we even have a sweet trade chip out of the pen in Casilla...

      Its funny, because everybody has been so down on our prospects, but in the end Crawford proves out, Belt proves out, Panik and Brown both survive early big time slumps to finish with good numbers. I think there is a strong case that Brown is still our best prospect, and I expect him to make some adjustments and come up and shock all the prospect guys who are dropping him way down the top 100 lists.