Who should be the next Orioles' manager?

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Juan Samuel has the job now, but you have to assume that he’s truly just the interim guy.  Based on my perusal of Orioles’ blogs and stuff, O’s fans seem to be begging for an experienced major league manager, and one would think that Andy MacPhail is thinking the same thing.

But who?  The name I’ve heard the most from Orioles fans is Buck Showalter.  I can see the appeal: he’s smart, he’s experienced and he has a track record for turning teams around (see, Yankees, Diamondbacks).

I think people read too much into that, though. Sure, Showalter was around for the rebirth of the Yankees’ dynasty, but that’s more a story of a savvy front office than a managerial genius, ain’t it? Showalter’s success with the Diamondbacks is much the same story. Tell me: was the Dbacks’ 100-win season in their second year of existence a function of Showalter’s multi-year plan to launch that franchise coming to fruition or a function of the front office going out and getting Randy Johnson and squeezing good years out of some aging veterans?  Good job by Buck, sure, but it’s not a model that the Orioles are following.

Other candidates that get talked up by O’s fans are Tom Kelly and Davey Johnson.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but those guys are a bit long in the tooth to bring a young team up from nothing anymore, no? And that’s even if you assume that either of them want to manage the O’s. Davey has a bad history with Peter Angelos and Kelly seems pretty darn comfortable being Twins manager emeritus these days to want to try and figure out what makes Adam Jones tick.  If I had a veteran team I wanted to push over the top, sure, I’d consider both of them, but they just aren’t the right fit for Baltimore.

Who else? The Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly has a slide show of twelve potential managers, including Showalter, Johnson and interim guy Samuel.  Others on Connolly’s list are Phil Garner, Ryne Sandberg, Eric Wedge, Larry Bowa, Bobby Valentine, Bob Melvin, Rick Dempsey and a couple of minor league guys.

Bowa would certainly light a fire for a while, but that’s all he’s shown he can do as a manager and his act gets old pretty quick. Melvin might be a good choice — experienced but not too experienced — but he seems to be the Mets’ skipper-in-waiting and would probably decline. Same with Sandberg and the Cubs.

Valentine seems more like Johnson and Kelly to me inasmuch as I’d rather see him with a veteran team, not kids. Dempsey is a broadcaster and that’s a lot more comfortable a life than that of a manager, so he may have no interest.  The minor league guys would be viewed as Dave Trembley redux (i.e. no major league experience) so I can’t see the team going there.

Of course there’s very rarely a perfect choice when it comes to these things, and often the best man for the job isn’t among the initial group of usual suspects.  If I’m running the Orioles I let Samuel play out the year, wait and see who becomes available, and be confident that my considerable amount of young talent will be a drawing card for a lot of potential candidates.

In other words: wait until this winter, Andy.  You’ll do much better then.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.