Wednesday, October 10, 2012

BBA Awards, Part 1: Connie Mack

It's that time of year again. As an active member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA), I'm asked to vote on several year-end awards, so this post will get things started.

The Connie Mack Award is the BBA equivalent of Manager of the Year.

It's tough deciding what manager had the most positive impact on his team in a given year. There aren't any statistics, and there really is no way of evaluating each skipper's ability as a leader, something which is entirely too subjective for my taste anyway.

So, the only thing I really have to go on is what manager's team most exceeded expectations. To get an idea of this, I looked at ESPN's 2012 MLB Preview, in which 50 "experts" predicted who would make—and who would advance in—the playoffs.

Starting with the American League, as it turns out, the ESPN experts weren't much help. I'm sure you're completely shocked about that.

Of the 50 prognosticators, only two of them picked a team other than the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Rangers and Angels to qualify for the postseason, and that oddball team was the Blue Jays. So, since not a single person picked the Orioles or Athletics, this didn't offer much help in deciding between the two clear-cut best candidates for the award.

But, the team that not only exceeded pre-season expectations, but also continued to defy the notion that eventually they would be exposed as pretenders, is the Orioles. Their +7 run differential was that of a team expected to finish 82-80 rather than 93-69. This 11-win difference can probably be partially attributed to good fortune, timely hitting and strong relief pitching. But, the other factor that may or may not be relevant is shrewd management.

Yes, I'm guessing Buck Showalter had something to do with the Orioles' ability to play over their heads this year, and for that reason he edges out the Athletics' Bob Melvin for my choice as the American League's Manager of the Year.

Third place goes to Robin Ventura, for guiding the White Sox—another team nobody gave a chance to win the AL Central over the mighty Tigers—to an 85-77 season that landed them three games short of the playoffs.

Connie Mack Award - AL
  1. Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles
  2. Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics
  3. Robin Ventura - Chicago White Sox

The National League was a little easier, in my opinion. Well, at least my first-place vote wasn't too difficult.

Only 15 of ESPN's 50 experts picked the Nationals to make the playoffs, and they, in fact, finished the season with the best record in all of baseball. Almost twice as many picked the Cardinals, Giants and Reds, which is a big number, considering the predictions are spread over quite a few more teams than in the American League.

That leaves the Braves among playoff teams, who were, somewhat surprisingly, only picked by 14 of the 50. So, somewhat reluctantly, I'm going with Fredi Gonzalez—whose team did bounce back a little better than the Red Sox from last year's disastrous September—as my second-place vote to the Nationals' Davey Johnson.

For third place, I'm throwing a vote to the Pirates' Clint Hurdle for leading his team to their best performance—sadly, at 79-83—since 1997.

Connie Mack Award - NL
  1. Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals
  2. Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves
  3. Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates

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