How much of a difference will Bryan Price make versus what Dusty Baker would be able to do?

Well, for starters, you could have had Roseanne Barr manage the 2014 Reds and the outcome likely would have been the same. The point being, we haven’t had a chance to see what Price can do at the helm with a healthy roster. We’re hoping to find out in 2015.

A question: How much and in what aspects can a new manager influence a team’s performance on the field?

In terms of win-loss record, according to the analysis of Neil Paine at fivethirtyeight.com, the average manager’s influence is somewhere inside the range of two more wins and two more losses. However, according to sabermetrician Chris Jaffe, who recently penned a book entitled “Evaluating Baseball’s Managers: A History and Analysis of Performance in the Major Leagues,” a good manager can add 3-5 wins in a season while a poor manager can cost a team that same amount.

To draw that conclusion, Jaffe inspected the performance of teams versus the expected performance of those teams in a given season. “There’s a feeling that part of it is accounted for by chemistry, which is really hard to quantify,” he said. Jaffe adds that “there are a lot of decisions to be made, but ultimately, the job is to be leaders of men.”

Chemistry, Decision Making and The Players

We can all agree Sparky Anderson was one of the greatest managers in baseball history. He won three World Series and the sixth-most games of all-time. If you were lucky enough to speak with Sparky about managing, he would have insisted that “you win because of the players.” With that contention, would it have mattered if it was Dusty Baker or Bryan Price or the ghost of John McGraw managing Cincinnati in 2012? Did the injury to Johnny Cueto and the inspired play of the San Francisco Giants make the difference, regardless of which two men were filling out the lineup cards?

Was it that the Reds weren’t mentally prepared to handle the series falling apart on them? Or would a few different decisions have made the difference between marching on or ending the season in shame? Or was it simply that the Giants had a better roster than the Reds?

Cincinnati’s mental state and team chemistry will be difficult to define, especially by people like us who never spent a second in the clubhouse that season. In-game decisions will always be praised when they work and second-guessed when they fail. As for the players, well, the Giants went on to beat St. Louis in the NLCS and then sweep Detroit in the World Series. Would the Reds have been able to pull that off?

A Change Was Necessary

After the way the 2012 and 2013 seasons ended, we all knew it was time for Dusty Baker to move on. The team’s performance down the stretch in 2013 was particularly disheartening and lackluster, and it begs the question: If it had been Price steering that ship, would things have been different?

Further: Is Bryan Price a better man for the job than Baker moving forward? We obviously don’t have a significant sample size to determine the answer to that. And nobody’s arguing with the decision, especially since Price’s value with the pitching staff has been tremendous, and had the Reds not offered him the manager’s job, he likely would have bolted for another organization.

Back to Dusty. Was Baker simply an average manager (+/- 2 wins) or was he in that “cost your team 3-5 wins” category like a lot of Cicninnati fans believed him to be? Or was he given a flawed roster, as he believed it to be?

Factor in: Other than that final stretch of 2013, you’d have to say the Reds had pretty good chemistry over Baker’s tenure–after all, they won two division titles. Baker’s always been known as a player’s manager. And lastly, according to Paine, in-game decisions generally don’t make much difference over the long haul.

Dusty Baker or Bryan Price: Does it matter?

39 Responses

  1. Chuck

    The manager may only make a 2 to 3 win difference, but he could cost a 20 game loss difference. And here is why. How many other managers would lead off a CF who is hitting .200. How many times did he bench good players instead of washed up veterans. i.e. Renteria and Royce Clayton. The GM even listened to Dusty too much when it came to aquiring “Dusty guys.” I’m not convinced that Price is the greatest manager. We don’t have enough material to work with yet. He had his hands tied with Votto out and Bruce putting up below average numbers, and we lost SinSooChoo. Yes, Dusty made the playoffs twice. I would have loved to see what any other manager in the bigs would have done with an MVP Votto, and a great team. We had one of the better hitting and pitching staffs in all of baseball. Price would have easily won that many games if not more.
    The other problem with Dusty was his overuse of pitchers and not trusting the bullpen. I don’t know how many times I would yell at the TV to take a pitcher out. He would leave them in until they relinquished the lead. A good manager would see that a pitcher is getting into trouble, is tired, and we need to replace him. While Price may not be perfect, I did not find myself questioning the manager every game like I did Dusty.

    • proudpapa75

      Yea, I think its a little crazy for these guys to attempt to decide the difference in games won and lost that a manager can make. I personally believe it could vary greatly.

    • DJM

      Chuck how is Price working out for you this year? As the reader stated we don’t have the experience of sitting in a MLB locker room. I don’t believe Dusty was the real problem. MLB managers do not cost a 20 game loss difference either. You have to have something to work with. Walt Jocketty is the number one problem. He is responsible for bringing in the players to the GM. You were also wrong about the GM listening to Dusty too much. I agree that Dusty had some say so, but not as much as what you think. There have been several documented disapprovals by Dusty for the player selections. Price is a novice Manager and it is evident how this season is starting to turn out.

    • earmbrister

      Yeah, that was the first thing I noticed. Pretty sad that this caption aired on TV.

  2. kmartin

    Jux, you started this posting with the sentence: “How much of a difference will Bryan Price make versus what Dusty Baker would be able to do?”

    About five or six weeks ago, I saw a quote by Price to the effect of: “I am going to manage more by my gut this year.” I wanted to cry. My fear is Price “morphs” into Baker and that there will be little, if any, difference having Price doing the decision making.

    • THEGAFFER

      I don’t think Price could morph into Baker any more than he already has. I am fine with managing by your gut if your gut is not straight out of the 1960’s leisure suit wearing, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other. Price made nearly every call last year the same as Baker had. OK, maybe Votto in the 2 hole was “out of the box” for him but what else?

      If Price still had Rolen, he would have played 3rd batting 4th and Frazier would have been in LF I bet too! Mesoraco still rarely caught Cueto (I wonder why Cueto had such low run support). Any accountability . . . . HA!

      • Ron Fulton

        Votto belongs in the 2 hole and any where else is absurd

    • redmountain

      Truth be told, most managers go with their gut and are quite successful at it. I think you misinterpret what he was saying. I think he is saying that last year he was relying on his scouts, coaches, and “the book”. This is the second year he has been a manager. No preparation will be enough to get ready for that. Therefore, he is growing into the job and may still make “rookie” mistakes.

      Hopefully, this year he will get a chance to manage a full team. That will require health as making changes may be difficult.

  3. unc reds fan

    I think the same comments made about Dusty can be made about Walt…we need to continue to clean house if we ever expect to compete in the now competitive central

    • Ron Fulton

      Amen to that. Jocketty is the worst GM in baseball and Castellini resigns him. Now it’s on him.

      • redmountain

        Hardly the worst GM. Amaro has a roster that is ancient, overpriced, and impossible to get rid of for much. Besides, guys who are over the hill like Utley do not want to be traded. Their minor leagues are pretty barren. There are other examples as well. Contrast that to what Jocketty has done this winter and it is not even close.

  4. Ron Fulton

    Baker was the worst I have ever seen and you see noone else jumped to hire him either. Too early too tell about Price. The first sign will be where will Votto bat and if it isn’t in the 2 hole than he is no better.

    • jessecuster44

      Dusty Baker – still not employed. Looking at the end of 2013 RS, and games 3-5 of the 2012 NLDS should tell you why he’s tending his garden right now.

    • redmountain

      I would agree if I thought others on the roster would benefit from a base clogger on base. I think Frazier makes more sense, because he is much more likely to put a ball that is not in the strike zone in play. Votto is not a good hitter with a base stealer ahead of him.

  5. lwblogger2

    Baker is also getting up in years and had some health issues. How do we know he really doesn’t want to manage anymore? MLB manager is a pretty thankless job. You do it because you love baseball and you love doing it. Most managers could make a decent living as analysts or roving instructors. They don’t need to manage for their livelihood. Being that he’s older and had those minor strokes, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if when he was approached about managing he simply said, “no thank you.”

    I’m not a fan of many of the moves he made and it was indeed time for a change but the constant bashing of him isn’t productive nor is it any fun to read. He’s gone and it’s time to start bashing on Price, Jocketty, and whoever else ticks you off that’s still employed with the team. Then when they get replaced, move on to the next guy.

    • WVRedlegs

      I think I read just last week that Baker said he would like to manage one more time. Of course, with a side of “if the situation were right”. I wasn’t too hip on Baker, but he did an adequate job.
      The 2012 season will go down in Reds history as the Year of the Squandered Golden Chance. All of management was responsible for that.
      I wonder if Baker took that wooden table with him when he left or did he auction it off for charity? It was the table he had in his locker room office that he had many HOF players sign. There is that funny story where (HOFer) Marty Brenneman always came into Baker’s office and looked at all the autographs and was itching for Baker to ask him to sign it too. But Baker, who had been advised of Marty’s desire to sign the table, would always mess with Marty and purposely would omit asking MB to sign it before he would exit his office. I think it was in the 2012 season when Baker finally asked MB to sign the table too.
      Baker could get a team to the playoffs, but once there it always ended with a big thud.
      Lets give Price some time to build his team. Price is going to be an outstanding manager. I just hope it is with the Reds and not some other team.

      • lwblogger2

        Biggest knock on Baker in my opinion was that he managed the post-season very much like it was the regular season. Maybe a little more aggressive with moves and changes but not nearly as proactive or “all in” as one really needs to be in the post-season. That’s my take anyway.

        And yes, I may be wrong and Baker may still want to manage. I’m just putting it out there that he may not be wanting to, just so people may consider that possibility.

      • DJM

        WVREDLEGS how is Price working out for you this year? As the reader stated we don’t have the experience of sitting in a MLB locker room. I don’t believe Dusty was the real problem. You have to have something to work with. Walt Jocketty is the number one problem. He is responsible for bringing in the players to the GM. You were also wrong about the GM listening to Dusty too much. I agree that Dusty had some say so, but not as much as what people think. There have been several documented disapprovals by Dusty for the player selections. Price is a novice Manager and it is evident how this season is starting to turn out.

    • jessecuster44

      That’s pretty funny, but Dusty deserves to be bashed around here for the hack job he did from October 2012 to October 2013.

      The bashing of the toothpick is cathartic. I for one, hope that Bryan Price gets bashed hardly at all this year.

      • WVRedlegs

        FSO did a segment on the table in a pre-game show before a game during the 2013 season. It was a funny story. Baker had had Reds HOFers sign it like Bench, Morgan, Perez, Larkin and Frank Robinson among others. Willie Mays and Hank Aaron had signed it when they had visited Baker at GABP. If I remember the story correctly it all started with the Willie Mays signature. Baker said in the segment that when his time was done in Cincinnati he didn’t know if he would take it home with him or just auction it off for charity. A table like that might be worth over $10,000.

      • DJM

        JESSECUSTER44 how is Price working out for you this year? As the reader stated we don’t have the experience of sitting in a MLB locker room. I don’t believe Dusty was the real problem. You have to have something to work with. Walt Jocketty is the number one problem. He is responsible for bringing in the players to the GM. I agree that Dusty had some say so, but not as much as what you think. There have been several documented disapprovals by Dusty for the player selections. Price is a novice Manager and it is evident how this season is starting to turn out.

  6. Carl Sayre

    I would give Price the benefit of the doubt because of issues beyond his control. I won’t do that because the simplest thing he could have controlled was his 3rd base coach and the organization had to force him to fire him. I understand he is a “baseball man” and I am just a fan but I caught myself shaking my head 4 or 5 times a week last year. The fact he didn’t have a bat but was still worse than Ludwick, Cozart and Hoover combined should make it clear how I feel about that terrible joke played on us fans.

  7. Jeremy Conley

    Dusty Baker was the worst in game manager I’ve ever seen. The way he thinks about baseball is the very opposite of the new, business and science-based, approach. He was also a terrible communicator when it came to the media. He would criticize the media for asking him questions, and criticize the fans for being down on the team when they were losing. He was also incredibly stubborn, and seemed at times not to change something only to spite the people that were criticizing him.

    I was horrified when they hired him, it was a nightmare to watch games with him as manager, and I was incredibly relieved when he was finally let go.

    That said, Price did not do much to inspire me last year. He was better than Baker, but not by nearly as much as I would have hoped. He managed the bullpen and batting order in almost exactly the same way as Dusty. Chapman for one inning with a 3 run lead? Hamilton at the top of the order because of speed?

    From Price’s comments, it seems like he may have just been too nervous in his rookie year, so I’m willing to give him a mulligan, especially since he seemed to be so successful as a pitching coach. I hope to see some significant improvement this year though.

  8. Tom Reed

    I doubt if Bryan Price will make much of a difference in the 2015 season. The big difference will be if the Reds are not hit by the injury bug. I never thought Dusty Baker was the manager the Reds needed when he came aboard because at that time the Reds were a young team and Baker tended to favor the veterans. The owner, when he got rid of Baker, missed a chance to shakeup the front office and bring in a young GM more attuned to the analytic side of baseball, somewhat like the current situation in Cubby land.

  9. Dale Pearl

    Sorry but the injury is no excuse applies. I gave Bryan Price an entire year and the benefit of the doubt. He stinks. He isn’t a Dusty Baker, rather, he is worse. Price consistently made the same mistakes. choosing poor performing veterans over rookies chomping at the bit time and time again does not bode well for our budding farm system.

    base running decision making was probably the worst of any team in the league. The 3rd base coach was the fall guy but he was simply following orders.

    Bullpen usage…. despite injuries we had key players available and they were either not used or were used marginally or in questionable situations. We all know about Chapman and how most of us believe he could be pitching more. Certainly Chappy can do more than pitch the ninth 50 to 60 times a year.

    roster selection. Price must have some input here. I don’t think it is being realistic to put all the blame on Jocketty there (most of it should though). No back up first base man all year long. Pena is a catcher not a first basemen. Pena’s bat is not that good, let us be generous and say that he is a below average hitter. No Left Fielder all year. All year! Are you kidding me? Price couldn’t get to Jockstrap to bring up someone anyone and put them in left for long term?

    Updates on what is going on with injured players. I think that in this day and age that falls on the manager to some extent and Price appears to be two faced when it comes to the press.

    Maybe the most important charateristic and the cherry on top of the ice cream. Price is not someone that will ever be a fan favorite. He comes off as a yes sir, butt kisser, follow the leader, mindless zombie, type of a manager. He will never stand up and attempt to implement what he feels is right….. he will only do what he is told and follow the GM right into last place.

    I don’t think that there is a more inept manager in baseball right now. When 2014 started I thought that Price was the right man for the job, but he was unable to display diversity or urgency in the line of fire so in my opinion that means he is the one who should be fired. Go out and get a Paul O’Neill, a Barry Larkin, a Joe Morgan, or well Pee Wee Herman at this point.

    • jessecuster44

      Wow. Tell us what you really think…

      Price needs to manage the bullpen better, and I’ll give him some leeway with lineups until he has a healthy roster to work with.

      But here’s the thing. He needs to back up his words, or choose some different ones. The whole “Accountability” dialogue, and then holding no one accountable? Ridiculous. Sickening. And most of all – that nonsense encourages indifference. Not the way to fill seats.

      As for replacing him, the last time the Reds won a World Series was when they had one of the most volatile managers in their history. Coincidence?

  10. ohiojimw

    It is disappointing to see so many comments here based on selective and faulty memory. The bottom line (wins) says that from 2010 thru and even including the disastrous finish in 2013, Baker managed the Reds to the playoffs three times in 4 seasons and reached 90 or more wins in each of those three playoff seasons. The Reds org and fans should be hoping that Price can do nearly as well over the “big 162” as one of the local pundits likes to call the regular season.

    A lot of us, including myself, given the chance might do a lot of things differently than Baker did; but the bottom line is that with the Giants, the Cubs, and the Reds he demonstrated the ability to guide a team through the regular season to the playoffs with a degree of regularity.

    Baker’s problems were always in modifying his approach to succeed in the post season. The same apparent lack of urgency that befell him with the Reds in 2012 also afflicted him with the Giants in the World Series with versus the Angels and with the Cubs against the Marlins in the NLCS.

    • lwblogger2

      Couldn’t agree more on all points.

    • Jeremy Conley

      But this is fundamentally the problem with evaluating managers by wins. It’s why smart people have written books on the subject, rather than just looking at career win totals.

      If Dusty Baker was given the ’75-’76 Reds and won 190 games but no World Series, that would be a lot of wins. But in hindsight, we know that those were historically talented teams that should have been winning 110+ games per year and the World Series.

      The teams that Dusty Baker has been given over the years have all been incredibly talented. He got the juiciest years of Barry Bonds, when they had everyone they needed to back him up. He got the fully rebuilt Cubs when they were the best team in the NL Central by a mile, with Wood and Prior and Sosa.

      Then, because he got the reputation of being able to deal with star players, he got brought to the Reds and failed miserably to do anything good, until the Reds got a new GM and rebuilt with homegrown talent. Then Baker got to oversee the best Reds teams in 20 years, and still could not get them out of the first round.

      Looking at wins for a manager is 10 times worse than looking at wins for a pitcher. Baker has managed a lot of talent and always done it poorly. His teams have never won the World Series, even when he had the best players in the world on the most steroids.

    • jessecuster44

      Regular season wins don’t mean much, if you can’t advance in the postseason. Cincinnati has two franchises to remind us of that.

      When you have the talent to compete for a championship, you should compete. Not fail miserably. Dusty failed miserably in the playoffs.

      • Jason Lawrence

        I’m not a Dusty fan, I agree with the article, it was time for him to go, and I’m not defending him because I disagreed with a lot of his decisions, in the playoffs and otherwise. But number of championships or series wins doesn’t seem like it should be the ultimate factor in judging a manager either. Just in recent memory, Tony La Russa would not have a championship from 2011 (granted he has others) if David Freese hadn’t come up huge. And I think that if Phillips hadn’t tried for 3rd with no outs in the first inning of game 3 in 2012, the Reds would’ve won the game, and series. There’s no way to prove that, and it doesn’t excuse Dusty’s mistakes in games 4 and 5, but there is some luck involved. Not luck necessarily as much as it can come down to what your players do in the moment.
        Also, I don’t if any manager in history could’ve gotten the 2010 Reds to beat Phillies.
        Again, not defending him, he certainly had great opportunities with the Giants and Cubs too.

  11. redsfan06

    My biggest disappointment with Price last year was in him not using the call-ups more at the end of the season. The Reds were out of contention and could have used the opportunity to test drive some younger players. His comment about not wanting to disproportionately affect the outcome the pennant race seemed to be Bakerish. His concern should be about what is best for the Reds as a team.

  12. Tom Gray

    Bum Phillips was coach of Houston Oilers many years ago. His definition of a good coach or manager:

    He’ll take his’n and beat your’n and he’ll take your’n and beat his’n.

  13. Art Wayne Austin

    Dusty was a fill-in mg’r until 2011 who finally rallied the team to a play-off in his last year. He pressured the big three of upper management, Walt, Castellini and his son. One of the three was right, don’t resign him, but two votes to one means he was rehired. Dusty was not about winning now, he played crippled & washed up Jr because he was Dusty’s beer-garden crowd’s favorite who knew nothing about baseball. Jr couldn’t even run to first base. Next in line, was be fair to the players, for instance, didn’t pinch-run for a slow runner in the 9th, no outs, next hitter singles away from the outfielder. There would not even have been a throw had Leake pinch-run but the slow runner was cut down. Finishing last or third was winning the game. There was prejudice, keeping Wilson as 25th man instead of Frazier who had won a spot as a utility. It was easy for a fill-in manager to get by with dumping a career Red for a fill-in like Wilson, besides he bats left handed, didn’t hit for power and suspiciously he was black. The Price is Right, finally we got a career Red at the helm much like the Cardinals who has Matheney. One day we’re going to catch those guys.

  14. Steve Schoenbaechler

    In the long haul, no, I don’t believe it makes any difference. But, when faced with a key series or playoff series, Baker’s lackluster record speaks for itself. With Price, all we have to compare that to is the style of play the Reds seemed to play with as compared to Baker’s. I believe Price’s style of play would be much better in a key series or playoff series. The Reds, in my opinion, under Price, seemed like they played to win, with more of a sense of urgency (what so many thought was Baker’s weakness), what would be needed much more in a playoff series.

    Not to mention, Baker didn’t seem to be a manager who could make a team better. I mean, with the Giants and the Cubs, they had huge payrolls they could use to get better players, to make the team better. Especially with the Giants, they weren’t really going to fire the good friend and godfather to 2 of the club’s most storied heroes, not as long as the team was winning something. With Baker, it’s “you have to go get the players”. Especially with a young team, you have to be able to develop the players. Baker couldn’t do that. What did he do for Stubbs and Devin, who excelled outside of Baker. With Devin, Baker said the game was too fast for Devin. With given the chance to play regularly, Devin only became an All-Star. It was more like Devin was continually asked to change speeds, “Play 1-2 games, sit 3-4 games”, instead of what he was use to, being the man throughout the minors. He simply needed more time to get into a routine, something that many players at this level need to excel.

    • DJM

      Steve how is Price working out for you this year? As the reader stated we don’t have the experience of sitting in a MLB locker room. I don’t believe Dusty was the real problem. You have to have something to work with. Walt Jocketty is the number one problem. He is responsible for bringing in the players to the GM. I agree that Dusty had some say so, but not as much as what you think. There have been several documented disapprovals by Dusty for the player selections. Price is a novice Manager and it is evident how this season is starting to turn out.

  15. Brian Sands

    I’ve been a Reds fan for 26 yrs and I can sometimes recognize when the Reds are in rebuilding mode. Yes, the Reds had a lot of injuries to a lot of their stars in 2014. But the Reds were/are healthy to start 2015 and I’m not seeing hardly any improvement even though it’s still early this season. Now I’m starting to hear trade talk surrounding Cueto. We’ve already traded away some of our good bullpen pitchers. But this team is still largely the team that Baker had. I think I’ve seen enough of this team under Price to know how they’re gonna be and things aren’t looking good. So even though the Reds struggled under Baker in postseason play I prefer that to how this team is playing now. This team might turn it around under Price but I don’t see it happening, especially if we start trading our star players! Even if it was time for a change I wish the Reds had at least gone out & gotten another proven managerial winner instead of Price who was a rookie manager in 2014! I know the Reds don’t have as much money as other teams and so cost cutting measures have to be taken sometimes but it sucks when it’s costing us players and wins.