I’m on record as believing that Buck Showalter should have been given a contract to manage the Baltimore Orioles in 2018. There isn’t much that’s going to sway me off of that opinion. However this past week we heard stories and rumors start to surface from very credible sources such as The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal that gave a lot of people some pause.
In short, the Orioles didn’t utilize analytics enough, which explains their quick malaise. And on top of that, it also explains why players many players who left the Orioles improved almost overnight. Is there something to that?
Buck Showalter isn’t the type of manager who’s going to embrace analytics the way that some of the younger managers and coaches do. That doesn’t make him right or wrong. It’s just a different approach – much more old school at that.
Buck believes that you win games by out-thinking, out-hustling, out-scoring, out-doing, and out-manuevering the other side. And it’s easy to see how a guy who’s played by that code his entire life would be adverse to allowing computer nerds to take over the game. And I don’t mean that to be disrespectful in the least. I mean that in the sense that the game’s won between the lines; not by crunching numbers.
This isn’t to say that some level of using analytics isn’t good. And I’m sure that Buck would tell you that. The Orioles used a defensive shift as much as anyone else during his time in Baltimore. That’s all based on what’s on guys’ spray charts in terms of where they place the ball in play.
However we’re also led to believe that at various times there was strife within the organization, with Buck not really wanting to embrace new ways of thinking, and other members of the organization wanting to do so. Sometimes including players. So…was Showalter actually holding the team back?
There are a million things you could say, but the fact is that we don’t know the whole story. And we won’t for awhile. Little by little these types of things always trickle out; it just takes time. Analytics has little to do with Showalter leaving Zach Britton in the bullpen in the AL Wild Card Game in 2016. If some reports are to be believed, that’s when some players lost faith in his ability to manage the team.
There can be no doubt that Buck Showalter led a resurgence of Orioles baseball that touched a generation of fans. Does that mean mistakes weren’t made? Of course not. Any professional should be willing to admit that s/he made mistakes. Buck’s no different. The question is whether or not Showalter himself hampered the organization with his old school tactics. My reponse to that would be that tactics as such worked forever and ever – which is why they’re old school. Why would they not work now?