Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Good And Bad Of Jim Leyland As Manager

I’m of the opinion Jim Leyland is a terrific manager, and a main reason the Tigers are in first place today - carrying a substantial 4 1-2 game lead in the American League Central - when they were picked to finish fifth and last by most preseason forecasters.
Leyland’s record as Tigers manager: 324-288. It’s impressive when considered before Leyland arrived, the Tigers had suffered through a dozen straight losing seasons.
He communicates well with his players on a one-on-one basis. I like it that Leyland is more a "feel" manager than managing by the book. There are times when he is criticized for not handling his pitching staff well, but I think that’s unfounded. I consider it a strength. The Tigers’ bullpen in both 2006 and this season over-achieved in my mind. He is a really good communicator with his players. They respect him, and aren’t prone to test him on the field or in the clubhouse, because it’s understood he will standup to them. He gets a little grouchy with the media now and then, but is generally good in that role, too.
But not everybody feels that way about Leyland. He has his share of detractors. And maybe for good reason.
There do seem to be contradictions with Leyland, and they separate him from the truly great managers in the game. I mean, how many times has Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox or Ron Gardenhire, for example, had truly bad clubs.
Granted, some years their clubs have been loaded with talent. But some years not so much. Seems like there is an all or nothing quality to Leyland’s career. Even here in Detroit, he has had two clubs that would have fall under the category of overachieving - 2006 and this season. But has there ever been a more disappointing team in the history of this town than the 2008 version of the Tigers?
Despite the three straight division championships he had in Pittsburgh, Leyland’s overall record with the Pirates was below .500. Same in Florida and his ill-fated year in Colorado.
Florida was 10 games better the season after Leyland left with John Boles. The Rockies won 11 games more the season after Leyland left with Buddy Bell.
Leyland’s career record is below .500 - 1,293-1,419. The best part about Leyland’s track record: If he has a chance to get his team to the postseason, he will. And his teams have generally done well in the postseason. Both the Tigers and Marlins reached the World Series as wildcard teams, for example.
But history also suggests, if his club falls into a tailspin, he isn’t the best at getting it out of it.
Even here in Detroit. Remember the second half of 2007? How the 2006 regular season ended?

Random Thoughts

- The Minnesota Vikings had an excellent team - except at quarterback. Logic dictates getting Brett Favre would put the Vikings over the top. But the way the situation was handled was awful, by both Favre and the Vikings. In a way, Favre has never been under more pressure in his career. Considering how little he has practiced with the team, and that the season is fast approaching, not sure he is prepared for it.

- Weirdest game on the college football schedule this season: Notre Dame vs. Washington State at San Antonio on Halloween.

- Get the feeling Lions rookie safety Louis Delmas is a 15-yard late hit penalty about to happen? Me, too.



Anonymous library monkey said...

Giving managers credit --- good or bad --- is easy to do, but I don't believe works.

Saying a manager won 10 games after replacing Leyland isn't totally fair, it's not like the league, or even that team, stayed the same. while managing and coach definately has an impact, at the professional level it is more about the players.

The yankers would likely finish above .500 if I was coaching and the way the Indians have play, no coach is making them a World Series contender this year (same as the 2008 Tigers)

Add to that, the biggest weakness for the Tigers is hitting in clutch situations, how do you coach that

2:47 PM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

Pat, Leyland is a good manager - and I do not agree with those that say the Manager plays little to no role in the outcome of the day to day win loss column.

Every man in base situation signalling to the hitters and runners - putting runners in motion and the base hit results in two runs - putting in and pulling out position players for 4A guys that deliver.

I can count a number of games that Leyland has pulled out this year by his "feel" - his gut instinct making decisions.

He clearly has his players respect this year. I think in 2007, he was undermined by Pudge and Sheff.

But when the Tigers tailspin - just as you pointed out - Leyland appears to be powerless. There must be a reason.

Unless the Skip writes a book about managing these guys - and he is honest in that book - we will never know why the end of 2007 - and all of 2008 played out so poorly.

But I put my confidence in this Manger - and like Sparky Anderson - the Tigers won't be the same Tigers when Leyland hangs up his ... what ever a manager hangs up.

7:30 PM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

I agree with your statements on Leyland. People that want him gone.. I laugh at cause I say to myself who you going to replace him with. Who is better out there available right now? Nobody really!! Just a bunch of retreads that didn't make it before. Look at Dusty Baker post steroid age. How many times has he made it back. None! We were not suppose to be in first place this year... Anybody thought they would are full of it. So give this team credit..

See me I love the Tigers.. I get pissed cause I want to see them do well.. I am as excited as it gets. I go to plenty of games. I even said at the beginning of the year if our starters can get us through the 6th and 7th innings on most nights..we can win some games. Only time I really get frustrated is the bad decisions at the plate. I don't blame McCleandon.. He doesn't go up there takes the first pitch right down the heart of the plate. And then swing and two more in the dirt..

For the most part you have your fans.. who are on the train one minute off the next. Soon as they do good they love them, soon as they do bad they hate them. Everyone I talk to are excited about the tigers and all you hear is man if the tiger can just do this and or do that .. we can do this...

My question book is I know Mauer has had one hell of a year. They do have Morneau who hasn't been bad. We have Cabrera... If the Tigers make the postseason. Does Cabrera Deserve that AL MVP award? I mean we take him out this lineup this team isn't even in 3rd place in my mind...

11:07 PM 
Blogger Core Contrarian said...

Leyland's career losing record and second half fades are hard to ignore.

Two years ago when the Tigers were trying to make up ground in late August, I recall him giving Mike Hessman semi-regular time. Not exactly putting the pedal to the metal at crunch time.

Though it has not been so bad this year, his "Sunday lineups" are also not exactly awe-inspiring.

8:52 AM 
Blogger Barry said...

Hey Pat, just wondering if JL kind of a niche Manager? He could be very effective under certain conditions and not too good with others. He seems to do well when he has a mixture of talented players and young players which the Tigers are this year. Sorry for jumping off topic but would a Rick Harden be okay in Tiger uniform if he is a free agent next year? I wouldn’t want get stuck with him due to injury history.

10:44 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

library monkey,
I agree with your premise. Different teams have different players. Leyland had a much better team to work with in 2006 than Trammell had to work with in 2005 - for example. Just trying to point out all sides of the issue.

7:06 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
There is little doubt in my mind that Leyland is the best manager the Tigers have had since Sparky. Buddy and Tram were overwhelmed as first time managers, Pujols was disappointing and a disaster. Garner was surprisingly ineffective.

7:08 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fans jump on and jump off, but many have stayed off the Leyland bandwagon this season. Cabrera could become an MVP candidate if he keeps up his hitting in recent weeks.

7:10 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Core Conrarian,
There is a mixed bag. The second half collapses does support the premise Leyland has trouble stopping the bleeding.

7:13 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Tigers might be in the market for a veteran starter, but doubt they would take a shot at Harden because of injury-plauged past.

7:15 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too easy on his coaches .. been in the game a long time ... sometimes too pragmatic ... hangs in with Hernandez all last year with bad pitching ... yeah, injuries but Verlander?

Now they can't hit the side of a barn ... I can see hanging in for a third of the season ... but ...

Too easy on players, too.

6:42 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the Manager he's a cross between Sparky and Billy Martin
When Sparky's Star Fades Jim will be remembered He has kept the tigers respectable longer than sparky or almost and he will be surpasing the previous in years contending thanks to Illitch and dombrwski we really have a good orginization. Peole are startig to forget how badd the team sucked fr years.
Bill ford should sell the lions to illitch.
Man what that man can do with his spending money is awsome.

10:04 PM 

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