Leadership is a very difficult thing to write about because it cannot be measured or quantified.
That doesn't mean that it isn't significant, or that it doesn't exist.
According to Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News, Giants manager Bruce Bochy met with the team before the game on Friday to demand more toughness and competitiveness of his troops, particularly from his slumping offense. The Giants went out and responded with a season-high 16 runs.
Perhaps the Giants busted out because of Bochy's leadership skills, or, perhaps it had more to do with playing at hitter-friendly Coors Field against one of the worst pitching staffs in the league. It's impossible to say what caused the outburst, but we shouldn't sell Bochy's qualities as a leader of men short.
Bochy does several things very well as a manager. His biggest strength is without question his handling of the pitching staff, particularly the bullpen. Since Bochy took over as manager in 2007, no team has a better ERA than the Giants.
Some of that is obviously due to the Giants having good pitchers throwing in a pitcher-friendly stadium, but a lot of the credit also has to go to Bochy's handling of those arms, with major assistance from pitching coach Dave Righetti.
On the offensive side of things, Bochy does a good job of avoiding small-ball tactics. The Giants are sixth in the league in adding runs on the bases because Bochy green-lights his fast runners while encouraging his slower runners to play it conservatively.
The Giants don't run into a lot of unnecessary outs, and they also don't throw away many outs with the sacrifice bunt. Outs are the scarcest resource at a manager's disposal, so unless you are bunting with the pitcher, bunting for a hit or attempting to squeeze home a run, bunting away an out is usually the wrong tactical move.
Bochy does a good job of leading his troops, handling his pitchers and valuing outs properly with the offense. However, my one criticism of his managerial style is the way he handles the lineup.
The number two spot in the lineup is of critical importance, yet Bochy continues to hit Ryan Theriot there. Theriot is currently hitting a tepid .267/.314/.316 with nearly as many double-plays (9) as extra base hits (13). He doesn't walk, hit for power or get on base much in front of the Giants four best hitters: Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval (currently on the DL).
To be fair, part of the problem is the that the front office has not provided him with many better options to put at the top of the lineup.
The other gripe I have with Bochy is that he is overly dependent on small sample sizes when he makes the lineup, preferring to play the hot hand in favor of taking the longer view, and allowing guys to play through slumps.
Nate Schierholtz summed up the issue well when he recently told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, "I just felt like I had a short leash. It was series by series, if I didn’t perform for three games, that was my chance. It got frustrating at times. We didn't see eye to eye."
Playing the hot hand has its benefits, but it can also be detrimental to the development of younger players like Schierholtz and Brandon Belt.
Belt certainly has struggled in the big leagues, and there is certainly an argument to be made that he has not earned more playing time. At the same time, the fact that over the last two seasons he's only been placed in the starting lineup 113 times by Bochy speaks volumes to how much he's been jerked around.
Inconsistent,erratic playing time makes it very difficult to evaluate a young player, as we still have less than a whole season of playing time in which to evaluate Belt, despite the fact that he's been in the big leagues for all of this season and a large chunk of last year.
On the whole, the Giants obviously have a very good manager in Bruce Bochy. He led the franchise to its first world series championship in San Francisco just two seasons ago. His trust in his starting pitchers and handling of the bullpen has led to some excellent run prevention during his tenure. He also trusts the hitters he puts in the lineup to get the job done by avoiding the sacrifice bunt.
Perhaps he could be more patient with his younger hitters like the recently departed Schierholtz, and Belt, who has been benched in favor of non-prospect Brett Pill twice in the past three games.
Alas, no manager is perfect, and most managerial criticisms are going to be subjective anyway. The Giants have a manager good enough to steer the ship to a world series title, and that is all that really matters in the end.
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