Underrated MLB Managers Who Get the Most out of Average Rosters
MLB managers definitely matter.
Just take a look at the Los Angeles Dodgers. Manager Don Mattingly has guided the most expensively assembled squad in baseball to an underwhelming 36-33 (.522) start, which leaves the team 7.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants.
What follows is a look at five underrated MLB managers who get the most out of average rosters. Some of these skippers have more than a decade of experience, while others are just getting started with their careers on the bench.
Now, let's take a lot at the five who made the list.
Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
Terry Francona just seems to win wherever he goes.
During his first year with the Cleveland Indians, Francona led the club to a wild-card spot and a 24-win improvement from the 2012 season. In 2014, Francona's team is in last place in the AL Central, but remains just 3.5 games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers.
That's impressive considering that Cleveland lost two of its top starters in Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir in the offseason via free agency.
So far this season, Cleveland has received minimal contributions from Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana who are two of the team's top run-producers. Swisher checks in with a .206 average and Santana is batting .176.
Despite those difficulties, Francona once again has the Tribe right in the middle of the playoff conversation.
Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins
Mike Redmond has engineered a remarkable turnaround in Miami.
After his club dropped 100 contests a season ago, Redmond has led the Miami Marlins right into the the playoff hunt in 2014. Despite the loss of ace Jose Fernandez for the season, the Marlins sit at 34-32 (.515). That mark leaves them just one game behind the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals who share the lead in the National League East.
The squad's offensive production under Redmond has been particularly noteworthy. The Marlins are second in the NL in runs, batting average and RBI.
The second-year skipper has also demonstrated a knack for getting instant replay challenges right. As of June 9, Redmond was 10-for-12 (83 percent) on challenges, which is the highest success rate in MLB, according to Paul White of USA Today.
Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins
Now in his 13th season as the manager of the Minnesota Twins, Ron Gardenhire is clearly doing something right.
During that stretch, the Twins have landed in the playoffs on six occasions, and it's not out of the question that the club could make it seven in 2014. The team is in fourth place in the congested AL Central, but it remains just three games behind the first-place Detroit Tigers.
Gardenhire has managed to keep his team in the running despite the fact that the starting staff has a 4.72 ERA, which is the worst in the AL.
Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics
Bob Melvin is the master of platoons.
The manager of the Oakland Athletics shuffles his lineup on a daily basis to ensure that his players consistently enter the batter's box in the most favorable situations possible. Melvin is also extremely deliberate when it comes to pulling a starter pitcher from a game. That patient approach helps to build the confidence of his starters, who own the lowest ERA in baseball.
The Athletics are a team of solid contributors—not stars—but Melvin has led the group to the best winning percentage (.597) in the AL.
John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays
John Gibbons' second stint as the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays did not begin promisingly.
During an injury-riddled campaign in 2013, the Blue Jays finished in last place in the AL East with a 74-88 (.457) record. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, there was a "feeling that Gibbons was too laid-back" a season ago.
An overly casual approach certainly hasn't been a problem in 2014. At 40-29 (.580), the Blue Jays have the second-best record in the AL and own the top spot in the East.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.