All serious baseball fans have played the role of manager in their own minds at some point or another. It's a sport that lends itself to that sort of fan participation—much more so than football, basketball, or hockey.
The game unfolds like a story and managers will react accordingly.
The other major sports are more about formations, play calling, and the use of timeouts. The average fan doesn't know a zone blitz from a calzone or a back door cut from a paper cut.
Should the starting pitcher stay in or is it time to go to the bullpen? We know just as well as the manager what to do in that situation...actually, we think we know better.
Unfortunately, over the last two decades a large amount of creativity used by managers has vanished.
Apparently, there is an unwritten rulebook that nearly every Major League skipper subscribes to. There are a number of situations that arise in games where the response appears to be robotic.
Here are five managerial strategies that have become ultra-predictable and hardly are recipes for automatic success.
It is difficult to find statistical evidence for or against this phenomenon, but the love affair with left-handed pitchers coming in to face left-handed batters and right-handers facing right-handers must cease.
Granted, there are certainly situations that call for this tactic (Ryan Howard clearly is not as effective against a left-handed pitcher as he is against a right-hander for example).
However, not all lefties are created equal, and not all right-handers deserve to be removed from a game simply because a left-handed hitter is coming up next in the lineup.
How many times have you seen a pitcher strike out the first two batters in an inning, then be replaced by a pitcher who throws with the other arm, only to see the second pitcher get lit up?
A manager has to go with his gut on this decision, with the aid of some statistical analysis—not the other way around.
If Joe Righty, who has an ERA around two, blows away two right-handed hitters, why should Bob Lefty (he of an ERA over seven) be summoned from the 'pen to get out a left handed batter with a .220 average?
It's micro-managing at its worst, but we see it on a nightly basis.
It's an old debate, but it rages on.
Relief pitchers are the most babied of any position in sports. They must have defined roles, and of course one of those roles is the closer.
How rock solid are closers? Well, barely half of the teams in baseball currently have a closer who held the same role for them in 2009.
Yet, many managers feel compelled to bring in their designated closer any time a 'save situation' exists.
Go back to No. five in this article and you can see the kind of hypocrisy that exists here.
Chad Qualls is the Arizona Diamondbacks' closer and he's having a miserable season (6.94 ERA, 1.97 WHIP, .358 BAA). Even so, if the D-Backs are leading by one, two, or three runs; he's their man in the ninth inning, whether he's facing a righty, a lefty, a slew of weak hitters, or an All-Star or two.
If Qualls had his closer designation taken away, would he ever have the chance to face an above average left handed hitter?
The game of baseball and statistics have had a long standing and faithful marriage. This is a good thing.
But when certain stats influence how a manager goes about his business, that's a problem.
Starting pitchers must pitch five complete innings in order to qualify for a win, and it seems that managers will do everything in their power to allow pitchers to get there.
Sometimes a pitcher just doesn't have it. He might be wild or getting hit hard, but one thing he has going for himself is a lead. As long as his team is in front, this struggling pitcher will get every opportunity to slog his way through five innings.
Because the pitcher is allowed to keep getting shelled as he works his way up to that magic five inning mark, an otherwise easy night for his team becomes much more uncomfortable.
Sadly, salary incentives relating to win totals have played a big part. Managers are not only feeding the five inning rule, but also the egos and wallets of their starting pitchers.
"He gets paid to drive in runs!" is the cliche you always hear from broadcasters and sports talk radio hosts when they explain why a power hitter should not be bunting in what would generally be considered an ideal bunting situation.
Ninety-nine percent of the time this player should do what he's paid for. But on rare occasions, why can't a big bopper lay one down?
Much like with the other strategies mentioned within this article, players need their egos stroked.
David Wright is currently in the midst of a slump, he has struck out in his last seven at-bats, coming into Monday night's game against Washington. Imagine if the Mets are trailing by a run, have men on first and second with none out late in the game, and David Wright is asked to bunt?
His ego would be bruised and Mets manager Jerry Manuel would be second guessed if it did not work.
Suggesting that power hitters bunt on a regular basis is ridiculous. But to essentially outlaw them from doing so seems equally absurd.
This is the one that has always been puzzling.
Here is the 'rule' for dealing with closers in tie games: If the game is tied going into the ninth inning, the home team should use their closer because there cannot possibly be a save situation. The visiting team should not use their closer until they have the lead, thus creating a save situation.
There's just one little problem. What if the visiting team never takes the lead?
In general, the closer is his team's best relief pitcher. As the visiting team, wouldn't you want your closer in the game when there is no margin for error?
At least maybe he'd be able to keep the game tied for an inning or two. Who knows? Maybe the team will finally score a couple of runs and will have a bit of a cushion for another reliever.
The New York Mets have played four games in the last week which were decided by walk-off home runs. They lost two on the road and won two at home.
The one common theme in those games: the closer for the road team did not make an appearance.
The closers who were absent from these games were Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Wilson; two former All-Stars.
There is no way to know what the outcomes would have been had the closers gotten a chance to pitch. But if you're going to lose, at least lose with your best players on the field.