San Diego’s Bud Black won the 2010 National League Manager of the Year award on Wednesday, beating out Cincinnati skipper Dusty Baker by one vote.
Black finished with 104 points, topping the 103 of Baker, who led the Reds to their first playoff appearance since 1995. Bruce Bochy of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants finished third with 30 points, while Atlanta's Bobby Cox (28 points), Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel (20) and Houston's Brad Mills (3) rounded out the voting.
Black won 90 games with a Padres team that many predicted would finish last in the National League West, holding the lead for 131 days before finally giving way to the eventual World Champion Giants on Sept. 25.
Still, the Pads pushed the Giants to the final day of the season before San Francisco’s win finally eliminated San Diego.
Following are five of the top reasons why Black received his first manager of the year honor.
San Diego finished second in the NL with a .988 fielding percentage, providing their pitchers with reliable gloves and nearly offsetting the lack of offensive production.
CF Tony Gwynn would have been a serious Gold Glove candidate had he not batted .204; it's not a coincidence that the Padres struggled after Gwynn suffered a hamate injury late in the season, costing the club a valuable defensive tool that covered ground as well as any outfielder in the game.
Chase Headley thrived after returning to his natural position of third base. Headley had a 2.40 range factor and proved to be a frequent visitor to ESPN's Baseball Tonight's "Web Gems" segment.
C Yorvit Torrealba gunned down 37 percent of base runners and was the unsung hero to the success of the pitching staff.
The Padres had the sturdiest starting rotation in the majors, as Clayton Richard, Jon Garland, Mat Latos, Wade LeBlanc and Kevin Corriea combined for 148 starts.
Richard, Garland and Latos each shared the team lead with 14 wins, while Corriea added 10, despite the stress and emotional strain that came from the tragic loss of his brother in early May.
The 22-year-old Latos emerged as one of the game’s premier young arms, finishing with a 2.92 ERA while also setting a major league record with 16 straight starts without allowing more than two earned runs. He finished with 189 strikeouts in 184.1 innings and established himself as the staff ace of the future.
Despite finishing near the bottom in nearly every offensive category, Black was able to milk enough runs out of a lineup that—without NL MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez—wouldn’t have struck fear in the hearts of a Class AAA pitching staff.
Keep in mind the Padres won 90 games despite having virtually no semblance of a leadoff hitter. Black tried 10 different players atop the order, with 2B Jerry Hairston, Jr. being the most effective. San Diego’s “pacesetters” hit just .237 with a .301 OBP.
Gonzalez (.298/31/101) was the only Padre to hit more than 11 homers and drive in 58 runs. Among players with at least 300 at-bats, only OF Chris Denorfia (.271) batted over .264.
Perhaps the biggest reason for San Diego’s surprising success was a relief corps filled with unsung heroes, including a pair of record-breakers.
The Padres tied a franchise record with 20 shutouts this season, but only two were complete game victories. The others were in due part to a group of arms that understood their roles and—for the most part—achieved it to near perfection.
Tim Stauffer provided an arm that swung between middle relief and the rotation, finishing with a 1.85 ERA despite a 6-5 mark. Rubber-armed Mike Adams (4-1, 1.76) became the first player in history to record 40 holds, while Luke Gregerson led the team with 80 appearances.
Adams and Gregerson excelled in getting the ball to closer Heath Bell, who recorded 47 saves in 50 attempts en route to a 6-1, 1.93 mark while striking out 11.1 batters per nine innings. Bell was at his best down the stretch, pitching a string of four- and five-out saves as the Padres clung to dear life in the NL West chase.
Most pundits predicted the Padres would flirt with the West cellar; even after the club bolted to a 15-8 April, skeptics figured it would be a matter of time before San Diego would fold.
The Pads grabbed sole possession of first place on June 18 and would hold the top spot until Sept. 15. San Diego was 25 games above .500 on August 25, when it held a 6.5 game lead over San Francisco. It proved to be the nadir of San Diego’s power, as the loss of Hairston on Aug. 27 opened the door to a 10-game losing streak that allowed the Giants and Rockies back into the hunt.
Black deserves credit for maximizing the potential of a franchise that had little going for it besides moxie and an inane ability to scratch out wins with a popgun lineup. When it would have been easy to fold upon losing the division lead, Black willed the Padres to the brink of forcing a one-game playoff for the West title.