NLCS Preview: A Look at the Managers

For the second consecutive year, the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers will meet in the National League Championship Series. Both managers’ decisions will heavily depend on the outcome of the series, along with the dependence of their coaching staffs.

Joe Torre’s success as a manager is well documented. The two-time manager of the year led the Yankees to 12 consecutive playoff appearances, six American League pennants, and four World Series titles. His 2,246 wins rank 5th on the all time leader board. This year, Torre’s Dodgers finished with a record of 95-67, the best record in the National League. The NL West champions swept the St. Louis Cardinals to advance to the NLCS.

“I’ll celebrate when we get to the big one,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said when asked about hiding in his office during the NLDS celebration. Last year, Manuel celebrated the “big one” leading the team to a World Championship. This year, his team will try to repeat after they finished the season with a 93-69 record.

The Dodgers won the season series, 4-3. If not for two blown saves by Brad Lidge, the Phillies would have won the series.  Manuel has shown respect by putting Lidge in for the final out of a clinching situation, but it is still unsure who will close games.  Manuel “stuck to his closer” all year, which questioned how he managed the bullpen. Some moves this postseason have been controversial, such as bringing in Joe Blanton and J.A Happ from the bullpen in game two of the NLDS.

Manuel has made it known that he goes with his “gut-feeling.”  He closely studies matchups between a hitter and pitcher.  Most of the time, his “gut-feeling” works; ask Matt Stairs. Manuel’s benching of Jimmy Rollins in late June proved to be  genius since Rollins turned around his struggles.

At times, Torre mismanaged his bullpen, however the Dodgers’ 3.14 relief ERA ranks first in the National League. Overall, their staff collected a 3.41 ERA, and a lot of credit can go to pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. The Phillies had a 4.16 ERA this season. Rich Dubee’s many trips to the mound proved to settle down pitchers, helping them work through jams.

Like Honeycutt, Don Mattingly deserves to be praised. The Dodgers offense improved from last year, despite losing Manny Ramirez to a 50-game suspension. The team’s .270 average, 145 home runs, and 780 runs are up from 2008’s .264 average, 137 home runs, and 700 runs. Andre Eithier and Matt Kemp had career years, but the Dodgers’ offense doesn’t quite compare to the one behind Milt Thompson and Manuel. The Phillies strike out a lot and haven’t done well with runners in scoring position, but improved during the Division Series. The Phillies batted .361 with RISP and struck out only eight times in the four NLDS games.

There are familiar faces at the corners: Mariano Duncan coaching first and the firey Larry Bowa at third. The Dodgers ranked third in stolen bases, and fourth in runs scored, which can somewhat be credited to those two men. However, the jobs done by Davy Lopes and Sam Perlozzo do not compare. The Phillies stole 119 bases (2nd) and scored 820 runs (1st). Lopes has done a tremendous job improving the players’ baserunning abilities. Lopes’ simple formula calculates the times of runners, pitchers and catchers, knowing the perfect time to run. The results showed; Chase Utley was not caught at all this season. Heck, even Ryan Howard stealing 8 bases shows what kind of job Lopes has done. Perlozzo knows when to send a runner. He is agressive, but has not made bad decisions like Steve Smith last season. Perlozzo also improved Howard’s defense substantially.

Both Torre and Manuel have an old school style of managing, but they know how to win.  Torre has made sure that there are no distractions with “Mannywood.” Manuel, a player’s manager, has kept this team close-knit, but will also put a fire under their belts when they needed it. One move can change the outcome of the game. Although they aren’t the ones on the field, these two managers have a lot of work ahead of them.

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