Less than a month remains in the 2016 Major League Baseball regular season, which provides with a tidy occasion to examine where the races for the individual awards stand. This time out, we’ll look at the NL Manager of the Year derby.
Before we dive in, let’s point out that these aren’t our predictions or even necessarily how we would vote. It’s a snapshot of where things stand, and we’re making subjective judgments on how the vote could turn out based on recent historical voting tendencies.
As for the chronically ill-defined Manager of the Year award, it goes to the manager whose team positively defies expectations to the greatest extent, overcomes various obstacles en route to contention, or improves significantly relative to the prior season. With those general principles in mind, let’s power rank the NL Manager of the Year hopefuls with just a few weeks to go.
1. Dave Roberts, Dodgers
At first blush, it might seem strange to hold up a manager who inherited the winner of three straight division crowns and who’s on pace to equal their 2015 win total. However, one must consider the circumstances that Roberts and the Dodgers have overcome this season. Specifically, the Dodgers have been wracked by injuries in 2016.
Per ManGamesLost.com, the Dodgers at the individual-player level this season have lost almost 1,700 games to the disabled list. Second are the Athletics with 1,576. At various points, Roberts’ club has had a full major-league rotation and then some on the DL, and core outfielder Andre Ethier has yet to register a single plate appearance in 2016. Uber-ace Clayton Kershaw hasn’t made a start since June 26. In all, Roberts this season has used 23 different position players and 31 pitchers. Fifteen different pitchers have made at least one start in 2016. Throw in the pressures of expectations for the high-payroll, powerhouse-front office Dodgers, and Roberts has done an excellent job in his first season as a manager.
2. Dusty Baker, Nationals
Right now, it’s a two-man race between Roberts and Baker. Baker’s case rests upon the fact that the Nationals have improved significantly on his watch. Last season, the Nats bumbled to 83 wins under Matt Williams despite heavy preseason expectations. Fast-forward to September 2016, and Baker’s steady hand has the Nats in first place by a wide margin (the SportsLine Projection System gives Washington a hefty 99.7 percent chance of winning the NL East) and on pace for 96 wins. A 13-win improvement from a manager new to the job is going to put him in the discussion, especially when the team winds up as one of the best in all of baseball. Baker’s got a real shot at winning the NL Manager of the Year award for the fourth time in his career.
3. Joe Maddon, Cubs
Yes, Maddon has a roster loaded with talent of all ages. Yes, the the Cubs won 97 games a season ago. Still, Maddon — with his knack for keeping players loose, fresh as the season wears on, and engaged regardless of role — has helmed the best team in baseball in 2016. Right now, the Cubs are in line to win a whopping 104 games, and they’ve outscored the opposition by a whopping 221 runs. Regardless of any other context or baseline, that alone puts Maddon in the race. What’s working against him is the fact that he won the award in 2015. No one’s repeated as Manager of the Year since Bobby Cox in 2004-05.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / NL Manager of the Year Power Rankings: Sorry, Maddon, it’s either Baker or Roberts