In the American League wild-card game last fall, Baltimore Orioles ace reliever Zach Britton watched helplessly from the visiting bullpen at Rogers Center as the Orioles' season ended. In Cleveland, Andrew Miller nearly helped lead the Cleveland Indians to a World Series title as his innings and impact were maximized.
Managers help their clubs win in measurable, observable and intangible ways. So which teams have an edge as the playoff races heat up? ESPN Insider sets out to rank the managers of contending clubs as we approach the stretch run. Quantifying the total value of a manager is difficult, but the following rankings consider past achievement and skew toward performance this season.
10. Dusty Baker, Washington Nationals: Baker stands alone in one area where he has been criticized in the past -- and that is over-working pitchers. Only 10 teams have allowed a starting pitcher to throw more than 120 pitches in a start this season, and only two teams have done it twice: The Nationals and Padres. The Nats are the only club to have done it three times this season. Baker has never been shy about leaving arms out there on the mound. So his handling a pitching staff remains a question, although the Nationals have upgraded what had been the weakest bullpen among contenders.
9. John Farrell, Boston Red Sox: Farrell is one of the managers on the list with a World Series ring as a manager -- but he hasn't won a postseason game since 2013. Farrell has been somewhat conventional with his bullpen use and was criticized for not using ace reliever Craig Kimbrel in a high-leverage situation on Friday night. Some good news? The Red Sox have the highest pinch-hit leverage index in the sport (1.77), meaning Farrell isn't afraid of going to his bench at critical moments.