Evaluating managers is a difficult task. Often, the Manager of the Year is the person who happens to be steering the team that exceeds expectations. Guiding a team expected to contend to the playoffs isn't a task that should be overlooked, either. Evaluation is doubly tough because so much of the job goes on behind the scenes. We see the lineups and bullpen changes but not much else.
Despite those difficulties, here are some evaluations of this year's postseason managers and their potential strengths and pitfalls on the way to the World Series, with the managers rated from the lowest degree of confidence for this postseason to the highest.
Dusty Baker, Washington Nationals
Baker has received his fair share of criticism over the years for the way he has handled pitching staffs. He generally overworks his staff, ignoring pitch counts in an era when going to the bullpen early has proven to provide a big advantage. That said, he might have found the perfect team to manage in the Washington Nationals. As far as lineups go, he has enough firepower at the top that it doesn't matter how he orders them. Only Jayson Werth and Howie Kendrick in left field provide for any sort of lineup decision.
As for those potentially overworked starters, Max Scherzer is a workhorse for whom pitch limits aren't as easily applied. Scherzer barely sees any drop-off in his numbers the third time through the order, though an injury could make those decisions a bit tougher. Stephen Strasburg has averaged nearly seven innings per outing since his return from the disabled list, allowing no earned runs in five of seven starts. Gio Gonzalez hasn't pitched quite as well as his ERA, but as a third starter, he's a great asset. Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson have stabilized the back end of the bullpen, making for easy decisions at the end of the game.
Having a hands-off manager with a slow hook might not be ideal for the playoffs, but if you already have that type of manager, the Nationals are the team best-suited to overcome that weakness.