With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, it's almost that portion of the year when every managerial decision will be made under greater scrutiny. This shift doesn't occur in whole until the postseason begins -- then the managers, not the players, seem to be the most analyzed aspect of each game -- but everyone knows it's coming. So, it's time to prep for it.
As such, we've opted to highlight eight managerial tendencies worth remembering . Yes, playoff baseball is a different beast, and the schedule permits for more aggressive approaches. Still, we think studying regular-season tendencies can reveal something about the actors involved.
Note that all the numbers used here are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus unless noted.
1. Roberts has conjured pinch-hit magic
There are myriad benefits to managing the best team in the National League. For Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts, one of those is having a number of talented pinch-hit options.
Roberts has chosen well throughout the regular season, and he entered the week leading all managers in pinch-hit home runs, with 12 (only one other manager had more than 10). David Freese, Enrique Hernandez and Joc Pederson have each pitched in two apiece, suggesting Roberts's success is due in part to successfully playing platoon matchups later in games.
There's probably something to be said about opportunity, too. The Dodgers have used the fifth-most pinch-hitters in the league, with Freese, Pederson and Matt Beatty accounting for nearly 90 pinch-hit plate appearances between them. There is one obvious counterpoint that proves not all pinch-hitting success is tied to sheer volume, however ...
2. Counsell has not
The Brewers have used the second-most pinch hitters this season, behind only the Giants, yet have received just six home runs and a .172 average in 282 attempts.
Counsell has used four players more than 30 times as a pinch-hitter: Eric Thames, Ben Gamel, Jesus Aguilar (no longer with the team) and Ryan Braun. The highest OPS of the quartet belongs to Thames, at .709. None of the other three were above .590. Woof.
The players in question are more talented than their pinch-hitting performances this year indicate, so perhaps they're saving their best work for when Milwaukee needs them the most.
3. Hinch won't call for an intentional walk
Let's double up on Astros manager A.J. Hinch by beginning with something he dislikes: intentional walks. So far this season, Hinch hasn't issued a single one -- yes, really.
Here's what Emma Baccellieri of Sports Illustrated noted in August:
This is reflective of a larger trend: While the IBB is alive and well in the NL, where walking a guy to get to the pitcher remains tried-and-true, it's becoming increasingly rare in other situations and is accordingly scarce in the AL. As a result, the overall rate of intentional walks has fallen to its lowest rate ever in 2019, with 0.16 IBB per game, compared to last year's 0.19. And the Astros—ever the savvy trend-setters—are leading the way, almost certain to beat their own record of fewest by one team, and with the potential to make it through the season without issuing any at all.
Hinch has since remained steadfast in his disapproval of the intentional walk -- to the extent that even the Twins and Angels (tied for the second-fewest with nine apiece) look traditional by comparison. There's no reason to think Hinch is going to relent come the postseason, either.
Nonetheless, there is one thing Hinch really enjoys calling for as a manager, and that is ….
4. Hinch will call for a pinch-runner
Yes, the Astros love to pinch-run.
Coming into Monday, the Astros had used 35 pinch-runners on the season -- the second-most in the majors, and the most among competitive teams. Utility player Myles Straw (14) and outfielder Jake Marisnick (10) have accounted for most of those appearances, with Straw having stolen one base and having scored seven times after subbing in on the basepaths.
Straw is one of the fastest players in the league, and his ability to play on the infield and in the outfield would seem to make him a cinch for the postseason roster. Don't be surprised if he checks in as a sub during a late-and-close moment sometime before October ends.
5. Martinez loves small ball
If you hate hearing about a manufacturing runs, then you may want to skip any and all Nationals games this postseason. Manager Davey Martinez runs his team like he's reading directly from the Small Ball manual.
To wit, the Nationals have the fourth-most stolen-base attempts this season, as well as the most sacrifice attempts in baseball -- and their lead in that category is 15, or as large as the gap between second and eighth place.
The Nationals have also had position players sacrifice 19 times, which is behind only Cleveland so far as competitive teams go.
6. Cash is all about the play action
The Rays as a team rank seventh in stolen-base attempts, but you're likely to see them set runners in motion far more often than that number indicates. Kevin Cash's crew is one of two teams with more than 300 swings this season when the runner is going. They've put the ball in play on 96 of those swings, which is also second in the majors -- behind only the Cardinals.
Interestingly, the team with the fewest hit-and-run attempts (or is it run-and-hit?) is the Twins -- who are ran by former Cash charge Rocco Baldelli. Speaking of Baldelli ...
7. Baldelli almost never wins challenges
As the bold print suggests, Baldelli almost never succeeds when he challenges a play. Coming into Monday, he had issued the sixth-most challenges in baseball, yet was tied for the 27th most overturns, per Baseball-Reference. Baldelli, predictably, doesn't fare any better through a rate lens, checking in at 30th.
8. Francona's slow hook
We'll end with this: did you know that Cleveland -- not the Nationals, who lead the sport in average pitch count -- have the most starts of 101-plus pitches in baseball? It's true. Cleveland has had their starter top the century mark 72 times this year -- four more than the Mets, and 11 more than the third-place Nationals.
Shane Bieber has accounted for 25 such games by himself, while Mike Clevinger (13) and Zach Plesac (six) rank second and third among active Clevelanders. Had Corey Kluber been healthy all season, he probably would've finished highly, too.
The safest managerial bet this winter is that Hinch won't call for an intentional walk, but Francona permitting his starter to work deep comes close -- provided, anyway, Francona's bunch is part of the bracket in the first place.