For Dave Roberts, manager of your 2020 World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, this has been a long time coming. Over the years and failures in October, Doc has faced questions and scrutiny for moves he’s made in games and the moves he didn’t make.
If the shoe was on the other foot, we’d all realize that managing a big league team on the biggest stage might be a lot harder than it seems from our couches. Now finally a champion as a manager, Roberts joined legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski’s SiriusXM show, “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K” to talk about his process and why some moves he’s made perhaps haven’t gone according to plan.
It’s a balance. It’s certainly a balance and I’ve made many mistakes going with my gut too much, or my heart, my eyes, and I’ve made mistakes going too much with the data. And I think for me as a baseball manager, the one thing that I do appreciate and I do get is the fact that it’s predicting. Because none of us can predict the future but our eyes and the analytics and the data is there as a predictor.
Dodgers fans have seen both sides of the coin for Dave Roberts. Particularly in the postseason. Two key moments to
highlight lowlight are the choice to remove Rich Hill during the 2018 World Series against the Red Sox, and the decision to leave Clayton Kershaw in game 5 of the 2019 NLDS (among other times) too long.
The determined Roberts was on a mission to explain why he does what he does when he does it. The balance of numbers (analytics) and eye test (gut).
I’ll give you a quick example of me as a player. If I face a certain pitcher and I was 6 for 12 and I would say ‘hey, I own this guy.’ And let’s just say that my 6 hits were not quality contact I but I got 6 hits. So there’s a value of the pitcher knows I got 6 hits against them. But then that does not mean I’m going to be 6 for my next 12. So now I as a manager have to figure out what gives that player the best chance to be closer to 6 or 12 than 1 for 12. And that’s why the data we have… all that stuff matters, but that’s the balance.
So now that he’s laid the numbers and analytical reasoning out there, what about the player side of it again? The psyche and feelings of a pitcher or a hitter come into play for Dave.
The player has to feel that he’s always the best option no matter what. And that’s what you want from a player. But then now how do you introduce this to him and say that ‘I still believe in you,’ but also if I don’t use this player, that means that I don’t believe in him either. So when I take the ball from a starting pitcher he’s pissed because he wants to stay in the game and that’s what I want. But I do have to show that I have confidence in a guy coming in.
Hearing Doc talk this out, you do get a clearer look at the inner workings that make the Dodger manager tick. Not every move works out — this we all can confirm with our eyes and the numbers — but he’s damn well trying his best to make the right calls in key spots.
Thankfully, in 2020 he finally (mostly) did.