What to Expect from Bobby V. When It’s Game Time

Bobby Valentine is officially the manager of the Boston Red Sox. He has been known to have an extreme love-hate relationship with his players and his bosses. While the best Bobby V. stories undoubtedly will happen off the field, I wanted to highlight the way he runs his team on the field.

Managers have very little control over most parts of the game, but there are exceptions. Here’s a look at several ways that Valentine can insert his authority — like with stolen bases, intentional walks, sacrifice hits and lineup changes. I looked at years where he managed an entire season. And I’ve compared the numbers to the league average, when available.

Stolen bases

SB CS Success Rate
Year Team Bobby V’s Team League Bobby V’s Team League Bobby V’s Team League
1986 Rangers 103 105.0 85 54.4 55% 66%
1987 Rangers 120 123.9 71 55.1 63% 69%
1988 Rangers 130 108.0 57 49.2 70% 69%
1989 Rangers 101 113.4 49 51.9 67% 69%
1990 Rangers 115 107.4 48 55.9 71% 66%
1991 Rangers 102 104.9 50 54.1 67% 66%
Average 111.8 110.4 60.0 53.5 65% 67%
1997 Mets 97 129.8 74 60.1 57% 68%
1998 Mets 62 100.6 46 46.9 57% 68%
1999 Mets 150 122.4 61 51.9 71% 70%
2000 Mets 66 101.7 46 46.0 59% 69%
2001 Mets 66 91.0 48 45.9 58% 66%
2002 Mets 87 94.6 42 43.9 67% 68%
Average 88.0 106.7 52.8 49.1 62% 68%

A manager has control over all stolen bases, to a degree. If a player has the opportunity to steal on his own, that’s the manager’s call.

The teams that Valentine managed didn’t steal a ton of bases, compared to the league average. With the New York Mets, he was significantly lower in the number of attempts, compared to the rest of the league. And when his teams did attempt to steal a base, they weren’t very successful. With the Mets and the Texas Rangers, Valentine’s teams were below the league averages. While he had decent success rates in the final years as manager of both teams, the first couple years were killers. Both teams’ success rates in his first full season as manager were 11 percentage points below the league averages. Perhaps might Red Sox fans see a team next year that is little reckless on the base paths?

Intentional Walks

Year Team Bobby V’s Team League
1986 Rangers 37 34.7
1987 Rangers 34 36.1
1988 Rangers 33 42.9
1989 Rangers 42 42.4
1990 Rangers 39 41.9
1991 Rangers 37 43.0
Average 37.0 40.2
1997 Mets 43 44.5
1998 Mets 59 40.4
1999 Mets 53 42.4
2000 Mets 42 46.5
2001 Mets 60 53.7
2002 Mets 75 59.7
Average 55.3 47.9

Generally, Valentine hasn’t been too much above or below league average when giving out intentional walks (five seasons more than league average, seven seasons less than).

Sacrifice hits (not including sacrifice fly balls)

Year Team Bobby V’s Team League
1986 Rangers 31 46.1
1987 Rangers 42 49.4
1988 Rangers 48 49.4
1989 Rangers 63 51.9
1990 Rangers 54 48.8
1991 Rangers 42 52.4
Average 46.7 49.7
1997 Mets 58 73.6
1998 Mets 88 72.9
1999 Mets 63 68.6
2000 Mets 70 66.4
2001 Mets 53 67.1
2002 Mets 75 70.9
Average 67.8 69.9

He was barely below average with both teams. He doesn’t like to get too involved, and he lets his hitters hit.

Different Lineups

Year Team # of Lineups Year Team # of Lineups Year Team # of Lineups
1986 Rangers 121 1997 Mets 131 2006 Red Sox 116
1987 Rangers 126 1998 Mets 124 2007 Red Sox 109
1988 Rangers 125 1999 Mets 76 2008 Red Sox 131
1989 Rangers 126 2000 Mets 118 2009 Red Sox 113
1990 Rangers 122 2001 Mets 143 2010 Red Sox 143
1991 Rangers 129 2002 Mets 122 2011 Red Sox 123
Average 124.8 Average 119.0 Average 122.5
Low 121 Low 76 Low 109
High 129 High 143 High 143

I had no desire to look through the average number of lineups each team had to get an average value. Instead, I took the number of lineups for the teams Valentine managed (pitchers were removed from the Mets’ values) and then added — for reference — the Red Sox values for the last six years under Terry Francona.

Red Sox fans should expect to see about the same number of lineup changes that they saw under

Conclusions

During a game in 2012, Red Sox fans shouldn’t see much in the way of extreme over- or under-managing from Bobby Valentine. The one exception might be that he Red Sox players could have limited success when stealing bases, compared to the rest of the league.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

15 Responses to “What to Expect from Bobby V. When It’s Game Time”

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  1. HYOOKA says:

    where’s the analysis of bullpen management? that strikes me as being a pretty important way that a manager can affect his team’s winning percentage.

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  2. Bobby Ayala says:

    Interesting idea, even if the numbers don’t deviate from the average enough to really mean anything. The apparent lack of SB can probably be equated moreso to the lack of speed on the late-90′s Mets.

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  3. Hurtlockertwo says:

    The best part of Bobby Valentine becoming
    the Red Sox manager is we no longer have to
    listen do games from the TV booth. He is truly
    annoying and obnoxious, not to mention his
    opinions are questionable.

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  4. nubillybaroo says:

    assert, not insert his authority

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  5. Jack Thomas says:

    An in-depth & fair analysis of Valentine’s career. As a season ticket holder in his Texas days, I am not a fan. After the 1st year, he never lived up to his big mouth. He only stayed in Texas for 7+ years because he & the GM were great buddies. They had to fire the GM before they could fire Valentine.
    I do not understand why baseball keeps hiring old managers. They seem to do nothing but re-cycle the old ones. Let’s get some new blood in the game.
    It is just the opposite for GMs. They are much younger than managers.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      So, put a guy in his early 30s with a stats ivy league degree who’ve never played above JUCO baseball in a dugout to manage the egos of guys in their mid 20s-mid 30s who are the best in the world at what they do.

      You forget that it’s not just “statistically, I shouldn’t put the steal sign on here” it’s “no Star Player X, I’m not going to move you down in the lineup despite you not hitting for shit, I trust you will come around”.

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    • 123 says:

      “Let’s get some new blood in the game.”

      John Farrell
      Kirk Gibson
      Don Mattingly
      Robin Ventura
      Mike Matheny

      I’m no blood connoisseur, but they look decidedly new to me.

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  6. NBarnes says:

    In the great cycle of Manage Laidback->Manager Hardass->Manager Laidback->Manager Hardass->and so on, I think Bobby Valentine is a fantastic addition to my beloved Red Sox. And I hope they don’t keep him around more than three years or so.

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    • Jon says:

      He could be the greatest manager in the history of the game and i still wouldnt want him on my team with that voice of his

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  7. His teams SB% seems to be below average meaning they gave away quite a few outs/runs, resulting in fewer wins on average.

    To me, that could be a big deal. I’m most interested in where he bats Ellsbury and Crawford and how he handles them on the bases. Provided Crawford can get on base, my guess is that they steal more times than Francona’s Red Sox.

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    • Patricio says:

      A slower team = less SB attempts

      This also can lead to more hit and runs…where a failed hit and run will lead to a SB attempt. Since he had a slower team, the SB attempt failed more often than league average.

      This analysis is nice, but not very in-depth. It would take a LOT of work to do an in-depth analysis of managing.

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  8. SOB in TO says:

    I think if I’m Bobby V, I want to see what the Red Sox’s base-stealing success rate was this past season, and who was successful and who wasn’t. Then I can decide, as the manager who I green light and who I don’t. I wouldn’t be in charge of finding new talent that can steal bases. Training them how to be better at it would be my responsibility and thus I’d hire a coach who knows what he’s doing.

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  9. thomas says:

    For bullpen I do bullpenWPA-BullpenWPA/LI-bullpen clutch. Valentine is a little better than league average at this.

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  10. Billy D says:

    I guess you guys will discount Bobby’s management in Japan (Chiba Lotte Marines).

    I’ll make this call, since I was a fan of the Marines those days when Bobby was there: “He doesn’t like to get too involved, and he lets his hitters hit.”

    Not really. He made Satozaki, the catcher who couldn’t bunt, bunt at crucial at bats.

    He changed lineup ALL THE TIME. He had the most different lineup on day-to-day basis among his peers.

    He benched Zuleta, because Zuleta would not bat as he directed.

    Bobby involves, hell lot.

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