Over at Sons of Sam Horn, there is a perpetual discussion about Terry Francona. In it, a poster named Eric Van writes quite a succint post on Terry Francona and his managing style. I also spoke on this matter earlier. You can find what he wrote below…
Terry Francona is clearly very informed about and very interested in the numbers that ought to underlie managerial decisions, certainly as informed and interested as any manager in baseball.
Like any manager, he sometimes doesn’t come to an obviously correct conclusion when crunching the numbers off the top off his head. For instance, the decision to pinch-run for a top hitter late in a close game is a fiendishly tough one. So, sure, there have been times when he’s made a by-the-numbers move that can be second-gussed or even first-guessed. It’s always fun and often illuminating to argue those decisions.
We can debate how good he is as a by-the-numbers-tactitian, in general. I think it’s pretty clear that he’a quite a good one. It may not be obvious to everyone . . . because not all his decisions are by-the-numbers. In fact, that he often knows that the numbers say to do one thing, but does the opposite, is his defining trait as a manger.
Francona clearly believes that every in-game move has an impact both on the game being played and a potential long-term impact on the team. He will therefore sometimes make a move other than the move that the numbers dictate.
He seems to be always thinking ahead to upcoming games in his bullpen management — although you’d classify this as medium-term impact rather than long-term.
He is very willing to rest players when he thinks they need a day off, even if it means sending out what looks like a crappy lineup on a given day.
He’s very concerned about the psyches of his players, about maximizing their confidence. For instance, his decision to use a pinch-hitter always includes the potential impact on the confidence of the player being pinch-hit for.
And most obviously, he has a very long leash when it comes to underperforming veterans. He is willing to sacrifice short-term (the guy is slumping now) for the potential long-term payoff of a return to form.
Now, during the post-season, these long-term issues become moot. And in the post-season, he was extraordinary. Does anyone not think so?