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Is Dusty Baker a Good Astros Manager?

There is one issue that divides the Astros Twitter world. It is debated almost daily on multiple fronts on individual issues and the discussion really centers on one issue.

Are the Astros winning BECAUSE of Dusty Baker or DESPITE of Dusty Baker?

Is he a good manager?

On the day the Astros could win their 100th game for the fifth time in franchise history to some this will seem like a ludicrous question. They will simply look at the record and say "Of course! Look at their record!"

I tested this theory by putting out a Twitter poll tonight. The results are fascinating to me.

Let's do something new here with our own LarryTheGM poll. Please answer what you think before reading the rest of the article.

What grade would you give Dusty Baker as Astros manager so far in 2022?

  • A

  • B

  • C

  • D

I think there are several elements in place here to grade a manager:

  • The talent level of the Astros- this is really more of the responsibility of the General Manager

  • Managing the clubhouse culture

  • Preparing the lineup and batting order

  • Managing the games making strategic moves to maximize performance

    • Pinch hitters

    • Defensive replacements

    • Bullpen choices

Let's go through the elements.

The talent level of the Astros

The Astros are an extremely talented team. They have earned the second highest WAR this year.

Their pitching has been the best in baseball. I give the pitching coaches far more credit for this performance than I do Dusty. Maybe that's not fair. Someone will have to tell me what Dusty has done to significantly help the pitchers.

The batting has delivered the 6th WAR.

Here are the rankings by position

C- 27th

1B- 24th

2B- 1st

SS- 12th


LF- 1st (Alvarez 222 PA while in LF)

CF- 18th

RF- 3rd

DH- 4th

As I said earlier, I believe the talent level of the team is more of the responsibility of the General Manager. How well the manager translates that talent level into wins and championships is the responsibility of the manager. So what we NEED to know to evaluate the manager of the Astros in 2022 is that he was given a top three level base of talent to work with.

For the rest of these elements, I am going to score each on a scale of 1 to 10.

Managing the clubhouse culture

The Astros had a strong culture when Dusty arrived, but it was under the chaos cloud of the cheating scandal. He deserves a ton of credit for how he held the clubhouse together in 2020, but it is 2022 now. Every player seems to love Dusty and there is an extreme degree of positive mutual support among the players. How much of this is due to Dusty or to the senior player leaders of the Astros. We don't know.

Overall, I am going to give Dusty a 9 here. I think this is the area that Dusty excels at the most.

Preparing the lineup and batting order

This areas has been a MAJOR frustration to me most of the season. I believe Dusty has generally made terrible choices most of the year when honestly the choices were not that hard.

I THINK Dusty has made decisions based on the previous category- more concerned about the impact to clubhouse culture than he was on performance.

I will credit Dusty for managing rest for most of his players. He has remained focused on making sure players have rest and I think this has help the Astros to be relatively injury free.

See this graph per the web site.

The Astros are in the bottom third in the league in games missed due to injury. Major injuries to McCullers, Meyers, Brantley, Castro, and others have led to to the significant WAR lost reflected above.

Ok that all sounds good BUT how has Dusty has managed the lineup in 2022?

Go back to the position by position break down above. While turning in the 6th best batting WAR, the Astros have had the 27th WAR at catcher, 24th at 1B, and 18th in CF. THIS is the issue I have with Dusty in setting the lineup and batting order. He had All-Star level performances at 2B, 3B, LF/ DH, and RF. He was EXTREMELY stubborn in accepting the weaknesses he had at C, 1B, and CF. EVEN when the front office GAVE him options at the trade deadline at both positions he dismissed the near All-Stars he was given as potential PHs and role players.

When I claim the Astros have won DESPITE what Dusty has done, this is my biggest gripe as anyone that has read articles on this site know.

  • Dusty has counted on his 36 year old catcher would bat and field like he was 30-32 again. While sticking with him, Dusty stole playing time from his new catcher that NEEDED to connect with his pitchers and drove him into a slump.

  • Dusty believed his 38 year old first baseman who had a career year that was one of the luckiest hitting years and who had clearly lost the plate discipline that drove his 2021 success was somehow going to find the fountain of youth. Gurriel went almost2.5 months (7/1 to 9/13- 66 games) between home runs. In that span, Gurriel started in 58 games. He had multiple options including Diaz and Mancini. Dusty just did Dusty.

  • Dusty REFUSED to play McCormick in CF. I was so frustrated with this I actually wrote an article titled "Why do the Astros hate McCormick?" Dusty played Siri over McCormick, then forced Mayers to play despite looking not ready, then played Dubon instead of McCormick because apparently he wanted the worse defensive OF to play with the fly ball pitcher. From 6/23 to 8/12, McCormick started in CF....once.

Don't come to me with the Astros had data to support these decisions. If someone created that data and ignored the mountains of data I have REPEATEDLY provided here, they should be fired.

The Astros had three weak links, the front office addressed two of them at the trade deadline, and Dusty refused to implement those solutions, and the performance still lagged league average.

As far as the batting order, players Dusty has batted

1st- Dubon,

2nd- Gurriel, Goodrum, Dubon

3rd- Goodrum, Gurriel

5th- Gurriel (50 wRC+ - 220 PA- WHY?)

Some of these decisions are COMPLETELY indefensible. Stubbornly, keeping Gurriel in the 5th slot in the order and having him kill rally after rally as detailed here, was dare I say it - stupid. Moving him to second in the order was worse.

I don't think Dusty gets credit for playing Altuve, Alvarez, Bregman, Tucker, and Brantley when he had him. Overall, Dusty really only had three or four decisions to make with the lineup and batting order every game. In my view, he has failed those decisions over and over and over. Dusty did well at managing rest. Overall, I score Dusty a 3 here.

Managing the games making strategic moves to maximize performance

To be completely honest I don't think Dusty has attempted to win games with strategic moves until the eighth inning.

Pinch hitters- My complaint with Dusty is philosophical and essentially centers on Gurriel and Maldonado again. Why not PH for them in the 6th inning with men on base?

  • Gurriel - 66 wRC+ with men on base

  • Maldonado - 63 wRC+ with men on base

Possible PH options

A. Diaz - 145 wRC+

Vazquez - 124 wRC+

Mancini - 116 wRC+

Dubon - 75 wRC+

All better options that could have been deployed 8/2 and after.

Defensive replacements- Dusty and the metrics fundamentally disagree on who the better defenders are. I will just leave it at that.

Bullpen choices- Honestly, I don't credit nor discredit Dusty for the pitchers period. Maybe that is unfair. I do think there has been and overuse of a few of the pitchers. I also think there has been a similar stubborn belief in Maton that is simply not warranted by his performance (3.68 ERA, 4.22 FIP, worst of all RP > 20 IP).

Overall, Dusty has been an average game manager in my opinion. I will give him a 6.

So there you have it my scores are a 9, a 3, and a 6. Overall, this a slightly below average manager to me. My issue is that the most basic job of the manager is the area I score him the worst.

So having read this, would you change your vote on this poll.

After reading the article, what grade would you give Dusty Baker as Astros manager so far in 2022?

  • A

  • B

  • C

  • D

Tell me what you think and why. Subscribers, PLEASE leave your comments here or in the chat.

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1 Comment

In the MLB today Manager's have far less autonomy and receive much more oversight from the front office and baseball ops staff. The Astros have a massive baseball ops staff and are one of the most analytic MLB franchises. Dusty also has a handpicked coaching staff that collaborates with him. The Astros are frequently lauded today as one of the best run and successful MLB franchises. I suspect Dusty is singled as solely responsible for most player management decisions that are actually organizations decisions he is simply implementing with his coaching staff.

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