Why Dave Roberts Deserves to Be NL Manager of the Year

On Monday afternoon, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) announced the finalists to all of the MLB’s seasonal awards. The Dodgers have three finalists for three awards this season with Kenta Maeda (ROY), Corey Seager (MVP & ROY), and Dave Roberts (MOY). Seager is the arguably the unanimous Rookie of the Year, so that lowers Maeda’s chances of winning an award this season. But manager Dave Roberts is also looking like a favorite to win NL Manager of the Year, at least by my spectrum.

Roberts is the first Dodgers manager to finish in the top three voting since Don Mattingly (who finished second) won his first of three NL West titles in 2013. Roberts is trying to become only the second Dodger manager to win the award, with Tommy Lasorda being the lone manager to win the award in 1983 and 1988. But this year after a tremendous first-year managing, Roberts has a great shot to bring the award back to LA.

Roberts is going up against Joe Maddon of the World Champion Chicago Cubs and Dusty Baker of the Washington Nationals. Both managers own their craft and find themselves at the top of the list of managers throughout baseball. History suggests Roberts has a managerial edge over these two due to past winners.

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Generally the Manager of the Year award is awarded to skippers who manage teams that are coming off of a season that the league didn’t have such high expectations. Roberts’ as a first-year manager took over a team that just lost their second ace, Zack Greinke, and had significant question marks revolving around the bullpen and lineup coming into the season.

Most casual fans may be quick to hand the award to Joe Maddon because he beat Roberts in the NLCS and led the Cubs to their first World Series in 108 years. However, the BBWAA votes on these awards prior to the postseason, so it does not factor into their decision. But with that, Maddon still had the best season of any other team in baseball, leading his club to an MLB’s best:

  •  103-58 record and .650 win percentage with the number 1 pitching staff of the year (3.07 era)
  • Top 5 offense (ranked 3rd with 5.0 runs per game).

But even with all that, the Cubs were favored to win the World Series and Maddon’s team lived up to the hype, so while Maddon leading the team to a championships is remarkable, it certainly wasn’t improbable.

Dusty Baker is going for his 4th MOY award.  He sparked the biggest Win/Loss turnaround of all three managers this year with a +12 W/L differential. Baker flipped the Nats, coming from a second place finish last season and led the Nats to their second division title in three years.

Baker changed the vibe around the clubhouse and showed his managerial experience by handling the star power on the team. While Baker’s Nats did finish second in the NL, the Nats did not come close to the Dodgers with the amount of adversity they faced.

As mentioned earlier BBWAA likes a narrative and likes resiliency.

Well, Roberts fits the call. Even after coming off a third consecutive NL West title, the way the season played out for the Dodgers provides the BBWAA with that story. As the season progressed, the Dodgers turned into the most unlikely division leader in baseball, all done without Kershaw for 10 weeks of the season and the record setting number of players on the disabled list (28) throughout the season.

No one thought the Dodgers could make the playoffs, let alone win the division.

The injuries to Kershaw and the starting rotation forced Roberts to use 15 different starting pitchers, including 4 rookies. Roberts led the league with 607 pitching changes, 20 more than any other manager. I recall a postseason broadcaster mentioning some fun stat that Roberts would have walked a total of 23 miles with all the pitching changes he’s made all season.

Some may argue against Roberts because the Dodgers own the highest payroll in the MLB. But the way the season played out for the Dodgers, many of those highly paid players were either hurt or not as productive as other role players Roberts discovered as the season progressed.

Throughout the season, Roberts was not afraid of media scrutiny, as he showed when he was managing Urias’ innings limit and pulling two different starters out of a game while throwing a no-hitter.

Roberts’ managerial work during his first year could not go unnoticed and BBWAA did the right thing by recognizing his success as a first year manager. He developed a player-friendly clubhouse and the team responded with grit and resiliency, even when the odds were stacked against them.

Roberts dealt with nearly every feasible issue in his first season, whether it was a broken-down starting rotation, overworked bullpen, or struggles of the team’s star players. Against this adversity, Roberts rallied his team to a fourth consecutive division title and a trip to the NLCS. This is why he deserves the Manager of the Year award.

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