With the 2014 season firmly in the rear view and shrinking rapidly, there is one factor that hasn’t been discussed much: the performance of the Reds’ brand new manager, Bryan Price. While it’s unlikely that any manager could have overcome the flawed roster and rash of injuries that lead to the 2014 Reds finishing as they did, how did Price do in his first year managing at any level? Is it even possible to sift through the factors outside of his control and determine how good or bad of a job he did? Well, it better be, because we’re taking a poll! How did Price do this year?
The Case Against:
The clearest case against the job Bryan Price did as a manager lies in the numbers: 76-86, 14 games out of first place, 12 games out of the second wild card, and only three games ahead of last place in the division. This was down from a 90 win team in 2013 that included a (brief) postseason appearance and got Dusty Baker fired. As discussed below, there were many factors at play that were outside of Price’s control, but he did not help himself with some of the decisions he made.
Price’s handling of the bullpen and reliance on rigid roles for relievers was virtually indistinguishable from his predecessor. Although they bunted slightly less often in 2014 than they did in 2013, the 2014 Reds still led baseball in sacrifice hits. The baserunning was a disaster. Price was clear from the beginning of the season that he wanted the Reds to be an aggressive baserunning team. They were certainly that, leading baseball in times caught stealing. And it wasn’t just that they were thrown out on the basepaths a lot - it was that they were thrown out like nincompoops (click here if you dare) on a fairly regular basis. These are important considerations, because the Reds had a team OBP of .296, second worst in baseball. For a team that struggled so much to reach base to be so cavalier with the precious few outs they had to work with is downright irresponsible.
The Case For:
Of course, any discussion of the disappointment of the 2014 Reds season has to include the injury situation. Nearly every player the team was depending on to make a positive impact spent at least some time on the disabled list, and several made more than one trip. The number of current and former All-Stars languishing on the disabled list at any given time would have been enough to sink nearly any team’s postseason hopes, and that is not Price’s fault.
Also not Price’s fault was the team’s poor bench, lack of depth, and inactivity in the trade market, all of which, along with the injury situation, likely had more impact on the Reds’ final standing than his tactical decisions and bullpen philosophy. It’s also worth noting that the Reds suffered more than their fair share of good old fashioned bad luck. Their 22-38 record in one-run games can be partially explained by poor bullpen performance, but also has an element of the ball just not bouncing their way very often. It happens, and here’s hoping for a major correction in 2015.
So given the case for and against the Reds’ first year manager, what letter grade would you give the job he did this year? Vote below, and let us know why you graded him as you did in the comments.