John Farrell managed the Boston Red Sox to a first-place finish in the AL East this year. He revitalized the team’s pitching staff and their offense was the best in baseball. Truthfully, I believe he will win the American League Manager of the Year Award – but I don’t think he deserves it.
The award should go to Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees.
Farrell faced none of the adversity that Girardi did this season. The Red Sox had three major injuries all year: Clay Buchholz, Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan. It’s not like Farrell had to work around them.
Proven veteran Jake Peavy replaced Buchholz. True, they had to trade a great young player in Jose Iglesias to get him, but they didn’t lose anything. Iglesias’ replacement, Will Middlebrooks, ended the year with more doubles, home runs and RBIs. And Buchholz was back on September 10, which only made the pitching staff better.
The losses of Bailey and Hanrahan were supposed to be tremendous blows to the Boston bullpen, but Farrell hit the lottery with Koji Uehara, who emerged as one of the best closers in baseball towards the end of the season. He recorded 29 consecutive scoreless innings and at one point retired 37 batters in a row. Farrell faced far fewer injuries and his replacements filled in miraculously.
The Yankees, on the other hand, had almost their entire roster on the DL. Early injuries to Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis and Curtis Granderson hurt the Yankees early. Brett Gardner’s strained oblique killed them late, and Derek Jeter was out for basically the entire year. Alex Rodriguez missed significant time and his role in Biogenesis was a distraction all year.
Alfonso Soriano was a tremendous pickup late in the season, but nothing he did could match the type of production Farrell got from just about every position.
Every player on the Red Sox exceeded expectations. Daniel Nava and Mike Carp (Boston’s fourth and fifth outfielders) batted .303 and .296, respectively. If you get those numbers off your bench, you had better win your division. Free agent signings also had great contributions. Mike Napoli was a question mark at the start of the year, and he had career highs in hits, doubles and RBIs.
Robinson Cano and Gardner were the only two Yankees players who met expectations. Gardner’s .273 batting was second best on the team behind Cano. That mark would have been tied for seventh-best on the Red Sox. Cano led the team in just about every offensive category, but when teams pitched around him early in the season, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells carried the offense for two months – that’s not a winning recipe.
Their starting pitching was a mess too. C.C. Sabathia had careers highs in losses and ERA. Hiroki Kuroda lost whatever magic he had going early on. Andy Pettitte’s age limited his ability to pitch deep into games. Ivan Nova was inconsistent and Phil Hughes struggled to keep the ball in the park all year.
Girardi did a magnificent job managing his bullpen and platooning players based on pitching matchups. He had a patchwork team all year, yet his Yankees were still in the playoff hunt in the final week of the season.
This is the most telling statistic: Farrell won 97 games with a +197 run differential. Girardi won 85 games with a -21 run differential.
I think there are plenty of managers who could have been as successful as Farrell with the team he had. I do not think many other managers could have pulled out 85 wins with the team Girardi had this year. Farrell may have had more wins, but Girardi’s wins were more impressive and harder to come by.
Regardless of the name on the trophy, Girardi was the best manager in the American League this year.