- Thom Sheridan
- Charlie Manuel, baseball brainiac.
On September 28, the Indians trailed Minnesota by one run in the 10th inning. With one out and Kenny Lofton on first base, Manuel tapped free-swingin' Russell Branyan to pinch hit for Omar Vizquel. Manuel later told reporters he liked Branyan's ability to win the game with one mighty swing.
Branyan, however, lined out to left, and the game ended two batters later. Twins 4, Indians 3. Cleveland went on to win its last three games, but fell one short of the playoffs. Many Tribe fans blamed Manuel for allowing Bartolo Colon to get an early start on his offseason regimen of Ding-Dongs and guacamole.
But a new statistic, prepared by Scene's Division of Baseball Arcana, shows Manuel to be a man of sublime craft. Don't let the accent, which makes Chuck Yeager sound like a poet laureate, fool you. Manuel is a dugout witch.
What is this stat? RPH. It's calculated by dividing a team's runs by its hits. The higher the runs per hit, the better a team maximizes its scoring opportunities. A team that makes the most of its hits presumably draws walks, takes the extra base, makes contact -- all the "little things" your old man's teams did back in the day of double-headers and billowy uniforms.
RPH works for defense, too. The lower the opposing teams' RPH, the better the pitching and defense prevents the other team from scoring.
Still with us? Now, subtract a team's defensive RPH from its offensive RPH. The greater the number, the better the team and, by extension, its manager.
Lo and behold, Charlie Manuel had an RPH index of 0.040 last season, fourth best in the American League. Oakland skipper Art Howe led all managers with a differential of 0.101, while the Giants' Dusty Baker was tops in the NL with 0.088.
"I like that," said the Appalachian Assassin, after RPH was explained to him following a recent batting practice. "Real interesting."
Using this statistic, Charlie the Wise is not as gifted as Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox, but is smarter than Bobby Valentine and Jimy Williams. RPH says that Joe Torre (0.007) is overrated and that Tony Muser (-0.052) couldn't manage a taco stand.
The AL manager with the worst RPH last season was none other than Dudley Michael Hargrove, who misguided the Orioles to a -0.064. And Grover didn't change pitchers with a colostomy bag hanging from his hip.
Through May 30, the 2001 Indians again have the fourth-best RPH index (0.045) in the AL, trailing only the Mariners, Blue Jays, and Twins.
Manuel is quick to share praise with the pieces he so delicately moves about his diamond-shaped chess board. "I would say, almost any time a player does something good, it makes the manager look good. The guys are the ones playing the game; they're the ones doing the job. But at the same time, I am the manager, and I got a coaching staff, and it's up to us to reinforce what we want and what we expect from the team."
Later that night, the Assassin steered the Tribe to yet another victory.