Benoit was the most effective bullpen arm in Jim Leyland’s arsenal, but Smyly was a close second.
And then in the playoffs, Leyland treated Smyly strictly as a LOOGY, refusing to let him face righties. Smyly was already gone when the two series-altering grand slams were struck by the Red Sox.
John Farrell, the manager on the other side of the field, didn’t make that mistake with Craig Breslow, another lefty reliever who had been more than a specialist. Breslow did a lot of heavy lifting in middle relief for the Red Sox. Smyly, not so much.
A pitching manager: Farrell is a rarity: A manager with a pitching background.
The overwhelming majority of skippers were position players. Relatively few hurlers get to be managers; they tend to hit a glass ceiling as pitching coaches.
I don’t see any structural reason for pitchers to be excluded from managing. To really understand pitching, you have to understand hitting, and vice versa.
The most successful pitcher-turned-manager was Tommy Lasorda, of course. Farrell is obviously a long way from Lasorda’s status, but (a) helming this team to the World Series is going to get him more time in the position and (b) he’s got the job for a team with resources.
Farrell might be on his way to a long and illustrious managerial career.
Edward Thoma (344-6377; firstname.lastname@example.org) maintains his Baseball Outsider blog at fpbaseballoutsider.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter @bboutsider.