While he was not a finalist to win the NL Manager of the Year award, SF Giants manager Gabe Kapler received three votes in his first season in San Francisco.
The National League Manager of the Year ballots were released today with Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly taking home the award, but SF Giants manager Gabe Kapler earned some recognition as well.
Kapler received three third-place votes. They came from San Francisco Chronicle Giants beat writer Henry Schulman, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ann Killion, and St. Louis Cardinals beat writer for The Athletic Mark Saxon.
Both Schulman and Killion had a close look at Kapler’s performance this year, and their votes represent a favorable view of Kapler’s work. Saxon may not have been watching Kapler’s work on a daily basis, but it’s noteworthy that someone with such distance could still consider him worthy of recognition.
At 29-31, the Giants record may not have been exceptional, but they nearly squeaked into the playoffs, and were expected to finish in the cellar of the NL West. With that in mind, it is not surprising to see Kapler’s name in the discussion.
The 45-year-old made some questionable decisions early in the season but found his groove as the year wore on. In fairness to Kapler, this was such an uncharacteristic start to the year that some growing pains were to be expected.
The summer camp that each team held was a shortened version of Spring Training and many starting pitchers had not fully built up arm strength once the season began. This caused an overreliance on the bullpen, which was compounded by the new three-batter minimum rule.
While the Giants pitching staff, as a whole, struggled to the tune of a 4.64 ERA, that had more to do with the roster construction rather than Kapler’s management.
In the batter’s box, the Giants saw some nice bounce-back seasons from many of their key veterans including Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. Furthermore, Mike Yastrzemski proved that he is a star in the making, and Mauricio Dubón made some positive strides at the plate.
The players deserve credit for the team’s turnaround at the plate, but the hitting coaches that Kapler brought in earned rave reviews as well. Kapler took on a lot of risk by bringing in three hitting coaches – Donnie Ecker, Justin Viele, and Dustin Lind – who were light on coaching experience, but well-versed in today’s analytical approach to hitting. Given how well the players responded, that is one risk that has paid dividends.
This was a weird year in baseball, and managing through it was no easy task. In his first year with the SF Giants, Gabe Kapler did well to navigate the funkiness of a pandemic-shortened baseball season and finished the year with some nice praise as well.