Stats Corner: How does Dave Roberts compare to other NL managers?

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Opinions are definitely mixed when it comes to manager Dave Roberts. Some fans love him, some fans hate him. Which is odd when you think about it, because you’d think a guy who has guided the team to two consecutive World Series appearances would be more universally loved. I don’t recall a lot of fans calling for the firing of Tommy Lasorda after he led the team to two consecutive World Series appearances (and he lost both too).

But it’s a different game now. Back when Lasorda managed, they went more by instinct than stats. Sometimes it worked (Bob Welch vs. Reggie Jackson) and sometimes it didn’t (Tom Niedenfuer vs. Jack Clark). Now there’s a sense that every decision is guided by a computer. A lot of fans wonder why Roberts doesn’t call for more bunts, or steals, or the hit and run.

Well, for one thing, those computers tell us that those things don’t really make a difference. For example, you are more likely to score a run with a man on first and no one out than you are with a man on second and one out, so why bunt? Would you do something that decreased your odds of success?


So, in a game that now frowns upon “little ball” strategy, how does Roberts compare this season to other contemporary National League managers? Let’s take a look.

Stealing second base attempts

The New York Mets, with Mickey Callaway managing, have attempted the most steals of second, with 102 attempts. The top five:

1. Mets, Mickey Callaway, 102

2. Washington, Dave Martinez, 89

3. Milwaukee, Craig Counsell, 86

3. Cincinnati, David Bell, 86

5. Atlanta, Brian Snitker, 85

15. Dodgers, Dave Roberts, 45

In 2018, Roberts was 14th, with 84 steal attempts.

What was it like in 1978? Let’s look at the top five then, plus Lasorda. Remember, there were only 12 teams in the NL then.

1. Pittsburgh, Chuck Tanner, 188

2. Houston, Bill Virdon, 181

3. New York, Joe Torre, 180

4. Atlanta, Bobby Cox, 165

5. San Francisco, Joe Altobelli, 164

11. Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda, 138

Stealing third base attempts

1. Milwaukee, Craig Counsell, 20

2. Washington, Dave Martinez, 16

3. St. Louis, Mike Shildt, 12

4. New York, Mickey Callaway, 11

4. Chicago, Joe Maddon, 11

14. Dodgers, Dave Roberts, 4

In 2018, Roberts was sixth with 15 steal attempts of third.

As you can see, the Dodgers don’t try to steal. On the other hand, with the high-powered offense they have, and without a true speedster on the team, why risk running into an out. Because if anyone knows the value of a stolen base, it’s Dave Roberts (see Boston, 2004 playoffs).

And in 1978:

1. Pittsburgh, Chuck Tanner, 26

2. Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda, 24

3. Houston, Bill Virdon, 19

3. Chicago, Herman Franks, 19

5. San Francisco, Joe Altobelli, 16

5. Philadelphia, Danny Ozark, 15

Let’s turn our attention now to sacrifice attempts. And we will factor pitchers out of the equation, since any manager would have a pitcher sacrifice with a runner on first and no out. This looks specifically at sacrifices by position players with only a runner on first and no out and only a runner on second and no out.


Sacrifice attempts

1. Washington, Dave Martinez, 12

1. New York, Mickey Callaway, 12

1. Pittsburgh, Clint Hurdle, 12

4. Philadelphia, Gabe Kapler, 11

5. San Diego, Andy Green, 7

T6. Dodgers, Dave Roberts, 6

Craig Counsell of Milwaukee has had a non-pitcher bunt only twice in these situations.

In 2018, Roberts was ninth with 11 non-pitcher bunt attempts.

And in 1978:

1. San Francisco, Joe Altobelli, 62

2. San Diego, Roger Craig, 54

3. Chicago, Herman Franks, 40

4. Pittsburgh, Chuck Tanner, 38

4. Atlanta, Bobby Cox, 38

4. Cincinnati, Sparky Anderson, 38

8. Dodgers. Tommy Lasorda, 33

Note: The last-place manager in 1978, Ken Boyer of St. Louis, called for more non-pitcher bunt attempts (19) than the first-place manager this season.

Intentional walks

Which managers have called for the most intentional walks?

1. Miami, Don Mattingly, 40

2. Philadelphia, Gabe Kapler, 35

2. New York, Mickey Callaway, 35

2. Arizona, Torey Lovullo, 35

5. Washington, Dave Martinez, 34

13. Dodgers, Dave Roberts, 20

Interestingly, AJ Hinch of the Houston Astros has not called for an intentional walk this year. Everyone else has at least seven.

In 2018, Roberts was sixth with 39 intentional walks.

And in 1978:

1. New York, Joe Torre, 94

2. Chicago, Herman Franks, 93

3. San Diego, Roger Craig, 92

4. Cincinnati, Sparky Anderson, 83

5. Atlanta, Bobby Cox, 82

12. Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda, 43