Friday, July 20, 2007

The Cannon

Personally, I think we need to maintain a bit of perspective on Pete Mackanin.

I'm not wild about already hearing discussions about keeping him on for 2008, because I'm not sure he's really doing anything revolutionary. Not to mention, he has three things going for him that are creating a fog over his actual managerial skills:

1) The morbidly named "Dead Cat Bounce" theory,
2) The Reds regression to the mean, and
3) He's not Jerry Narron.

I think those are the three main factors for the Reds success since he took over and I don't think any of those are signs that we should keep him around.

1) The Dead Cat Bounce refers to the idea that a moderate improvement in performance after a sustained period of poor performance does not necessarily indicate improving circumstances. Basically, even a dead cat will bounce if it is dropped from a great enough height. The Reds have been in freefall all year, so a bit of a bounce back doesn't mean that they are on the verge of very good things.

That said, I think the Reds recent improvement is likely due to a response to external changes, not due to any real, fundamental improvement in the team itself. I think we are getting a bit carried away that the addition of the Cannon has truly changed things in Cincy. The Reds still are what they are, which isn't necessarily a bad thing (see: #2).

There was an interesting article I read that discussed a study performed on the productivity of factor workers. Factory workers worked in a controlled environment under the same conditions for a substantial period of time. One day, the overhead lights were turned up, which made it brighter in the factory (although, the same effect was seen when they made it darker). After that simple change in working conditions the productivity of the employee's improved. Of course, it went back to normal levels after the employees adjusted to the new condition and the effect was not sustainable if changes were made day after day.

I think that's part of what is happening with the Reds. Often times, when team's change managers in mid-season, there is an immediate spike in performance. Whether it is due to the desire of the players to impress the new manager, the freedom from no longer working under the old manager, or something else, the effect is not all that rare. That said, it is more than likely a spike in performance, rather than a sustainable, tangible improvement.

I think it's likely that the players are responding to a general change in working conditions, not to the individual new manager himself. The Cannon is in his professional honeymoon period and he'll need to sustain it over the long run before we can say anything definitively about his skill-set.

2) Regression to the Mean

Quite frankly, the Reds should never have been THAT bad. There is too much talent for them to be a last place team, especially with a healthy Jr of old, the emergence of Josh Hamilton, a step forward for Phillips, and a bounce back year from Dunn. Personally, I couldn't understand how they could be THAT bad in the first half.

Given that they were likely under performing, I think a string of good performances should have been expected. Even if the Reds recent streak is an indicator of future performance and not just a response to changes, I'm still not sure Cannon deserves much credit here, as the Reds really couldn't be that terrible forever.

The horrendous bullpen couldn't keep all the positives on this team down forever.

3) He's not Jerry Narron

Accordingly, everyone is willing to cut him some slack and compare him to his predecessor. Narron's tenure would make just about anyone we brought in look good, so again I'm not sure this is a benefit of The Cannon. In order to be the long term manager of this team, you have to bring more to the table than just being better than Narron.

Maybe the Cannon will be a successful manager, but I tend to think he's just caught up in a vortex of positive events that aren't his doing. Personally, I'm still hoping he never gets the chance to shake off that "interim" label. Or, at the very least, has to work very hard to earn it.

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