ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

D-backs’ Lovullo plenty deserving of Manager of the Year honor

Nov 13, 2017, 10:34 AM | Updated: 11:54 am
Arizona Diamondbacks' Brandon Drury (27) celebrates his home run against the Milwaukee Brewers with...
Arizona Diamondbacks' Brandon Drury (27) celebrates his home run against the Milwaukee Brewers with Torey Lovullo (17) and David Peralta (6) during the seventh inning of a baseball game Sunday, June 11, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The winner for the Baseball Writers Association of America’s Manager of the Year award will be announced on Tuesday, and it is no surprise to see Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo among the other two National League finalists, Colorado’s Bud Black and last year’s winner, the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts.

While all three NL West managers make an excellent case to be a nominee for this award, Lovullo arguably is the most deserving considering what he and general manager Mike Hazen have done to turn the franchise around in just one season.

When the new regime took over, the D-backs were in a state of disarray.

The moves made by previous executives chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and general manager Dave Stewart depleted the once robust minor league system and committed the team to high dollar contracts. The result was a fourth-place finish in the NL West in 2016 and a 69-93 record.

Enter Lovullo and Hazen, who made minor roster changes to the team in the offseason. The most significant moves: bringing on a new group of catchers and adding versatile role players while keeping the majority of the roster intact.

Through his leadership and his mad-scientist-like roster experimentations, which included successfully moving former starting pitcher Archie Bradley to the bullpen, Lovullo and the D-backs flipped their record to 93-69 in 2017 and earned a Wild Card berth.

The 24-game turnaround was the biggest improvement in MLB from 2016 to 2017, and the D-backs did so with the fifth-smallest payroll in baseball.

Arizona’s Opening Day payroll of $93,257,600 is significantly less than what the Dodgers spent as the most expensive team in baseball at $242,065,828, and even much less than the $130,963,571 spent by the Rockies, who had the 16th largest payroll.

Without a fat wallet, Lovullo brought out the best in his players.

Ace Zack Greinke rebounded from a tough season in 2016 to look like the pitcher the D-backs committed $206.5 million to two summers ago. Fellow starters Robbie Ray and Zack Godley emerged as stars with their his best career numbers in several categories, and utility man Daniel Descalso made Lovullo look like a clairvoyant on several occasions.

When you look at the numbers between 2016 and 2017, the team didn’t change much offensively. In 2016, the team batting average was .261, with an on-base percentage of .320 and a .432 slugging percentage. This season, the batting average dropped a bit to .254 with a .329 OBP and .445 slugging figure.

A big factor in the success of this season versus last season was pitching. The pitching staff ERA went from 5.09 in 2016 to 3.66 in 2017 with strikeouts increasing from 8.2 per 9 innings pitched to 9.3 per 9. The small changes they made with essentially the same pitching staff was a difference-maker.

Lovullo’s decision-making was on point all season long, but it was the way Lovullo seemingly brought the team and community together as a family that defines him as a leader.

Lovullo doesn’t shy away from using the word “love” when talking about his team or his staff. Building trust with his players was an important factor, and he has attributed his success to communication and getting to know his players on a personal level. In an interview with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez, Lovullo talked about what he took away from his days as a player that contributes to his abilities as a manager.

“As a player myself, I knew that I felt like at times I didn’t have a lot of expression and have the ability to say what’s on my mind, and I felt like I couldn’t go out there to perform if I didn’t have an empty mind,” he said., ” … so that’s why I always told myself that no matter the circumstances, that I was going to allow these players to have their feelings and express their feelings.”

As far as the community goes, the culture and success of the Diamondbacks team he fostered took the focus off of the battle between the club and the Maricopa County Stadium District over needed improvements to Chase Field. Attendance rose by nearly 100,000 throughout the season and excitement was generated by the team’s postseason run.

Lovullo’s leadership changed the perception of the franchise’s future. He is a shining example of the impact a manager can make on his team.

Penguin Air

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zac Gallen reacts after giving up a three-run home run to Col...
Associated Press

D-backs squander 5-run lead in solid start from Gallen, lose to Rockies

Zac Gallen turned in another solid performance at hitter friendly Coors Field but the D-backs were unable to pick up the win.
1 day ago
Arizona Diamondbacks' David Peralta follows the flight of his single off Colorado Rockies starting ...
Alex Weiner

D-backs’ David Peralta blasts grand slam, climbs franchise HR list

D-backs outfielder David Peralta shot a hanging slider deep into the stands of right field for his third career grand slam.
1 day ago
Ryan McMahon #24 of the Colorado Rockies scores on a Kris Bryant RBI single against the Arizona Dia...
Associated Press

Arizona Diamondbacks pitching gets rocked in loss to Colorado Rockies

The Colorado Rockies scored 11 runs on 12 hits off of Arizona Diamondbacks pitching as the D-backs fell 11-7 on Saturday night at Coors Field.
2 days ago
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel works against the Colorado Rockies during the ...
Jake Anderson

Dallas Keuchel roughed up in 2nd start for Diamondbacks vs. Rockies

It was a rough day at the office for D-backs left-handed starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel against the Rockies at Coors Field on Saturday night.
2 days ago
Cooper Hummel #21 of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates his home run against the Washington Nation...
Alex Weiner

D-backs recall OF Cooper Hummel, option 1B/OF Pavin Smith

The Arizona Diamondbacks recalled rookie Cooper Hummel and optioned first baseman Pavin Smith to Triple-A Reno, the team announced Saturday.
2 days ago
(Twitter photo / @Padres)...
Arizona Sports

San Diego Padres unveil colorful City Connect uniforms

The San Diego Padres released MLB's newest and perhaps most colorful City Connect uniforms with a blend of pink, green and yellow.
2 days ago
D-backs’ Lovullo plenty deserving of Manager of the Year honor