For much of the season, Bruce Bochy seemed like a shoo-in for AL Manager of the Year. The legendary skipper came out of retirement to helm the Texas Rangers, and he helped transform the team into a legitimate postseason contender seemingly overnight.
Bochy won three World Series championships with the Giants but has not won Manager of the Year since 1996. If he wins this season, he will join a short and impressive list of managers to win the award in both leagues; he’ll also smash the record for the longest gap between victories.
The last time he won, the Nationals were still the Expos, the Tigers played in the AL East, and there were only 28 teams in the league.
His victory would make for a great story, and with the way the Rangers were exceeding expectations, it would be hard to argue it wasn’t well-deserved.
Yet over the past ten games, Texas has gone into a tailspin. The Rangers have lost nine of their last ten, allowing the surging Astros and red-hot Mariners to catch up in the division race.
On August 15, the Rangers had a season-high 95.1% chance to make the playoffs, per FanGraphs. Since then, their odds have plummeted to 70.3% (as of 08/27). That’s a massive drop for such a short timeframe, putting them behind the Astros and the Mariners in the AL West.
Just a few weeks ago, Texas seemed all but certain to make the postseason. Now, their odds are closer to a coin flip than a sure thing. And if the Rangers aren’t competing in the playoffs, Bochy’s Manager of the Year prospects could completely disappear. Only five different managers have won the award with a team that finished third or worse in its division.
During an era in which more teams make the playoffs than ever, it’s hard to imagine giving MOY to a skipper who spent October on the golf course.
Meanwhile, as Bochy’s odds fall, two more skippers are forcing their way into the conversation.
The Orioles took the baseball world by surprise last season, opening up their contention window far earlier than anyone expected. Their manager, Brandon Hyde, finished second for MOY, earning nine first-place votes and appearing on 25 of 30 ballots.
Thus, when Baltimore started out strong in 2023, it was still a surprise, but not exactly a bolt from the blue. We knew the Orioles would cause some trouble in the AL Wild Card race thanks to young stars like Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, and Félix Bautista.
Manager of the Year usually goes to a manager whose team significantly outperformed preseason expectations. Unfortunately for Hyde’s MOY chances, his team had their big “exceeding expectations” moment in 2022.
Or so we thought. Over the last few weeks, it has become clearer and clearer that the Orioles have taken another step forward. They’re not just hanging around in the Wild Card conversation – they have the best record in the American League. Since Opening Day, their postseason odds have risen higher than any other team’s.
They have a deep and powerful lineup, a capable starting rotation, and one of the nastiest bullpens in the game. For the second year in a row, the Orioles have been a far better team than anyone imagined. Hyde deserves credit for helping a young and inexperienced team exceed all expectations.
But then there’s the Mariners of it all.
After finally ending their postseason drought last fall, the Mariners looked like something of a disappointment over the first half of the 2023 season. Seattle was only a single game above .500 at the All-Star break, and they sold more than they bought at the trade deadline, sending closer Paul Sewald to the Diamondbacks.
Yet the Mariners have been on fire for the past six weeks. Not only are the M’s back in the postseason race, but they might win their first division title in 22 years.
Seattle has gone 29-12 (.707) with a +66 run differential since the All-Star break. While the Orioles have watched their postseason odds rise slowly throughout the year, the Mariners have seen theirs shoot up like a firework:
If the Mariners can pull off this remarkable comeback and incredible upset, manager Scott Servais will deserve plenty of acknowledgment. He finished third for MOY last year, but Seattle is on pace for an even better finish in 2023.
AL Manager of the Year: The Case for Bochy
- The Rangers have turned into genuine contenders.
- His team has the best run differential in the AL, a sign that he brings out the best in his players.
- He’s a managerial legend, and recent history tells us the voters like a veteran (ex. Showalter, Francona).
Path to victory: Bochy was the early-season favorite, but the narrative is changing. His Rangers will have to pick it up in September for him to take home the hardware.
AL Manager of the Year: The Case for Hyde
- The Orioles have become one of the best teams in baseball.
- His team is leading the toughest division in the game.
- They are outperforming their run differential, which can be a sign of smart management.
- This would be his first postseason appearance as a manager; voters like newbies, too (ex. Shildt, Kapler).
Path to victory: With the Orioles on top of the AL East, Hyde looks like the favorite for MOY. He just needs to stay the course and hope the Mariners cool off and the Rangers stay cool.
AL Manager of the Year: The Case for Servais
- The Mariners have made a stunning turnaround.
- Toppling the Astros and Rangers would be an impressive accomplishment.
- Seattle’s bullpen has had incredible success, another sign of good management.
- He’s helping the Mariners (potentially) break a long division-crown drought.
Path to victory: Servais has momentum behind him right now, but the Mariners need to keep winning. His chances depend heavily on Seattle winning the AL West.