A message to Padres opponents:
From beneath his blue cap, his face set in its familiar stoic pose, Buddy Black is processing. He is learning and adapting. He is developing strategy. Whether you know it or not, Black is calculating and planning his way to beat you.
Black has commanded the San Diego Padres since 2007. He missed out on the success of the 2005 and 2006 seasons, but he found his own success in 2007 and 2010. In each of those years, the Padres were one win away from the postseason. So far, his short career with the Padres has been very similar to Bruce Bochy‘s in the fact that he cannot quite get over the losing record hump, but does find scattered success. But that’s where the similarities end.
Black comes from the famed Mike Scioscia school of managing. His disciples include Joe Maddon in Tampa, Ron Roenicke in Milwaukee, and Black in San Diego. While serving as a pitching coach for Scioscia in Anaheim, Black learned how to manufacture wins. Black, and each of the other former members of the Angels coaching staff, has carried that philosophy over to his managerial gig. And the ability to get your teams to manufacture runs is almost a prerequisite when taking the helm of the Padres.
Black has helped create an team built on speed and defense. San Diego absolutely dominated the National League in stolen bases in 2011. Their ever-churning legs swiped 170 bags, a full 37 more than the second place Diamondbacks. Interestingly enough, they stole 113 more bases than the World Series champion Cardinals. With a 79% success rate, even the most strict sabermetrician would have to accept the stolen bases as a positive.
On the defensive side of things, the Padres ranked 5th in DRS (defensive runs saved), according to Fangraphs. At the 36, they were a full 39 runs saved less than the Rays, but saved 81 more runs than the last-place Orioles who finished at -45 runs saved.
Obviously, Bud Black doesn’t get all the credit for the off-the-charts base stealing and defense. Dave Roberts and the other coaches on the staff definitely contribute a great deal. However, he did introduce the club to an atmosphere of speed and fielding. The formula has worked in Anaheim, Milwaukee, and Tampa. And to a certain extent, it has worked in San Diego. While the Friars finished 71-91, their Pythagorean record was 79-83. While Pythagorean records can only be used as a comforting measure during the long winter after an unsuccessful season, they still provide hope for the next season.
Bud Black amplifies that hope. Much of the Padres success is beyond his control, but with Black commanding our boys in blue, anything is possible.