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Counterpoint: Don't Fire Andy Green

Here’s why that would be a bad idea.

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Last week, Gaslamp Ball’s interim manager John Gennaro penned an article titled “Fire Andy Green.” While you could have gathered the gist of the article by reading the title, John did go into great detail about why, in his opinion, Padres manager Andy Green should be relieved of his post in short order. He raised some good arguments and, in truth, made several points about Green’s shortcomings that I can identify with; however, it’s in the spirit of debate central to this site that I approached John about writing a separate, detailed piece that attempted to dismantle his argument.

Here are five reasons why the Padres would be foolish to fire Andy Green (interspersed, for my own amusement, with vitriolic tweets from Padres fans frothing at the mouth for his dismissal).

1. It Doesn’t (Really) Work

Back in 2012, SB Nation’s Jon Bois did a statistical review of how mid-season firings affected team performance. As you might expect, Bois’ findings didn’t show a lot of support for the idea that firing your manager in the middle of the year is going to provide a “spark.” The chart below is taken from his piece, and shows the difference in winning percentage before midseason firings, and afterward.

So what do we see? About a .021 bump in winning percentage. As Bois notes, that’s about 1-and-a-half wins over the course of the season, but from a season’s midpoint would likely only result in about a 1-win bump. That might be the difference that decides a playoff berth …or it might be the insignificant difference between 82 and 83 wins.

As Bois noted, “the decision to fire a coach mid-season is often a public relations move, made to broadcast the message to players and fans that executive management is not satisfied with losing.” However, considering this is a front office that has signed two consecutive record-setting free agent contracts, demoted prospects who didn’t perform, and promoted top prospects regardless of service time considerations, I’d ask you the question: do we really need Green to be fired this year to pick up one win, or to be assured of the organizations “commitment to winning”?

2. We’ve Been Here Before

The Padres have an impressive history of scapegoating the coaching staff—impressive only if you like ineffectual firings that produce little to no results in the way of actually measurable improvements. In 2015, the Padres fired Bud Black after he got off to a 33-33 start with a team that was somewhat unreasonably expected to contend. How did they go the rest of the way? A cool 42-55. That was one firing that showed that even Bois’ research on midseason firings only holds to be generally true; sometimes, a team can go in the wrong direction after a firing and find themselves in complete disarray.

Oh, and then there are all the hitting coaches we’ve fired over the years.

The truth—and many people may not like this—is that A.J. Preller is at least significantly responsible for the Padres struggles under Green. He has consistently challenged Green to field teams with major holes: rosters filled with Rule 5 picks; young-as-young-can-be rotations; difficult veterans with histories of being, to put it mildly, hardheaded.

Of course, AJ Preller has also delivered us some of the most exciting signings in recent memory and designed a farm system that is finally the darling of the national press. He is probably as untouchable as a rebuild GM can get, for the time being. So, obviously, the easy “fix” is to fire Green. But we’ve seen around here that such a move is often just a sacrificial lamb that does little to alter fortune.

3. Managers Are Easy To Hate

Almost every fan base has an issue with their manager. Although Dave Roberts is often cited as one of the candidates the Padres shouldn’t have passed over for Green back in 2016, Dodgers fandom is rife with those who feel Roberts is a hindrance to their success, rather than a catalyst. Joe Maddon, just a few years removed from the sheen of ending a historic title drought, is seen by a certain subset of Cubs fans as unlikable.

A lot of the discontent here and elsewhere stems from the fact that managers are almost impossible to evaluate from a purely statistical angle, which is frustrating in the context of a game that is, more and more, evaluated from a purely statistical angle. Sure, managers manage the bullpen, but the credit for a good bullpen often goes to pitching coaches like Darren Balsley. Managers also manage pinch-hitting situations and defensive substitutions, but such decisions are often rather straightforward, based on matching up hitters based on handedness, or subbing in good gloves for bad gloves late in games.

One thing on which we can all agree: winning, and winning alone, is the only thing that can truly buttress a manager’s job security. So, is Green winning enough?

The idea of Wins Above Replacement can be useful here. By Baseball Reference’s WAR, a team comprised entirely of replacement level players (so, essentially, one comprised entirely of AAA players and waiver claims) would have an expected record of 52-110. For every WAR added by a player on a teams roster, we could expect a teams win total to climb accordingly; for example, a team with a collective 10 WAR added by its players would be expected to go 62-100, and so on and so forth.

The Padres roster was projected for 30 WAR this season, per Fangraphs. Adding those wins to the 52 win baseline would have put us in line for 82 wins this year, which, anecdotally, is also in the ballpark of where Vegas has pegged us. At 15-11 as of this writing, Green’s team seems to be right on track to meet or slightly exceed expectations.

Side note: one thing that Green does do well, even according to Mr. Gennaro, is handle the media. A big league manager is contractually obligated to conduct pregame and postgame interviews with the press for every single game that is played. That commits a manger to meet with the press 324 times a season, at a minimum. It may seem like a small thing, but acting as team spokesperson might be seen as a central responsibility for a big league skipper, and Green is, by most accounts, a pretty solid performer in that role.

4. That Losing Streak Just Sucked

The argument I’m making here in general—that Green should stay at the helm for at least this season—probably already seems a bit moot after the Padres performance over the last several days. John’s piece was, understandably, penned at the tail end of a six-game losing streak. Since then, the Padres ripped off five straight against the Reds, Mariners, and Nationals. We are going to have another losing streak, and they are going to suck. But so long as the Padres remain on track to be a .500-ish team, we should take a deep breath when they struggle for a week or so.

5. Positive Signs

Under Green’s watch this year, we’ve seen some encouraging signs of progress: Fernando Tatis has seemed comfortable from day one; the starting pitching, undertaken by the youngest staff in the majors, has been unexpectedly solid; Franmil Reyes has been coming around, and Manuel Margot looks like the guy we’ve expected him to be.

But, as I mentioned, the subjective nature of evaluating a manager’s performance means that there is always room for improvement. Greens sparse deployment of guys like Luis Urias and Francisco Mejia is, to this writer, troubling, even if those guys have at times looked out of place. For a team whose chief concern seems to be the development of its sterling young talent, it does concern me that Green has seemed to favor his veterans. Still, people make the rash assumption, often based on sketchy intel, that such favoritism is the inclination of the manager, and not an edict passed down from the front office that, you know...assembles the roster and executes transactions.

Still, for the reasons presented, a midseason firing of Green would be, at best, only mildly productive, and, at worst, the kind of move that would only serve to placate a long-hungry and frustrated fan base. Sometimes the best move is doing nothing at all. For an organization mired in a phase of adjustment and acclimation, it might be the only move.