Servais offers hints of managerial style
First-time skipper emphasizes on-base percentage, strong bullpen
SEATTLE -- Scott Servais doesn't have a track record as a Major League manager, so if you're wondering what style the new Mariners skipper will bring to the table, here are a few clues.
He is indeed interested in the analytics of baseball, which clearly is something he shares with new general manager Jerry Dipoto. Servais won't always just manage by the numbers, but he'll certainly be open to any statistical analysis that might provide an edge or way to understand an aspect of the game.
"I think it's very important," Servais said. "It's the way the game is going. If you try to fight it, you're going to end up losing. Why not [use it]? It's information. You have to use it and you have to put it into play. I'm not the guy that comes up with the formulas and spits out the numbers. I'm smart enough to know what I don't know.
"But what I do know is when somebody is showing me we have a deficiency in a certain area, my job is, 'How are we going to fix it? How are we going to attack it? How do we get it better?' I'm a 'why' coach. 'Why is that happening?' … So I do think it's important. But there also is some feel to it and the experience level of being a baseball guy. It goes hand in hand."
Servais will push to change the complexion of a Mariners team that ranked fifth in the American League in home runs last year but just 13th in runs scored, thanks largely to an on-base percentage at .311 that was 11th in the AL.
"In the bigger picture, we need to do a better job of getting on base," he said. "We have to create more opportunities to score runs. It's really hard to hit home runs every night and win games."
He says pitching and defense are the backbone of any good team and should be a particular point of emphasis for a club playing half its games at Safeco Field. And he noted wryly that how successful he's judged as a first-year manager will no doubt be tied closely to how good a bullpen the Mariners put together in 2016.
"I think the thing that gets noticed most by the media and fans is the pitching, handling the bullpen," he said. "'Why did they take that guy out? They should have left him in.' I've been there. I watch the games, too. You have to have a feel, and it's matchups tied to it as well.
"Hopefully we have a really good bullpen. Good bullpens make young managers look good. They do. You run those guys in there one after another who throw 95 [mph], you're really good. No kidding. I get it. If I had a wish list, that's where I'd like to see us load up."
The former catcher views his managing style more like a football coach than a baseball manager, in that he places huge importance on pregame preparation.
"He is detailed, disciplined and organized," Dipoto said. "The one thing I can say about Scott more than any person I've ever been around, he loves to practice."
And the Wisconsin native carries that football analogy over to the diamond with an interesting comparison.
"For me, the line of scrimmage in baseball is the strike zone," Servais said. "You have to control the strike zone, whether on the mound or in the batter's box. Controlling the strike zone, swinging at good pitches, getting deep in counts, walking maybe a little bit more. And on the flip side [on the mound], controlling the strike zone, keeping the pitch count down, getting deep into games, having a chance to win games as a starting pitcher. That's where it happens, in the strike zone. So walks to strikeouts [is a key statistic]. That's where the game is won, in my opinion."