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Sarah's Take: Lovullo proves right man for job

November 17, 2017

On Tuesday, Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks was named the National League Manager of the Year. In his first year as a manager, Lovullo reversed the club's 69-93 record from the previous year, going 93-69 to earn the top National League Wild Card spot and take Arizona to its

On Tuesday, Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks was named the National League Manager of the Year. In his first year as a manager, Lovullo reversed the club's 69-93 record from the previous year, going 93-69 to earn the top National League Wild Card spot and take Arizona to its first National League Division Series since 2011.
Rather than overhauling the roster after a disappointing season -- as most teams might have -- the D-backs instead overhauled their front office and coaching staff. Lovullo was the man chosen for the challenge.
Understanding that Arizona is a difficult place to pitch, Lovullo gave his starters a longer leash than they'd had in the past. This helped instill a new confidence in their ability to get out of jams, particularly for Robbie Ray, and preserved the bullpen.
The pitching was the main difference between the 2016 and '17 seasons. In '16, the D-backs had the worst pitching staff in the National League. In '17, they had the second-best staff in the league, behind the Dodgers. Having a reliable eighth-inning setup man in Archie Bradley and a dependable closer in the 40-year-old Fernando Rodney helped greatly.

Lovullo stressed the importance of defense, as well, but the D-backs finished 13th in the league in defense. Injuries, particularly at shortshop, didn't help. Lovullo tried several players at the position, hoping to find one who could field decently as well as contribute to the offense.
Although Lovullo faced several challenges in Arizona during the 2017 season, he never seemed overwhelmed. In late August and early September, the D-backs won a franchise record-breaking 13 consecutive games. Usually, 93 wins are enough to earn a division title, but the D-backs were in the same division as the Dodgers, whose 104 wins were the best in baseball.

Lovullo beat out Dave Roberts of the Dodgers and Bud Black of the Rockies for the National League Manager of the Year Award. Roberts managed a highly talented and deep roster -- without creating jealousies about playing time -- to within one game of an elusive World Series championship. In his first year with the Rockies, Black managed a team with several injuries to its first postseason berth since 2009, falling in an epic Wild Card Game against the D-backs.
If the 2017 regular season was any indication of what baseball will see in the future, the National League West Division will be highly competitive with well-managed teams.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at sarahmorris27@gmail.com.