The manager of the diamondbacks is very self-aware when looking at his teams collapse this year down the stretch. Will make you think about how you evaluate yourself as a coach.
Lovullo already has a few ideas, aimed at overcoming his natural aversion to changing courses. He rattled off a list familiar to any ardent fan who punished themselves by watching the Diamondbacks down the stretch. Lovullo thinks he shouldn’t be such a slave to left-right matchups, and that he needs to recognize that David Peralta versus a left-hander most of the time will be better than any right-handed hitter available to him. He kicks himself for trying to force the Zack Greinke-Jeff Mathis battery into the eighth inning against the Dodgers a month ago, a move that resulted in two solo homers and a loss. It doesn’t end there. “Giving David Peralta the day off because it was a scheduled day off the night after he gets four hits,” he said. “Little things like that that bother me.”
He needs to be a better manager of the moment. “If I’ve learned some things from this year it’s that it’s probably OK to go off the path a little bit,” he said. “It’s not necessarily my style. I think the players like the idea of having a plan, but I know that they’re versatile. If I do deviate from the plan at times, I think I’ve learned that it will be OK.”
Lovullo is willing to address that tendency toward inertia in a wider sense, but to a limit. Diamondbacks players gush about his communication style and the faith he shows in them, but one player said that Lovullo trusts “to a fault sometimes.” In games, that may result in a pitcher being left in too long because “he deserved a chance” to start the next inning.
Over the course of the season, that show of faith resulted in Lovullo making role changes – benching a struggling Alex Avila for a red-hot John Ryan Murphy, removing Brad Boxberger from the closer’s role, bumping a flailing Paul Goldschmidt down in the order during his horrendous May – arguably later than he should have.
Lovullo recognizes that was an issue – “I’m a little late to the party sometimes,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it.” – but he’ll always “err on the side of over-belief than under-belief.” He still feels his players having high self-confidence is the biggest ingredient to success over the long haul. To illustrate he uses a metaphor of a tree growing in a box: If the top is kept firmly affixed, the tree will fill only the space it’s given; remove it, and the sky is literally the limit. “I am more about blowing the top of that box up,” he said, “and letting that thing explode as high as it can go.”