Is Gabe Kapler a Good Manager?

It was announced on November 12th that Giants manager Gabe Kapler was signed to a two year extension to remain the manager in San Francisco. Kapler has more than earned that extension as well. In his tenure with the Giants, Kapler has gone 136-86 over one full season and a pandemic shortened season. This is good for a .613 win percentage, which compares favorably to his .497 win percentage he had in Philadelphia at the start of his managerial career. His two year extension will keep him in San Francisco until after the 2024 season, if he gets to stick around for the whole thing. He did just lead the Giants to one of the best seasons in the history of baseball, and the best regular season in Giants history with 107 wins. Giants fans love him and are super excited to see him back until 2024, well most of them anyway.

I am one of the few Giants fans that you will find that is not a huge fan of Gabe Kapler. I didn’t love the signing when they signed him prior to the 2020 season, and I still feel that way even after the 2021 season. I will say that I dislike him a lot less than when they first hired him. He has proven that he does have a better idea of what is going on than what I first thought. I was hoping that his first 3 year deal was going to be it, no extension and out of San Francisco, but he earned that extension and I am happy he has performed well, for the most part. There are a lot of things that I do not think he does well and I will go over a lot of those things as to why I don’t love Kap as the Giants manager for the next 3 seasons.

Before I get into what I don’t love about him, I do want to give him his props as to what he does well. He is a fantastic clubhouse guy that really brings the team together and keeps morale very high for the team. That is super important as it can lead to a lot of success on the field as we saw in 2021. Kapler also makes a lot of good offensive decisions, and by that I mean when to pinch hit late in games. He was not afraid to pinch hit a guy in the 6th or 7th inning of games last year, and more often than not, it worked out well for the Giants. This ultimately led the Giants to have their amazing season, well that and a lot of very good years from guys on the team that wasn’t exactly predicted at the beginning of the season.

Now comes the fun part, what I think Kapler does that isn’t great for the Giants. This is also what I have observed after watching a ton of games over the last two seasons, and isn’t necessarily facts by any means. I think Kapler is terrible at managing the bullpen. Until much later into the 2021 season, Kapler was loyal to his guys in the spots he wanted them to a fault. It was this exact thing that led the Giants to ultimately miss the playoffs in 2020 when Kapler refused to use anyone that wasn’t named Trevor Gott as the closer. We saw a glimpse of this again in 2021 when Jake McGee was on the injured list and Kapler used Tyler Rogers in the 9th inning where he was obviously struggling a bit. It took a much longer time than it should have for Kapler to eventually pivot to using some of the other arms in the pen. The later emergence of Camilo Doval helped with this fact, but what most non-Giants fans don’t know is that Doval was on the roster earlier in the season too, he just struggled a ton in his first stint in the bigs. So you know how Kapler was using a struggling rookie with command issues in his situation? If you guessed late in close games where one or two runs makes a huge difference, you would be correct. He was an exciting rookie with a ton of potential, but obviously had control issues. Kapler would also bring guys into a game in a way that confused me as a fan, but that also could just have been a personal thing.

Kapler also doesn’t seem to really want to defend his guys too much on the field if there is a terrible call. Most managers will get mad and yell at umpires when a call really seems to be awful, and it shows a sense of willingness to defend your guys to the very end, and Kapler never really did that. I would say it is typical for a manager to get into an umpire’s face a few times a year, even getting ejected a couple times. Kapler simply does not do this. Kapler seems content just letting a lot of these calls be, not that there is a major issue with this, but I would love to see Kap just once seem like he gets mad over a call and will defend his guy with some passion and anger.

At the end of the day, managers play a very small role in modern baseball. The front office folks do most of the work and will be the ones making most decisions heading into a game, but in the game decisions are a big deal that usually fall to the manager. The coaching staff deserves a ton of credit for the success of the team. The Giants are revolutionizing the way coaching baseball works, and it has clearly had some positive effects so far. Does this Kapler extension mean as much to the Giants as people think it does? No, not at all. Should I really care all that much about it considering that he really won’t have a ton of affect on any given game? Also no, not at all. I am still going to be counting down the days until I can watch Giants baseball again, no matter who is managing the team.

Featured Image from @SFGiants on Twitter

Diego Franco-Carreno

@djfc22 on Twitter. Boise State University Mathematics 2021. Math and baseball.

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