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Sunday, October 06, 2002

Baseball Primer’s 2002 Managers of the Year

Our picks.

I love the idea of evaluating managers, because it has no rules, no guidelines. The manager receives credit (or blame) for what is really the management team (GM, scouts, etc?). It’s hard to decide what to the manager is responsible for, but I think we can safely give the manager credit for two main categories:


  • Long term (season scale) managing
  • Short term (in game) managing


With that in mind, lets try to evaluate the candidates in both leagues (for the sake of simplicity, a candidate is anyone who received a vote in the primer voting).

NL         AL
Dusty Baker   Ron Gardenhire
Bruce Bochy   Art Howe
Bob Boone     Mike Scioscia
Bob Brenly     Joe Torre
Bobby Cox     Carlos Tosca
Tony LaRussa
Frank Robinson
Jim Tracy


Which manager most outperformed expectations? Who’s masterful roster usage kept added the more wins than the experts thought possible?

Let?s try to establish expectations by looking at pre-season predictions. I used an the predictions of the average Primate and Diamond Mind?s, averaged them, and compared them to actual performance.

In the NL:

Manager         Actual   Avg. Pred.  Wins Added
Frank Robinson     83     69.4       13.6
Jim Tracy         92     78.6       13.4
Bob Brenly       98     85.3       12.7    
Bobby Cox       101     89.5       11.5
Dusty Baker       95     87.7       7.3
Tony LaRussa       97     90.7       6.3
Bob Boone         78     77.9       0.1
Bruce Bochy       66     79.2       -13.2

Frank Robinson did the best; however, he did have a bit of help with the surprise help of Bartolo Colon and a few weeks of Cliff Floyd. Generally all the (Non-boone/bochy) candidates led their teams to surprising performances, with Jim Tracy leading the way. A lot his success has to do with amazing pitching performances from Eric Gagne and Odalis Perez.

In the AL:

Manager         Actual   Avg. Pred.  Wins Added
Mike Scioscia     99       80.0       19.0  
Ron Gardenhire     94       82.0       12.0
Art Howe       103       94.5       8.5
Joe Torre       103       99.5       3.5
Carlos Tosca     78       79.0       -1.0

Hands down, Mike Scioscia?s Angels were the surprise of the year, with a lot of success due to an excellent bullpen. Much credit should go to Gardenhire and Howe for keeping those teams afloat for another year when most counted them out due to small market constraints. Tosca presents an interesting challenge; he got Toronto back to the level that most people saw them at, after a disastrous first half by Buck Martinez. Look for Toronto to really consolidate the Ricciardi plan under Tosca next year.


It?s easy to look back and see if a team lived up to expectations; it?s a lot harder to infer how successful a manager is game-by-game by looking at season totals. Earlier this year, Bill James presented an intriguing argument for the potential evaluation of managers based on their performance in 1-run games. He suggests a formula for predicting a team?s record in 1-run games.

We can evaluate the success of a manager?s one run strategy by seeing how much he beat his expected performance by. The value of this formula is debatable, but seeing as how it?s the best evidence we?ve got, let?s take a look:

In the NL:

Manager       1-runGames     1-run W%      Expected     Wins Added
Jim Tracy     48         .688         .522         8.0
Bobby Cox     45         .622         .549         3.3
Frank Robinson 52         .577         .505         3.7
Bob Boone     49         .531         .481         2.4
Dusty Baker   50         .560         .552         0.4
Tony LaRussa   41         .537         .542       -0.2
Bob Brenly     43         .535         .542       -0.3
Bruce Bochy   43         .419         .455       -1.6

In the AL:

Manager       1-runGames     1-run W%      Expected     Wins Added
Art Howe     46         .696         .543         7.0
Ron Gardenhire 45         .644         .516         5.7
Carlos Tosca   44         .523         .496         1.2
Mike Scioscia   53         .585         .560         1.3
Joe Torre     42         .500         .554       -2.3


Choosing the manager of the year is a far more subjective process than any of the player awards. In trying to make it objective, I will combine apples and oranges. Let?s see which manager added the most wins to his team:

In the NL:

Manager     Long   Short   Total Wins Added
Jim Tracy     13.4   8.0   21.3
Frank Robinson 13.6   3.7   17.3
Bobby Cox     11.5   3.3   14.8
Bob Brenly   12.7   -0.3   12.4
Dusty Baker   7.3   0.4     7.7
Tony LaRussa   6.3   -0.2     6.1  
Bob Boone     0.1   2.4     2.5
Bruce Bochy   -13.2   -1.6   -14.7

In the AL:

Manager     Long   Short   Total Wins Added
Mike Scioscia 19.0   1.3   20.3
Ron Gardenhire 12.0   5.7   17.7
Art Howe     8.5   7.0   15.5
Joe Torre     3.5   -2.3     1.2
Carlos Tosca   -1.0   1.2     0.2

By combining a measure for successful seasonal managing, and a metric for successful in-game decision making the managers of the year should be: Jim Tracy and Mike Scioscia?

Do I think that Scioscia and Tracy singlehandedly added 20 wins to their teams? No, of course not. Barry Bonds couldn’t even do that. However, I’m surprised how well the results agreee with the subjective observations (which I think is the probably the best way to evaluate manager of the year).


NL Managers:

              1   2   3   Blts   Pts
Bobby Cox         6   3   4   13   43
Jim Tracy         6   4   1   11   43
Dusty Baker       1   4   5   10   22
Tony LaRussa       2   2   2   6   18
Frank Robinson     1   0   3   4     8
Bruce Bochy       0   1   1   2     4
Bob Boone         0   1   0   1     3
Bob Brenly         0   1   0   1     3

AL Managers:

              1   2   3   Blts   Pts
Mike Scioscia       8   6   2   16   60
Art Howe         4   3   9   16   38
Ron Gardenhire     3   5   4   12   34    
Joe Torre         1   0   2   3     7
Carlos Tosca       0   1   0   1     3

(Voting done in a 5-3-1 scoring format)

And in a fluke, “objective” and subjective judgment agree!



James Fraser Posted: October 06, 2002 at 06:00 AM | 14 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 06, 2002 at 12:52 AM (#606564)
It might be a reason to bestow Executive of the Year on Walt Jocketty, for picking up Chuck Finley as a midseason replacement for Kile and for winning the Rolen sweepstakes, but I don't see where LaRussa deserves credit for those moves. St. Louis's late-season charge was played mostly against teams that were well out of it when they played the Cards, except for one three-game set against Arizona and the seven games against Houston (of which the Cards won just four); I don't see that LaRussa deserves credit for beating teams that the Cards should have been able to beat, either.

-- MWE
   2. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 06, 2002 at 12:52 AM (#606566)
Of course LaRussa deserves his share of the credit, as does Torre. But look at the course of the season. The Cardinals were just 3 1/2 games ahead of the Reds the day Finley made his first start for St. Louis, not so much because they were playing well as because the Reds were really struggling. The Cardinals really didn't shake loose until Finley and Rolen were picked up, and the schedule broke in their favor from mid-August through early September, when they played a slew of games against the Pirates, Cubs, Phillies, Reds (who had crashed out of the race by that time), and Brewers. The Cardinals went 22-9 over that stretch, against teams that they should have beaten - and it was that stretch that more or less ended the NL Central race.

Does LaRussa really deserve *extra* credit for Jocketty's moves, and for taking control of the pennant race during the easiest portion of their schedule? Not in my book.

-- MWE
   3. James Fraser Posted: October 06, 2002 at 12:52 AM (#606569)
Grady little comes in at -0.31 wins added according to the methodology above.
   4. Paul Mazurkiewicz Posted: October 06, 2002 at 12:52 AM (#606570)
Interesting "methodology". I put it in quotes because it's not the most rigorous evaluation, but it's a pretty good q-a-d method.

(Maybe it's just because I voted for Tracy and Scoscia in the IBAs).
   5. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 06, 2002 at 12:52 AM (#606572)
Why do we put Torre in every year?

I can't speak for the others, but the reason I do it is because while Torre is not a tactical genius, he's able to do what a lot of managers can't bring themselves to do -- leave the team alone and let them play. It's a very simple-sounding concept, but it's something a lot of managers don't or won't do. When was the last time Joe Torre went on a public macho-trip over a player who did something he didn't like? When was the last time Torre made a move during a game for the sole purpose of looking like a genius? In New York, that is; my memory is long enough to remember Todd Zeile's first few seasons.

Torre doesn't stand in the way of his team's success and uses players in roles that they're comfortable with and can succeed. That's enough to earn my vote.
   6. David Brazeal Posted: October 06, 2002 at 12:52 AM (#606573)
I'm really surprised that LaRussa didn't get more credit, too. To have a team go through what the Cardinals went through, and to win 97 games? That's just astounding. Yes, these guys are professionals, and yes, we all have to return to work when co-workers die. But that doesn't make what the Cardinals (and LaRusa) did any less amazing.

He gets my vote for MoY, and nobody else is even close. And I'm a Cardinals fan who usually can't stand him.
   7. MGL Posted: October 07, 2002 at 12:53 AM (#606576)
I agree wholeheartedly with David Smyth that these so-called objective evaluations are next-to worthless. Sometimes you have to say "I don't have enough reliable information or a sound methodolgy to do this partricular evaluation (managers), rather than "This is the best I have, so I'll do it anyway." This is the quintessential example of that! I think that these ratings are as worthless as you can get (no offense to the author, who is otherwise a good sabermetrician)!

As far as objective and subjective evaluations being similar, gee, do you think there's a connection? If the Padres hadn't underperformed or the Angels hadn't overperformed (relative to their pre-season predictions), don't you think that people's subjective evaluations would be different? Of course, there will be a "connection" between the so-called objective and subjective evaluations, since much of the "subjective" evalution is no doubt based upon the objective data that are cited in this article ("look at the Dodger's record in 1-run games - boy that Tracy must be a genius" - duh!). Come on!
   8. James Fraser Posted: October 07, 2002 at 12:53 AM (#606578)
As David said:
"The accurate evaluation of baseball managers is at about the same level as the evaluation of batters in 1875."

I'm not proposing that managers should be evaluated by the procedure outlined in the article... I think I can explain it best by telling you how I approached the article. The apologetic Canadian in me, just can't resist...

I started by breaking down a managers role into long and short term tasks. Not having hours to look at everyone's roster management and strategy in 1 run games, I decided to approximate it. I thought I would look at which teams out performed predictions, and which teams out performed 1-run predicted records. It wasn't until much later that I thought I would add them together - "apples and oranges" - the two shouldn't be added. As a sabermetrician, I know that, but I thought it'd make a better article than "we don't have a good way to evaluate managers so here are some anecdotes..."

I think it's just a fun way of looking at manager performance. But, let's turn the criticism into something useful. How should we be evaluating managers? Let's not throw our hands up in frustration, let's push the field forward.

Here are some starting points:
*How well does a manager outperform predictions?
*How much does his team outperform their expected 1-run game record by?
*How much does his team outperform their pythagorean record?
*How much does his team outperform their par (Bill James Managers Book)?
*What did he do with the roster or strategically that was innovative?
*Bill James manager in a box gives us some framework to get a feel for a manager, but is little use for deciding Manager of the year.
*Other indicators... Multi-inning saves/spreadout save opportunitys, SH usage, SB usage, hit and run, platoon, PH...???

What framework should we use?
   9. MGL Posted: October 07, 2002 at 12:53 AM (#606579)
A few suggestions:

1) Use a regression formula (or a sim) to convert team OPS to runs scored. Compare a team's expected runs scored, based upon their OPS, using the appropriate regression formula, to their actual runs scored. Things like appropriate and inappropriate sac bunting, good or bad use of pinch hitters, hit-and-runs, and poor basestealing and baserunning will affect this comparison.

2) Look at a team's SB/CS numbers and "atrribute" the net runs to the manager.

3) Look at the number of sac bunts, say prior to the 7th inning, and automatically assume that "more is bad".

4) Look at relative playing time of each player. Bad players who get too much playing time and good players who get too little equals bad managment.

5) Ditto for pitchers!

6) How many lineups does a manager use during the course of the year, other than due to injuries (again, assume that "more is bad" - there is only one optimum lineup)?

7) More importantly, what does a typical lineup look like (Cristian Guzman bating 2nd, Devi Cruz batting cleanup, all those lousy OBP players batting leadoff, Finley and Williams 3rd and 4th and Durazo 5th, etc.)?

8) Look at the use of the closer (is he only used in the 9th?).

9) Does a manager use proper L/R matchups?

10) Does a manager platoon correctly when he can?

11) How superstitious is a manager (does he believe in hot/cold streaks - well, I guess they all do), and how does he let this affect his lineup and the players' playing time (T. Kelly was the King of "You go 0-4 and you bat 8th or sit..").

12) Does he "fall in love" with poorly skilled players (a la LaRussa with several players over the years, and Brenley with Counsell)?

13) Does the team have a "revolving bullpen", based upon very short-term results?

These are more "objective" measures of manager competence. Of course, some of them are sort of open-ended questions whose answers would have to be somehow quantified or coded if we wanted to use them in a manager evaluation scheme.

If you are trying to determine which managers motivate their teams better or "teach" them better skills, or somehow get more "bang for the buck", by looking at the results of 1-run games, or pre-season predictions versus actual results, or even individual projections versus actual performance, I say "Good luck to you buddy!"
   10. TeddyA Posted: October 07, 2002 at 12:53 AM (#606587)
Does anyone know if managers' stats (as outlined by Bill James in the managers book) are available online. I think James was right when he suggested the first step in evaluating managers is to describe them. Do they use the hit-and-run? Do they platoon? How often do they use pinch runners and hitters? How many relievers do they use? Is this data readily available?
   11. Ron Johnson Posted: October 07, 2002 at 12:53 AM (#606589)
James asked

What framework should we use? [in evaluating manager]

It's complicated. Unlike a lot of statheads I don't automatically downgrade a manager for bunting a lot. Provided the players involved are actually good at bunting the net runs that are lost are never going to be huge.

And that to me is the point. A good manager works with his player's strengths and works to shore up the weak points of the team. No substantial harm in bunting if the guy can do it (though not a particularly good idea in general) but real harm can be done in pretending that anybody can bunt.

Earl Weaver didn't think much of bunting but was willing to bunt with Mark Belanger. Or construct his team so that if require he could pinch hit for him at will. Contrast this with Bobby Valentine's handling of Saint Rey.

Some managers can't build an effective bench. That's a knock against them because there's never a shortage of decent 4th outfielders or utility infielders.

Look at who is pinch-hitting and how effective the pinch-hitting is. (I don't just go by results. Sometimes good hitters will have a bad year pinch hitting. Vice versa, but I'm willing to reward hunches when they work out.)

There are managers who can build an effective bullpen largely from spare parts. For instance much of Atlanta's bullpen was freely available to anybody (and a lot of the guys had never had much success before joining the Braves) I'll always hold a bad bullpen against a manager. THere's never a shortage of pitchers who can succeed if you put them in a fairly limited role.

Which brings us to: Whole roster construction. THe interaction between the starters, the bench and the bullpen. I'll always give a minor negative mark to a manager who wastes a roster spot on a one out lefty or a 3rd catcher who can't do *anything*. (A good pitcher who happens to be death on lefties is handy, but even John Candelaria was seeing more righties than lefties near the end of his career and he was pure death on lefties and helpless against righties by then)

Unlike a lot of people I don't pay too much attention to pitch count in itself. However I do like to look at the last inning started by the pitcher. If pitchers are routinely being lifted with 2 on and one run in I hold that against the manager. And if the pitcher batted in the inning before being lifted that's another mark against the manager.

This isn't exactly second guessing by the way. There's a lot of runs to be saved by getting the guy out of there before he runs into problems.

Then there's issues of man management. Does he have the right guys out there? Does he cost the team the use of players by running a doghouse? Do players players play better for him (this is Dusty Baker's strength) Does he use young players or find an excuse to run out some hack who can't do the job? If he plays young players how much growth do they show?

   12. TOLAXOR Posted: October 07, 2002 at 12:53 AM (#606594)



   13. MGL Posted: October 09, 2002 at 12:54 AM (#606636)
Shaun, I think yours is the most sensible comment I have seen regarding rating the managers...

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