Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Are some managers as important as superstars?

At Baseball Think Factory, Chris Jaffe has an amazing two-part (part 1) (part 2) article on how many extra runs managers throughout history have produced for their teams.

Basically, Chris took the methodology that I used to rate “lucky” teams (powerpoint slides here), but allotted the luck to the manager.

By this system, there are five factors considered:

· Did the manager beat the team’s Pythagorean Projection?
· Did the manager beat his team’s Runs Created estimates?
· Did the manager’s opponents underperform their Runs Created estimates?
· Did his hitters have lots of “career years” where they played better than expected?
· Did his pitchers have lots of “career years” where they played better than expected?

In my study, I suspected all five of these things to be just luck. But Chris found a huge manager effect – in fact, that some managers did so well in these five categories that their apparent influence was greater than that of a superstar player. And, when Chris split the managers up by number of games managed, he found that in every case, groups with more games outperformed groups with fewer games.

Furthermore, the managers we all acknowledge as the best are the ones that repeatedly come out on top.

The results are pretty amazing, and bring up lots of questions. For instance: How can a manager consistently beat Pythagoras? If a manager consistently beat Runs Created, doesn’t that mean his teams hit in the clutch? And doesn’t that contradict clutch hitting as random?

For career years, my algorithm was designed for 1960-2001. Chris used it back to the 19th century, and I suspect the farther back to you go, the more it overestimates the effects of luck. So the results might be exaggerated a bit that way. But, still, I would have never suspected that some managers can somehow cause the other team to underperform in Runs Created.

There must be an explanation, but I don’t know what it is.


At Tuesday, July 25, 2006 11:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the entry on my work Phil. The data does say that a superstar manager (Joe McCarthy in particular) can be more valuable than an MVP player) but personally I'm less sure that's true. There's plenty of noise in the signal and it's impossible to weed out entirely.

Personally, the only two components I firmly believe has a managerial impact are effet on individual hitters and pitchers. I think there's something with the other 3, but I'm willing to be talked out of believing managers have an impact on them. Frankly, I'm not going to be talked out of managers having an impact on individual players no matter how compelling the argument.


At Wednesday, July 26, 2006 1:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aren't there other factors that might impact a team outscoring its Runs Created? For instance, lineup analysis, or effective deployment of special strategies (such as sacrifices, stolen bases or hit and runs)?

These are factors a manager should have some control over.


At Wednesday, July 26, 2006 1:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To me, the question of whether a manager can have a greater impact than a superstar is obvious - of course they can. It is hard to view the career of Billy Martin and think anything different. If you take over multiple teams, and every team immediately improves by 5 to 20 games the first year, its extremely unlikely to be a coincidence. Three of the first four teams managed by Davey Johnson immediately improved, and then declined after he was fired.

Obviously, its very rare that a manager comes along that has that type of impact on a consistent basis. But when someone does come along, perhaps the more interesting question is how do they do it?

At Wednesday, October 25, 2006 2:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am still skeptical that a manager has that much effect on a team's win loss record. Especially since every manager pretty much goes by the same book. I would also credit pitching coaches more for a pitchers performance and hitting coaches more for a hitters performance being enhanced than a manager's. Until I see some quantitative stats showing correlation of a manager to runs scored I will continue to believe that managers don't really matter as long as they are somewhat competent. vr, Xei


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