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.