February 20, 2010

Book Excerpt: "Evaluating Baseball's Managers" by Chris Jaffe

Chris Jaffe, a writer for The Hardball Times, has published Evaluating Baseball's Managers: A History and Analysis of Performance in the Major Leagues, 1876–2008 (McFarland), and he has given me permission to post some of the Red Sox-related sections.

Jaffe, from the analysis of Terry Francona:
"Gather up a handful of fans from all 30 franchises and ask them about their teams' managers. Rooters from ten teams will tell you their manager is baseball's biggest idiot. Another ten will explain that their skipper is merely a dullard. About five will admit through gritted teeth that their guy is not too terrible. The other five will shockingly have something nice to say. The crowd rarely gives managers much credit."
The excerpt Jaffe sent me includes entries on 14 Red Sox managers (he evaluates 89 managers in the book): Patsy Donovan, Frank Chance, Lee Fohl, Bucky Harris, Joe Cronin, Joe McCarthy, Steve O'Neill, Lou Boudreau, Dick Williams, Ralph Houk, John McNamara, Don Zimmer, Jimy Williams, and Terry Francona.

Jaffe explains here how he researched the in-game tendencies of managers from 80-100 years ago. You can find other excerpts from his book here. Instead of sharing one manager's entire entry, I'm going to post bits of a few.
Dick Williams

Dick Williams lived to break in fresh talent. ... Williams went with the younger player whenever possible. He was fearless about putting kids in the game and would stand by them if he thought they had the talent, even if they initially faltered when establishing themselves. With that level of trust emanating from their authoritative skipper, rookies rarely fizzled on Williams. He not only gave prospects a chance, but more impressively he did it in a way that ensured they consistently reached their potential.

When Williams arrived in Boston in 1967, he gave 22-year-old Reggie Smith the starting center field job. Smith had a rocky start, with his batting average below .200 (with few home runs or stolen bases) as late as June 24. As a rookie manager, Williams must have been under pressure to bench him for a veteran while the team hovered around .500. Williams never wavered. With that show of confidence, Smith warmed up, ending the campaign second in the Rookie of the Year voting, helping Boston win the pennant. ...

Also in 1967, Williams found room for another 22-year-old rookie, reliever Sparky Lyle. Before leaving Boston, Williams made Lyle the relief ace, a position Lyle thrived in for a decade. ...

Don Zimmer

Zimmer was historically inept at deciding who should bat in the top two slots in his batting order.
Worst at Putting OBP in Top 2 Slots
Don Zimmer 1.521
Danny Murtaugh 1.400
Johnny Oates 1.360
Dusty Baker 1.267
Phil Garner 1.216
Not only did he do the worst job ever, but no one else is particularly close to him. ... Zimmer also had problems elsewhere on his lineup card. Once in Boston and another time in Texas the bottom third of his batting order had a better OPS than the entire team. ... Is it really that hard to figure out who the worst hitters are and put them where they belong? It apparently was for Zimmer.

Ralph Houk

When Houk inserted a reliever, that pitcher was to finish the game. In fact, his relievers lasted longer per outing than anyone in baseball history. Using the splits available at Baseball-Reference.com, the following teams had the most innings per relief appearance of any squad since 1956:
Year    Team   IP/RA   Manager
1974 DET 2.73 Houk
1973 NYY 2.68 Houk
1982 BOS 2.51 Houk
1976 DET 2.51 Houk
1975 DET 2.45 Houk
There are three different franchises in the top finishers, but only one manager. Just think how difficult it must be to average seven or eight outs per appearance. There are always going to be times a reliever has no stuff and needs to be yanked immediately. Some days Houk would bring a new reliever into the game with only one inning left. Yet he still averaged almost three innings per appearance a few times. ...

An era bias exists, as all of the sixteen highest finishes, and 35 of the top 36, come from the 1973-82 AL, its first decade with the designated hitter. Yet even among that bunch Houk dominates, as the above list attests. He is the entire top five, and seven of the longest sixteen averages. ...

Due to Houk's tendency to leave relievers in games for prolonged stretches, he virtually never used them on back-to-back days. ... In nineteen years as a manager, Houk used pitchers on back-to-back days 307 times. In comparison, Nationals manager Manny Acta did it 226 times in 2007-08. In 1982, the Red Sox staff threw only 8.2 innings on zero days rest, the lowest total for any team since 1956.

John McNamara

McNamara's most famous managerial moment came in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series ... [but] Perhaps the most telling moment in that game was not leaving Buckner in, but the bullpen meltdown.

No manager has coaxed worse performances from his relievers than McNamara. Cumulative bullpen ERA, adjusted for park, serves as a good gauge for overall reliever quality. When that is plugged into the Tendencies Database, the following managers had the shoddiest bullpens in the Retrosheet years:
Worst Park Adjusted Bullpen ERA
John McNamara 1.357
Jim Leyland 1.307
Bruce Bochy 1.151
Al Dark 1.096
Tom Kelly 1.093
McNamara owns the dubious distinction of possessing the worst park-adjusted bullpen ERA with four different franchises: San Diego (1974), Cincinnati (1981), California (1983), and Boston (1987). He finished tenth or worse ten times.

Jimy Williams

There are two types of quality starting rotations: those that also eat plenty of innings, and those managed by Jimy Williams. In 2000, his Boston Red Sox bunch featured the best park-adjusted ERA of any starting rotation in the AL while also averaging fewer innings per start than any team in the league. It was the only starting staff to do that since 1956. Only one other league leader in park-adjusted ERA even came close: that was the 1999 Red Sox whom Williams, of course, also managed. ...

Every rotation Williams managed for at least half the season finished in the bottom half of the league in innings thrown per start. Only once did any of his teams rank higher than eleventh. Yet they were good rotations. They finished the top half of park-adjusted ERA every year but one, and in the top three a half-dozen times. ...

In the years when pitch counts came into vogue, Williams was one of the poster boys for how to handle a rotation. More important than pitch counts, his teams performed better as the year went on. ...

Williams could do this because he oversaw terrific bullpens. Three times his relievers claimed the best park-adjusted ERA. In 2000, they possessed both the greatest share of innings thrown and the best park-adjusted ERA. ...
Got the Most from the Bullpen
Jimy Williams 1.030
Frank Robinson 1.514
Chuck Tanner 1.647
Bill Rigney 1.663
Gene Mauch 1.679
Williams does not just lead this category; he blows everyone away. ...

Terry Francona

W/L Record: 755-703 (.518)

Full Seasons: Philadelphia 1997-2000; Boston 2004-08
Majority in: (none)
Minority of: (none)

Birnbaum Database: -195 runs
Individual Hitters: -11 runs
Individual Pitchers: -193 runs
Pythagenpat Difference: +115 runs
Team Offense: -92 runs
Team Defense: -14 runs

Team Characteristics: Francona has no interest in the intentional walk. He relies on his starting position players, but is willing to make mid-game replacements. His teams steal infrequently but generally have a fine success rate when they try. Only five AL bullpens have ever averaged less than an inning per relief appearance: Francona managed two of them.

1 comment:

the bus driver said...

Wow, great read, thanks redsock for the excerpt... and this book seems to be absolutely amazing. I just can't imagine the workload for the author!