May 12, 2014

A #sabermetrics #WAR need: Managerial Wins Above Replacement (updated)

If you're like me, especially at times like Hall of Fame candidate discussion, besides wanting steroid honesty from folks like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, you also visit a great Internet resource, Baseball-Reference, to refute folks like Tiger homers who continue to argue for the Hall of Fame candidacy of the likes of Jack Morris.

Also, this time of year, you scour its pages during winter meetings to wonder about free agent signings. (And, no, the Cards did not overpay for LOOGY Randy Choate — as long as Mike Matheny remembers he's a LOOGY!)

Anyway, thinking back a month or so, when the San Francisco Giants won their second World Series in three years, all of a sudden, everybody was talking about Bruce Bochy as a possible managerial Hall of Famer. (We know Big Head Bochy wasn't that, as a catcher, per his player stats!)

Problem is, as you look at B-R's managers' home page, and compare it to the player pages of any of those players mentioned above, there's something missing from managerial records.

Wins Above Replacement.

Indeed, it is Bochy that has brought this issue to the forefront — one pennant, but a sub-500 record, with the Padres, and two World Series, but a regular season record just above .500, with the Giants.

So, instead of saying, "Bochy's a good managerial handler of pitchers as a former catcher," or, "Bochy's a good dugout manager," but have zero evidence to back that up, wouldn't it be nice to say, "Bochy was worth three wins more than a replacement-level manager" or similar?

OR, a la Jack Morris, it would be nice to have some such stat and instead say, "oh, Bochy just got lucky with expanded playoffs," or similar?

Again, I'm not sure how managerial WAR could be calculated. But we need it! Not every manager is a slam-dunk HOFer like a Tony La Russa or Joe Torre. (Oh, and B-R, while you're at it? Can't you set up the RSS feed for us linking to managerial as well as player pages? Rather, to be more honest, "won't you"?)

Update, Feb. 20, 2013: A friend of mine, with whom I discuss real and fantasy baseball a lot, has this great idea, on the calculations.

Teams get evaluated all the time on how much they exceed, or underperform, their Pythagorean win factor assessments. And, here's information on Wiki on Pythagorean win calculations.

Surely, part of that over- or under-performance is attributable to the manager, isn't it? We may have a good starting point right there.

Update, March 28, 2014: Another blogger has picked up the ball, looking at the last 10 years of managers. No surprise that La Russa ranks high, as do Bobby Cox and Jim Leyland, though I am surprised about Ron Washington and Don Mattingly. Bochy's neither in the top nor the bottom.

Update, May 13, 2014: Russell Carleton offers more thoughts on trying to evaluate managers, with some specific numbers, at Baseball Prospectus.

And, a friend of mine beat me to the punch on Pythagoreans vs. reality, not only for the Cards' Sub-Genius Skipper but several others. I did Joe Girardi, the rest are his, then decided to look up Torre for his Yankee years only, and La Russa, Cardinal years only:

Matheny has failed to exceed his team's Pythagorean in his first two years by a relatively large margin. Although they won 97 games last year so I'm not crying for you.

Terry Francona
Phillies - 2 of 4 years (exceeding pythagorean)
Red Sox - 8 of 13 years
Indians - 1 of 1 year
Total: 11 of 18 years exceeding.

Mike Scioscia
Angels - 10 of 15 years

Buck Showalter
Yankees - 3 of 4 years
Diamondbacks - 1 of 3 years
Rangers - 2 of 4 years
Orioles - 3 of 4 years
Total: 9 of 15 years
(Of course, three of those teams went to the World Series in short order after he left ... so I'm sure the Orioles can't wait to fire him)

Joe Girardi
Marlins - 0 of 1 years
Yankees - 4 of 7 (incl. one tie as a "not exceeding")

Bruce Bochy
Padres - 8 of 12 years
Giants - 5 of 7
Total: 13 of 19 years

Ned Yost
Brewers - 3 of 6 years
Royals - 0 of 4 years
Total: 3 of 10 years

Doug Melvin
Arizona - 2 of 5 years
Seattle - 0 of 2 years
Oakland - 1 of 2 years

Joe Torre
Yankees - 10 of 12 years (really)

Tony La Russa
Cardinals - 7 of 16 years (incl. two ties)
On Tony the Pony, as a Cardinals fan, I went the next step and totaled how many wins he was above or below each year. He was a total of plus-5. He was a plus-5 in 2004 and a big plus-7 in 2007. He was a minus-6 in 1997, and a minus-5 in 2011.

It confirms the generally good impression of Franconia. On Scioscia, even though he's only won one title, I had no idea he was that good in general. Buck? No real surprise; of course, he normally hits a burnout plateau, and then another manager takes a team to the next level. Bochy? Like Scioscia, a surprise. Yost not as bad in Milwaukee as painted.

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