Major League players play the game and ultimately win or lose games and it's been said that managers get too much credit when a team wins and too much blame when it loses. All that said, there is still this little award at the end of the season called the Manager of the Year. And as a member of the BBA, we have our own version to vote on as well. Managers do have some effect on the outcome of a game by setting line ups, choosing who plays and who pitches. Plus, there are the game moves such as bunts, steals and so on. Then there is the nebulous leadership abilities that nobody can seem to take into account. So how the heck, then, can you rate a major league manager?
Twitter is little help. This writer follows over 500 baseball people from bloggers to guys with media cards plus managers and ball players (and just plain fans). To hear most of them, Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves is the worst manager in baseball, but the Braves are having a great season. Mike Scioscia is taking a lot of heat for forcing the Mike Napoli trade and playing Jeff Mathis every day. But his team was in the race as late as last week with a really poorly constructed team. Cardinal fans and writers are very chafed by Tony LaRussa this season. Is that deserved? The perception is that the Yankees will win despite anything Joe Girardi does but Terry Francona does not get the same treatment. Can you see the problem here?
Some managers have already gone by the wayside. A near player revolt cost Bob Geren his job. Edwin Rodriguez and Jim Riggleman both walked away from their jobs. How are their replacements doing? Can you tell? How? The Cubs are having an awful season in Mike Quade's first full season. And now he'll have a new GM to determine his fate. How can you rate Quade with the players he has and the problems those players give him?
Obviously, this writer doesn't have the answers. One thing the Fan likes to look at is the Pythagorean win-loss record. This statistic looks at a team based on their runs scored and the runs allowed and comes up with the record the team should have. According to this statistic, Mike Scioscia has been the best manager of the last eight years and not too many people would argue with that, except that with the exception of the one title, the Angels can't seem to get beyond the playoffs and last year and this year, might not make it at all. The Pythagorean win-loss statistic also exonerates Joe Torre to some degree from his handling of the Yankees from 2002 to his forced exit from that team.
Obviously (using that word too often when it may not be true), using the Pythagorean win-loss statistic as your sole rater of managers is flawed. A team with a lot of blow out games can toast this statistic quite a bit and a team like the Giants that win a lot of one-run games can skew the thing as well. But, without much else to go on, this writer will plunge on and rank managers by this statistic. What the Fan has done is subtract the actual win total by the Pythagorean win total to come up with a plus or minus number. Here's how our managers fare from top to bottom:
- Ron Roenicke (Brewers): +6
- Bruce Bochy (Giants): +6
- Kirk Gibson (Diamondbacks): +5
- Jim Leyland (Tigers): +5
- Ron Gardenhire (Twins): +5
- Fredi Gonzalez (Braves): +4
- Mike Scioscia (Angels): +3
- Mike Quade (Cubs): +2
- Charlie Manuel (Phillies): +2
- Clint Hurdle (Pirates): +1
- Manny Acta (Indians): +1
- Ozzie Guillen (White Sox): +1
- Davey Johnson (Nationals): +1 part year
- Jack McKeon (Marlins): +1 part year
- Bob Melvin (Athletics): +1 part year
- Terry Francona (Red Sox): Even
- Joe Maddon (Bay Rays): Even
- Eric Wedge (Mariners): Even
- Buck Showalter (Orioles): Even
- John Farrell (Blue Jays): -1
- Terry Collins (Mets): -2
- Tony LaRussa (Cardinals): -2
- Don Mattingly (Dodgers): -2
- Ron Washington (Rangers): -2
- Jim Tracy (Rockies): -4
- Joe Girardi (Yankees): -4
- Ned Yost (Royals): -5
- Buddy Black (Padres): -5
- Brad Mills (Astros): -6
- Dusty Baker (Reds): -6
From this list, Ron Roenicke seems to have a leg up on Manager of the Year, especially if his team comes in first place while the Giants come in second (no guarantee that will happen). Jim Leyland is looking good in the American League. Again, teams like the Rangers, Red Sox, Rockies, Yankees and others that score a lot of runs and have many blow out games can skew the Pythagorean statistic, so we can't go by this entirely. And Buddy Black was a genius last year. Is he a mutt this year? This isn't a fool-proof method. But it's a start. If we were to factor in improvement over last year's record, guys like Kirk Gibson and Clint Hurdle would have to be factored into the mix. It's interesting to consider and the season still has a month to go.