Managing in MLB

Posted by on Oct 26, 2017 in Baseball | 0 comments

Managing in MLB

2014: Matt Williams named NL Manager of the Year
October 2015: Nationals fire Matt Williams

2016-2017: Dusty Baker most successful manager in Nationals/Expos franchise history
October 2017: Nationals fire Dusty Baker

Bottom line is that these firings often do not always correspond with a manager’s success on the field. Based on the team performance that we see as fans, these moves are often irrational. Why do they happen? Sometimes, players reveal things to management that none of us see or hear about. Sometimes, teams just need someone to blame. Sometimes, it’s internal politics we know nothing about. So who are the most successful managers ever? Is there a way to look at it sabermetrically? The quick and dirty way to see who the most successful managers have been is to look at simple W-L records of the teams they managed. Even better to include post-season along with their regular season totals. Here are the top 10 MLB managers in career regular and post-season wins:

Mgr From To rs W rs L rs W-L% ps W ps L ps W-L% rs + ps W
Connie Mack HOF 1894 1950 3731 3948 0.486 24 19 0.558 3755
Tony La Russa HOF 1979 2011 2728 2365 0.536 70 58 0.547 2798
John McGraw HOF 1899 1932 2763 1948 0.586 26 28 0.481 2789
Bobby Cox HOF 1978 2010 2504 2001 0.556 67 69 0.493 2571
Joe Torre HOF 1977 2010 2326 1997 0.538 84 58 0.592 2410
Sparky Anderson HOF 1970 1995 2194 1834 0.545 34 21 0.618 2228
Bucky Harris HOF 1924 1956 2158 2219 0.493 11 10 0.524 2169
Joe McCarthy HOF 1926 1950 2125 1333 0.615 30 13 0.698 2155
Walter Alston HOF 1954 1976 2040 1613 0.558 23 21 0.523 2063
Leo Durocher HOF 1939 1973 2008 1709 0.540 7 8 0.467 2015

I don’t like this list, as it clearly rewards managers who have been around the longest without consideration of their overall record. Mack leads the list with a losing record. Here’s the top 10 in career regular and post-season winning percentage (minimum 315 games, per baseball-reference.com):

Mgr From To rs W rs L rs W-L% ps W ps L ps W-L% rs + ps PCT
Joe McCarthy HOF 1926 1950 2125 1333 0.615 30 13 0.698 0.610
Dave Roberts 2015 2017 195 130 0.600 13 8 0.619 0.601
Charlie Comiskey HOF 1883 1894 839 540 0.608 0 0 0.596
Jim Mutrie 1883 1891 658 419 0.611 0 0 0.591
Frank Selee HOF 1890 1905 1284 862 0.598 0 0 0.589
Billy Southworth HOF 1929 1951 1044 704 0.597 11 11 0.500 0.589
Frank Chance HOF 1905 1923 946 648 0.593 11 9 0.550 0.584
Earl Weaver HOF 1968 1986 1480 1060 0.583 26 20 0.565 0.582
Al Lopez HOF 1951 1969 1410 1004 0.584 2 8 0.200 0.580
Mickey Cochrane HOF 1934 1938 348 250 0.582 7 6 0.538 0.579

Still not great, as someone like Dave Roberts sneaks into the all-time greats just because he had 3 seasons with a great team. We need a better way to look at the numbers. We want to make sure that managers who are above .500 are considered successful, those who .500 or below are considered unsuccessful, and we want to reward those who have done this for the longest. How about sorting managers by career regular and post-season games above .500?

Mgr From To rs W rs L rs W-L% ps W ps L ps W-L% rs + ps G > .500
Joe McCarthy HOF 1926 1950 2125 1333 0.615 30 13 0.698 390
John McGraw HOF 1899 1932 2763 1948 0.586 26 28 0.481 378
Bobby Cox HOF 1978 2010 2504 2001 0.556 67 69 0.493 249
Earl Weaver HOF 1968 1986 1480 1060 0.583 26 20 0.565 213
Walter Alston HOF 1954 1976 2040 1613 0.558 23 21 0.523 212
Al Lopez HOF 1951 1969 1410 1004 0.584 2 8 0.200 195
Frank Selee HOF 1890 1905 1284 862 0.598 0 0 194
Fred Clarke HOF 1897 1915 1602 1181 0.576 7 8 0.467 189
Sparky Anderson HOF 1970 1995 2194 1834 0.545 34 21 0.618 186
Tony La Russa HOF 1979 2011 2728 2365 0.536 70 58 0.547 186

Ah, getting interesting now. I like the look of this list. Who are the worst all-time managers by this same measure?

Mgr From To rs W rs L rs W-L% ps W ps L ps W-L% rs + ps G > .500
Connie Mack HOF 1894 1950 3731 3948 0.486 24 19 0.558 -144
Jimmie Wilson 1934 1944 493 735 0.401 0 0 -126
John McCloskey 1895 1908 190 417 0.313 0 0 -118
Patsy Donovan 1897 1911 684 879 0.438 0 0 -115
Billy Barnie 1883 1898 632 810 0.438 0 0 -107
Fred Tenney 1905 1911 202 402 0.334 0 0 -106
Buddy Bell 1996 2007 519 724 0.418 0 0 -103
Jimmy McAleer 1901 1911 735 889 0.453 0 0 -94
Doc Prothro 1939 1941 138 320 0.301 0 0 -92
Preston Gomez 1969 1980 346 529 0.395 0 0 -92

Well, look at that. Connie Mack at the top. I’m OK with that. Now let’s look at all active managers (through 2017) by this measure.

Mgr From To rs W rs L rs W-L% ps W ps L ps W-L% rs + ps G > .500
Terry Francona 1997 2017 1483 1269 0.539 40 26 0.606 114
Mike Scioscia 2000 2017 1570 1346 0.538 21 27 0.438 109
Dusty Baker 1993 2017 1863 1636 0.532 23 32 0.418 109
Joe Girardi 2006 2017 988 794 0.554 28 24 0.538 99
Joe Maddon 1996 2017 1073 922 0.538 32 34 0.485 74
Mike Matheny 2012 2017 544 428 0.560 21 22 0.488 58
Buck Showalter 1992 2017 1504 1402 0.518 9 14 0.391 48
Dave Roberts 2015 2017 195 130 0.600 13 8 0.619 35
Don Mattingly 2011 2017 602 530 0.532 8 11 0.421 35
John Farrell 2011 2017 586 548 0.517 12 11 0.522 20
Jeff Banister 2015 2017 261 225 0.537 2 6 0.250 16
A.J. Hinch 2009 2017 360 338 0.516 11 8 0.579 13
Torey Lovullo 2017 2017 93 69 0.574 1 3 0.250 11
John Gibbons 2004 2017 720 700 0.507 10 10 0.500 10
Bruce Bochy 1995 2017 1853 1855 0.500 44 33 0.571 5
Scott Servais 2016 2017 164 160 0.506 0 0 2
Bob Melvin 2003 2017 1030 1042 0.497 7 11 0.389 -8
Terry Collins 1994 2017 995 1017 0.495 8 7 0.533 -11
Brad Ausmus 2014 2017 314 332 0.486 0 3 0.000 -11
Craig Counsell 2015 2017 220 241 0.477 0 0 -11
Brian Snitker 2016 2017 131 155 0.458 0 0 -12
Kevin Cash 2015 2017 228 258 0.469 0 0 -15
Paul Molitor HOF 2015 2017 227 259 0.467 0 1 0.000 -17
Ned Yost 2003 2017 1086 1134 0.489 22 9 0.710 -18
Rick Renteria 2014 2017 140 184 0.432 0 0 -22
Andy Green 2016 2017 139 185 0.429 0 0 -23
Bud Black 2007 2017 736 788 0.483 0 1 0.000 -27
Clint Hurdle 2002 2017 1118 1174 0.488 10 9 0.526 -28
Pete Mackanin 2005 2017 227 291 0.438 0 0 -32
Bryan Price 2014 2017 276 372 0.426 0 0 -48

Baker and Girardi, both up there. And if we’re looking at the performance of their teams, this is absolutely where they belong. Yes, I know that some managers are just lucky enough to align themselves with teams that are really great, even dynasties that last for a decade or more, but I do think that this look at the numbers is revealing.

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