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A partial review of Chris Jaffe's Evaluating Baseball's Managers book

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A few weeks ago, Baseball Think Factory's, Chris Jaffe sent me a preview of his new book Evaluating Baseball's Managers: A History and Analysis of Performance in the Major Leagues, 1876-2008. Unfortunately, he didn't send me any analysis of Bud Black and by the time I realized it, it was well into the holidays and so on and so on and I never followed up with him and I put off reviewing what he had sent.

Now, I'm at the point where it's a little embarrassing to follow up, so I figure I'll just go ahead and review what I've got before I neglect to do it for another month.

So, Chris Jaffe's put together evaluations of baseball managers throughout history. I've always been something of a baseball manager doubter. I mean, you know. Set the lineup. Call for the lefty. On base percentage up front. Etcetera.

How much damage could a manager do? I mean, really.

Also, I used to also always be a little tough on Bruce Bochy. I felt he catered to the old guys and left a lot of younger guys to flounder. I knew Bochy didn't have the most talent to work with, but still, I figured I couldn't be getting annoyed with him game after game for no reason.

I was therefore very interested in what Jaffe had to say to either confirm or refute what I'd thought. 

Jaffe on Bochy's longevity combined with his lack of productivity:

Bochy lasted as long as he did because he is a quality manager. As noted in Chapter 1, the Birnbaum Database lists him as the greatest manager in history with a losing record: a dubious distinction, but impressive nonetheless.

Jaffe on Bochy being somewhat boring:

Not only has Bochy attained a losing record, but he garnered little attention for himself in San Diego. People rarely mentioned him as one of the most prominent managers, and rarely even noted him as an underrated one. Though it is largely inevitable someone with a poor record would gain minimal acclaim, Bochy did not even receive the credit given to other prominent sub-.500 managers such as George Stallings and Gene Mauch, who also score quite well in the Birnbaum Database.

Most all of the writeups are accompanied by data to back them up, including some nice deep dives. For example, in John McNamara's writeup (Padres skipper from 74-76) we get:

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

Oh, hey again Bruce Bochy! What're you doing here? Way to not use your bullpen correctly!

Overall, the book looks good, but like just about any baseball history book, when your team's history isn't particularly glamorous, there are probably bound to be little nuggets that pop up. For example, when Don Zimmer was at the helm in '72, the OBP of his first two hitters was .283 and .268 respectively, while the entire team had an OBP of .287.


Also, check it. When Don Zimmer was in charge in 1973, his team overall had an OBP of .350(!). And yet, his first two hitters had OBPs of .296 and .292. Apparently, Zimmer did this with just about every team he managed.

I know that the actual order of the lineup has been "shown" to have a minimal effect on the actual outcome of the game, but still. Over the course of 162 games, why not do the little things?

Now, the section on Dick WIlliams is interesting if only to differentiate a great manager from other managers. Where Bruce Bochy was able to get lots of productivity out of old hitters (*COUGH* *JUICE* *COUGH*), Dick Williams was all about breaking in younger guys.

Half of the regulars in his 1984 pennant winning Padres lineup were those who got their first real chance to play under Williams.  Upon his arrival in San Diego, Williams gave considerable playing time to Alan Wiggins, even though he initially had no position for him.  When he settled on second for Wiggins in 1984, the infielder responded by stealing 70 bases and received some minimal MVP support.  Also receiving token MVP votes in 1984 was Padre center fielder Kevin McReynolds, whom Williams had broken in the year before.  McReynolds went on to have a nice decade-long run.  Left fielder Carmelo Martinez came sixth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1984.  Last, but certainly not least, Hall of Fame right fielder Tony Gwynn began his career under Williams.  

Young talent. Dudes getting their starts with no real position to play. Making stars out of young guys. I'm thinking this bodes well for the 2010 club.

All in all, the information is interesting. I'd be curious about the book just to check out the evaluation of Bud Black.

The moral of the story: When the Padres managers sucked, the Padres sucked. When the Padres managers were good, they still sucked, but a little bit less. When Padres managers were great, old guys sat on the bench where they belonged.