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Bud Black Outperformed Other Managers Over Last 5 Years

At least in one area he has.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I carefully chose the word "outperform" instead of using some hyperbole or calling him the best because that is not what this is about. I'm not making a case for Bud Black so much as relaying some interesting work done trying to analyze major league manager impact. Over at Baseball Prospectus Russell A. Carleton has been investigating the manager's impact on The Grind. He introduces The Grind this way in his first of his articles on the subject ($):

We know that over the course of a season, plate discipline gets worse for hitters, in the aggregate at least. Previous research has strongly suggested the obvious. The season is long and the players are tired. The effects aren’t visible to the naked eye (we’re talking about an extra strike every couple of hundred pitches), but the nice thing about big data is that you can see these patterns over time.

He goes on to mention the methods by which that grind is seen in the data. It's consistent enough to be convincing. The other thing that when you look at players managed by certain managers the data shows that the managers appear to have pretty consistent impacts. One of those managers is our own Bud Black. In a followup article ($) Carleton combines The Grind data he has for both hitters and pitchers and looks at the number of runs each manager contributed by (in theory) fending off The Grind for his players. Over the last 5 years (2010-2014) here are top managers:


Manager Grind Runs (per season managed, 2010-14)

Bud Black


Terry Francona


Joe Maddon


Charlie Manuel


Terry Collins


Buck Showalter


Jim Tracy


Ozzie Guillen


Manny Acta


Davey Johnson


Bud Black is #1 saving 18.84 runs per season, which could be equating to close to 2 wins worth of value. Now, if you are trying to think about the last few months of 2014 and referencing how well he did, well then you will be disappointed because 2014 was not a good year for him in this area. He made his hay preventing The Grind in 2010-2013 and he did so well that even a mediocre 2014 could not knock him off the top spot.

Caveats apply here. There are other aspects of the managerial job besides just keeping guys motivated through August and September. One could argue Bud Black might come up as below average if a stat could be found that measured managerial impact in April and maybe June and July. There are also debatable aspects about Black's in-game strategies and lineups, but if I recall correctly it is difficult for those sort of problems to add up to 18 runs per season like we see here. In other words, there's a chance that a strength like the one shown here could be a bigger factor for a manager than the other stuff we spend a lot of time wringing our hands over. Interesting to think about. Debate away.