View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003

Friday

11

October 2013

41

COMMENTS

Do Managers Matter?

Written by , Posted in General

Happy Friday, fellow Viewers!

I wrote in August about the concept of team “chemistry,” and whether that nebulous concept had in bearing on baseball team performance. In this post, I’m going to look at a separate but related issue that’s a hot topic of late: the manager’s effect on the W/L record.

A few studies have examined the effect of the manager on team performance, and the results have been mixed.  An analysis by Smart and Wolfe (2003) found that managers accounted for a little more than 1% of the variance in team wins, although their operationalization of “leadership” may have been too narrow. For a really thorough look at the managerial effect, check out Chris Jaffe’s (The Hardball Times) book, Evaluating Baseball’s Managers: A History and Analysis of Performance in the Major Leagues, 1876-2008. It’s worth a read, but essentially Jaffe’s analysis breaks-down to this: managers are very hard to evaluate on an isolated basis. Managers cannot be separated from their team environments, and it’s that interaction between person and environment that matters most. Context is key. In Jaffe’s words: “Managers are first and foremost managers of men.  Managing the game is only a secondary job function.” He believes that a manager, alone, accounts for maybe a couple of wins a year, although the effect of a manager could be more than that in a given situation – again, it’s all about environment.

Here’s an interesting bit from an SI.com article from Cliff Corcoran. “It’s interesting to note, however, that Cliff’s 2006 study did make one relatively firm conclusion regarding the impact of certain in-game decisions. ‘Only six times in thirty-three years has any manager used sacrifice attempts, stolen base attempts, and intentional walks to increase his team’s win expectation over an entire season. Even the best managers cost their team more than a game per season by employing these tactics. At worst they can cost a team three games per season.’ Over multiple seasons, no manager employed those tactics for a positive effect.” This seems to support the idea that the manager’s most important job is managing the players: the manager’s in-game strategy (the subject of rabid ire by fans on blogs) seems to have little impact on team record. As Cliff notes (pun not intended): “That supports the belief that the best baseball manager is one with a strong roster who is smart enough to let his players play and stay out of the way.” In football, a coach like Chip Kelly is directly involved with every one of his teams offense plays, since he calls each play in real time in reaction to the game context. Even in basketball, Phil Jackson could yell “Scottie” and position players and call plays and defenses during the game. If you’re a baseball manager, when your guy is in the box or on the mound, you’re a spectator just like the rest of us.

I think that’s the key thing to remember: successful managers tend to be those that have good players, and managers with poor records tend to have weak rosters.  Let’s be honest – if we could pencil-in the ’27 Yankees starting lineup every night, most of us could probably at least manage them to the playoffs. On the other hand, not even Joe McCarthy (who is, according to Jaffe, the undisputed best manager of all time) could have managed the 2013 Cubs to a winning record. I’m not saying that dropping Sveum was the wrong move – I’m just saying that we can’t blame him for the Cubs poor record this year. It was a bad roster.

I was in an annoying “conversation” earlier in the season with some folks on Twitter who insisted that we could have been a playoff team this season if only Ryno was the manager. Yes, I know, that’s absurd. The reason given was “I’ve never seen the Peoria Chiefs play better than when he was manager.” Um…yeah…I’m just going to leave that out there with no further comment.

So, what should the Cubs be looking for in the next manager? Well, as Bill James said,  “the only indispensable quality for a manager to have is the respect of the players.” Since managers tend to have more of an effect by allotting playing time properly, motivating players, creating a positive work environment, and generally staying out of the way, the Cubs should (and I trust will) look for a manager that manages “men” first – and whose philosophy of player development aligns with that of the front office. As we’ve seen, the in-game strategies of any given manager don’t seem to matter that much over the long haul.

So, to address the question, do managers matter? Well, it’s hard to say – it’s a complex issue, and it’s very difficult to tease out exactly what factors are due to one manager vs. another. If the players respect him and feel comfortable playing for him, he’s probably going to be as good as anyone else. In baseball, the general manager is greater than the manager, so I’m going to be much more interested in who’s actually on the field for the Cubs going forward.

  • Doc Raker

    Exactly, managers are managing ego’s and personality’s more than line ups. Most of what managers do is out of our sight and we are fooling ourselves if we think we know how well a manager manages those ego’s, big league ego’s let’s not forget.

    Jody Davis is someone I would like to hear considered, he isn’t Italian but he was a catcher. I like catchers as managers since during their playing careers they manage the pitching staff to a certain extent. Davis has been managing in the Cubs system and should be considered. I know Greg Maddox is smart but he is a smart pitcher, it is yet to be proven he is smart in managing people and until someone proves they can manage people hiring them as a big league manager would be risky.

  • Doc Raker

    Exactly, managers are managing ego’s and personality’s more than line ups. Most of what managers do is out of our sight and we are fooling ourselves if we think we know how well a manager manages those ego’s, big league ego’s let’s not forget.

    Jody Davis is someone I would like to hear considered, he isn’t Italian but he was a catcher. I like catchers as managers since during their playing careers they manage the pitching staff to a certain extent. Davis has been managing in the Cubs system and should be considered. I know Greg Maddox is smart but he is a smart pitcher, it is yet to be proven he is smart in managing people and until someone proves they can manage people hiring them as a big league manager would be risky.

  • Eddie Von White

    In other words: managers are as important as batting average and earned run average.

    • Doc Raker

      I wouldn’t say managing ego’s isn’t important, just really hard to evaluate unless you are traveling with the team.

  • Eddie Von White

    In other words: managers are as important as batting average and earned run average.

  • Pink Cubs hats on me… I’m now player/coaching a team of four. In title alone, as the toddler clearly calls the shots. Kswanson and I excell at making cute little girls.

    • Doc Raker

      Congratulations Jswan! Awesome job.

    • Eddie Von White

      Awesome – congrats. There’s nothing like little ones to keep life in perspective.

    • CONGRATULATIONS!!! Wonderful news? And by what _swanson moniker should we refer to the new addition? Congrats to you and kswanson and eswanson!!!

      • No question mark needed…very wonderful news. _ is o for Olivia. She and kswanson are troopers…proud of the whole bunch. We were relatively in and out of the hospital this time in 55 hrs, so things still make sense. Big sis is being sweet and tar diapers don’t stink. Things are great…

      • Lol my apologies, there was certainly not supposed to be a question mark after Wonderful News!!!! Of course it’s wonderful!! Welcome Olivia!! May you be blessed with a Cubs winning season sometime in your lifetime!!! 😉

      • Lol my apologies, there was certainly not supposed to be a question mark after Wonderful News!!!! Of course it’s wonderful!! Welcome Olivia!! May you be blessed with a Cubs winning season sometime in your lifetime!!! 😉

    • Jedi

      Congrats jswan – I’ll be adding #3 in 10 days myself.

      • Woohoo it’s a Baby palooza! Be sure to keep us posted Jedi!

      • Best of luck bud… I hope things go smoothly.

      • Doc Raker

        Congrats!

      • Jedi

        Thanks all.

    • Jedi

      Congrats jswan – I’ll be adding #3 in 10 days myself.

      • Best of luck bud… I hope things go smoothly.

      • Doc Raker

        Congrats!

      • Jedi

        Thanks all.

  • Doug S.

    Interesting reading, thanks. As a manager myself, there’s so much personality stuff going on that you have to deal with, the real job issues seem easy. I don’t know that I am one, but I do know that a great manager makes a lot of difference.

  • Doug S.

    Interesting reading, thanks. As a manager myself, there’s so much personality stuff going on that you have to deal with, the real job issues seem easy. I don’t know that I am one, but I do know that a great manager makes a lot of difference.

  • AC0000000

    I can’t believe that it’s already been a decade since that night in October when the fox broadcaster wondered why the fan who pissed off Moises Alou wasn’t thrown onto the field

    • Doc Raker

      I remember it well. I skipped my Tuesday night softball game to go home and watch the Cubs win the NL Pennant. On the drive home I tuned into the radio feed on my XM, the excitement in Stoner’s voice in the first inning when the Cubs jumped out to a lead and the electricity at Wrigley Field was palpable through the radio. In the 8th inning up 3-0 my wife decided to take my son up for a bath. I was recording the game on the VCR and I was also recording the game with my hand held video camera, literally filming the TV broadcast within my own house so in the future we can actually see and hear us celebrating. By the time my wife came out of the bath with my son my video camera was off and all hell had broken loose at Wrigley, the tragedy went down like a bad car wreck that you can’t take your eyes off even though you know it is very disturbing. Dusty just sat in the dugout gnawing on his toothpick after the Bartman interference non call, didn’t go out and calm down Prior, even after Prior threw a wild pitch on the very next pitch after having pin point control up until then. Dusty must not of thought his pitcher was rattled……………..he is a big league manager…………he must know.

      I woke up the next morning feeling like I was in mourning but picked myself up knowing we had Kerry Wood on the mound for game 7. When Kerry went yard to take the lead I thought all was well, after all we had a quality starter on the bench in Matt Clement ready to go………………right Dusty……….Dusty warm up Matt Clement…………..no not Dave Veres…………….Matt Clement warm up Matt Clement…………….no not Alfansceca…………….Matt Clement…………….no not Mark Guthrie Matt Clement or at least Shawn Estes……..Oh I forgot you left Shawn Estes off the playoff roster in favor of Dave Veres and Mark Guthrie…….smart.

      I believe if we had Shawn Estes on the playoff roster we would of won the World Series.

      • AC0000000

        Clement was part of the playoff rotation. I thought Estes was on the roster as the long guy out of the pen. Besides, Estes sucked.

      • Doc Raker

        Matt Clement was the starter that could of pitched on 3 days rest. In an elimination game you pitch your best options which would be a starter on three days rest verse the bottom of the bullpen. Estes was better than Mark Guthrie, Dave Veres and Antonio Alfonsceca. Estes was left off the roster instead of being put in the bullpen which is what a regular manager would do with the 5th starter but we had dipshit Dusty managing. Remember Estes game against St Louis just prior to clinching the division, pitched his guts out, best performance of his year, he should of been on the playoff roster.

      • AC0000000

        I thought he was on the roster for the Atlanta series. Alf was one of our better relievers that year.

      • Doc Raker

        Alf was crapping the bed at the end of 2003 and was unreliable in the playoffs. Dipshit Dusty was quoted as saying “If I had put in Alf the Wrigley crowd would of hung me.”

  • Seymour Butts

    Congrats all around to the fecund among us.

    • One of my buddies moved back to MT a few months ago to work on lasers. He showed up to one of our men’s league games to catch up, and told our LF’s wife that we could hang out more if “Swanny would stop knocking bitches up.” In retrospect, that sounds like the talk of someone either badly in need of a sympathy shot or horribly non-fecund. It is one of our favorite family sayings now.

      • Doc Raker

        Ah, the bitter non fecund friend, mourning the loss of his frat boy buddies as they move on to more rewarding purpose. Every fecund knows one.