by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
November 26, 2008
We recently had a discussion on the
Baseball Evolution message boards
concerning what the criteria should be for selecting the Manager of the Year
the discussion centered around whether success,
overachievement, or intangibles should factor most into consideration.
Times Baseball Annual 2009 became available days later, and featured an
article by Michael Lichtman entitled, "The Manager of the Year." You may
remember Michael Lichtman from such enterprises as developing Ultimate Zone
Rating and co-authoring The Book, which uses sabermetrical analysis to
evaluate playing baseball by "the book." So it should be no surprise to
learn that Lichtman chooses to use deep statistical analysis rather than guess
at how well certain managers handle themselves in the clubhouse. Actually,
he has very little choice once he cites the actual criteria from MLB: The
Manager of the Year Award is supposedly awarded to "the Major League manager who
takes the talent given to him by team owner and accomplishes more than
Of course, you can still approach this from several avenues. For my own
balloting (had I an actual voice), I could simply compare my
predictions to the
actual 2008 standings and see which teams achieved more
than I had anticipated. By this rudimentary analysis, I would take Tony LaRussa (Cardinals, +15) , Freddy Gonzalez (Marlins, +14), or Cecil Cooper (Astros,
+12) as my NL Manager of the Year and Joe Maddon (Rays, +15) or Ron Gardenhire
(Twins, +12) in the junior circuit.
Another option is to look at the Pythagorean differential between each
expected record based on runs scored and runs allowed and compare that to their
actual records. This puts Mike Scioscia (Angels +11) as the runaway
favorite in the AL and Cecil Cooper (Astros, +9) as the easy National League
choice. You could take this even further by looking at the components of
runs scored and difficulty of competition. Baseball Prospectus does this
wins), but the results don't really change: Scioscia (+16) and Cooper (+10)
once again blow away their peers.
But yeah, you guessed it: Lichtman goes even deeper than all of that.
Still, it's in a very similar vein:
I am going to evaluate the talent of each team going into the
season, based on some rough estimates of personnel
and playing time (I used Baseball Prospectusí preseason
depth charts). Then Iím going to evaluate each team by
using the actual playing time of each player instead of
projected playing time. In both cases, Iíll calculate each
teamís runs scored and runs allowed using my preseason
projections for each player. Based on that, and their
schedule, Iíll project each teamís wins and losses...
Iíll also show you how well each team performed in the
various areas: pitching, hitting, base running and defense
(the "big four") as compared to their preseason projections. This will let you see the strengths and weaknesses
of your favorite team going into the season, as well as
how they actually performed in each of the areas during
the season. And finally, I will provide you with updated
projections for each team, given the same players and
identical playing time (as in 2008), so that you really will
be an expert on your teamís chances in 2009.
Whew. He then wrangles the teams' post-adjustment preseason projection
wins, expected wins using the actual performance of those players, and
Pythagorean differential into a metric for managers (taking care to use the
fabled sabermetrician slight-of-hand in devaluing stolen bases: He uses a
ridiculous 72% break even point for his
stolen base runs,
then even after doing so, attaches twice the detriment to managers who compile
negative stolen base runs than the positive attached to those who compile
positive SBR). The result is expressed in wins above or below average, but
Lichtman is not so naive as to think that this is actually what it measures.
He calls it a "toy" and realizes that it is but a rough estimation of wins,
unlike the wins measurement you get from pure linear weights analysis. Here
is what his "toy" had to say about the Manager of the Year candidates in both
Cooper HOU (5.2)
LaRussa STL (4.1)
Piniella CHC (3.7)
C. Manuel PHI (3.4)
Gonzalez FLO (2.9)
Yost/Sveum MIL (1.7)
Torre LAD (-.8 )
Randolph/J.Manuel NYM (-1.2)
Scioscia LAA (6.1)
Gardenhire MIN (5.1)
Maddon TBR (4.0)
Francona BOS (2.3)
Gibbons/Gaston TOR (2.1)
Guillen CWS (1.8)
All that work, and we really only got confirmation of what we had expected
using our eyeball analysis. The names at the top of these lists are the
same ones that exceeded my preseason expectations, the same ones that
outperformed Pythagoras, an the same ones that beat out their third-order wins.
We do learn some interesting things - Lou Piniella and Charlie Manuel probably
were solid picks despite their poor showing versus Pythagoras, as they should
get some extra credit for actually winning their respective divisions.
There's also a lament - All that work, and no effort was made to separate the
Blue Jays, Brewers, and Mets' dual managements. Jerry Manuel's .591 winning
percentage was second only to Piniella among NL managers while Cito Gaston's
.580 mark was good for fourth in the AL. Obviously, their "toy" rankings
should each be higher than the aggregate marks for Mets and Jays managers, but
by how much, we cannot say.
Basically, for all the work involved in Lichtman's managerial analysis, it
gives us very little that intuition and quick number-crunching provide.
Evaluating managers is but one application for Lichtman's analysis, however.
Like the winners of the Manager of the Year Award, Lichtman "accomplishes more
than expected" with his research. Using the charts in the THT article, we
find that the Padres exceeded all expectations from a defensive standpoint
despite completely botching the rest of their season. We learn that Boston
hitters and pitchers exceeded their expectations for runs, offsetting the fact
that the team had the best record in the AL according to Pythagoras. We
learn that with average luck, before even analyzing offseason player movement
(what Asher once dubbed as "pre-disposition picks") we can expect the Indians and
Braves to improve while the Rays and the Astros will get worse.
Those pre-disposition picks are another one of those things we probably could
have figured out for ourselves without all of the lengthy number-crunching.
Still, it's nice to have numbers attached to the ideas, especially when it's
someone else shouldering all the work.
Get a copy of
Times Baseball Annual 2009 for $21.95 from ACTA Sports.
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or found at the Baseball Evolution Forum