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Maddon vs. Gardy: How much of an improvement would Maddon be?

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#1 alexlegge

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Posted 26 October 2014 - 10:50 PM

Maddon vs. Gardy: Comparing Performance of Two Managers

 

With the news of Joe Maddon’s opt-out, Twins fans everywhere are clamoring for the front office to make him a serious offer. Maddon has earned a reputation as one of the greatest minds in the game, a savvy and sabermetrically-aware manager capable of getting a lot of production out of his players.

Just how much of an improvement would Maddon be over Gardy? It is widely thought that he will command a salary near Mike Scioscia’s $5 million. This would be a big step up from the $2 million Gardy will be earning for the last year of his contract, but certainly not a bank-breaker by MLB standards.

Since 2006, both Gardy and Maddon have been at the helm of several playoff teams with little postseason success. Factor in Gardy’s 2002-2005 seasons, and you generally have more of the same. Both managers have also received praise from baseball writers. Maddon was named American League Manager of the Year in both 2011 and 2008. Gardy won the award in 2010 and finished runner-up in 2006, 2008, and 2009. Both men are generally seen as “player’s managers” who run loose and comfortable clubhouses.

A major difference between Gardy and Maddon is their usage of sabermetrics and advanced stats. Gardy has publicly mocked them, while Maddon has embraced them. For instance, Maddon revolutionized defensive shifting. Gardy, meanwhile, has been consistently hesitant to platoon players, demonstrating a non-acknowledgement of numbers.

 

Unfortunately, it is difficult to quantify managerial performance. From a fan’s perspective, we can only judge based on what we see on the field and in the papers. Here, I’ve attempted to quantify (albeit crudely) the managerial performance of Gardy and Maddon. I’ve used a few simple metrics to clump managerial performance into two broad categories:

1. Making the most out of every run, as evidenced by team performance in 1-run games and relative to Pythagorean record. This is largely related to in-game managerial decisions and luck. Team confidence also factors into this; a team that is confident in their ability to win should, in theory, win more close games. Presumably, a manager can affect this.
2. Making the most out of cheap players, as evidenced by money spent per win. This reflects several things – lineup decisions, clubhouse rapport, defensive positioning, and front-office performance. The extent to which a manager affects this is unknown and undoubtedly varies from team to team.

 

Making the Most Out of Every Run
Here are comparisons of Gardy (red) vs. Maddon (blue) in Pythagorean difference (Pythagorean wins – Actual wins) and 1-run games from 2006-2014:

Pythagorean.jpg

1-Run Record.jpg

Over the course of 2006-2014, Gardy has a Pythagorean record of +1 overall, while Maddon’s is -4. In that span, their 1-run records are virtually identical: Gardy is 221-211 (.512), while Maddon is 215-202 (.516).

What do these numbers mean? Basically, they say two things. First of all, both managers have fielded teams that are, on average, slightly better in close games than their opponents. In that sense, both Gardy and Maddon seem to be above-average managers. However, neither manager is capable of making extraordinary in-game decisions that lead to far more wins than expected based on runs. If Maddon is substantially better than Gardy, it doesn’t show up in these metrics.

 

Making the Most Out of Cheap Players
While neither Gardy nor Maddon has had the opportunity to work with gargantuan payrolls, there is a clear difference here: from 2006-2014, the Twins won 709 games for a total payroll of $723.05 million ($1.02 million per win), while the Rays won 754 games for $479.65 million ($0.64 million per win). This is a striking difference. Furthermore, it is completely in-line with Maddon’s reputation as someone who can do a lot with a low payroll.

But a huge question remains – just how much does a manager actually affect wins per dollars spent? Does a great manager make a difference? Or is this more closely linked to front office decisions? In an effort to examine this, I compared 2006-2014 year-by-year money spent per win of four teams:
1. Twins (red)
2. Rays (blue)
3. Mets (orange; a team with changing managers and a front office with a poor reputation)
4. A’s (green; a team with changing managers and a front office with a great reputation)
Here are the results:

Millions Per Win.jpg

What’s interesting here is that the A’s have been almost as efficient with their money per win as the Rays, despite a revolving door of managers. And this doesn’t even include Billy Beane’s first 8 years as the A’s GM, when he originally championed the “Moneyball” philosophy.

The Twins were part of the “efficient” group until 2010-2011. Two things happened around this time: 1) Joe Mauer started earning a lot more money, and 2) Bill Smith’s craptastic decisions reached a peak, trading Wilson Ramos for the overpriced Matt Capps and trading the underpriced J.J. Hardy for nobody noteworthy. Since then, the Twins have been struggling to spend money efficiently, especially with Mauer’s clunker contract still looming large.
The Mets have been relatively inefficient spenders from 2006-2014, although they have heading in the right direction more recently. Like the Twins, they fired a GM during this time - Omar Minaya in 2010.

How much is Gardy to blame for the Twins inefficiency over the last four years, and how much should Maddon be credited with the Rays efficiency? These figures suggest that front office changes are far more meaningful in this regard – the consistently clever A’s and Rays front offices have kept their teams efficient despite drastically different managerial histories. Meanwhile, the Twins and Mets efficiency has fluctuated more with front office changes than managerial changes.

 

Take-Home Points
Overall, Maddon hasn’t really outperformed Gardy in any in-game metrics that could confer an advantage per run scored. And although Maddon probably had some impact on the Rays’ efficiency per dollar spent, front offices appear to be far more influential than managers.

Bottom line: it would be wicked cool to welcome Joe Maddon as the Twins’ next manger, and he’d certainly sell more tickets. But in comparison to the front office, his impact would be relatively small.

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#2 glunn

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Posted 26 October 2014 - 11:40 PM

I applaud the effort that went into this and don't dispute the statistical analysis.  However, it seems to me that the charts may not reflect intangibles, such as getting the most out of each player and attracting better free agents.  

 

I would also enjoy seeing a chart of how many wins Maddon would have had relative to Gardy if the Rays payroll had been as high as the Twins payroll.  Such chart would require a lot of subjective assumptions, but the process could be illuminating.


#3 Linus

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 04:51 AM

Don't know about the methodology but I agree with the conclusion. Managers just don't make that much difference - players do. Spend the money on a pitcher.
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#4 big dog

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 05:37 AM

Interesting stuff, thanks.  One concern I have about the Pythagorean projections is that it refers to how run differential translates into wins.  I would think that a really good manager, someone who concentrates on matchups, uses the hit and run efficiently, etc., would also be able to generate more runs out of a given set of players.  If a manager generates more runs, they ought to have more wins, even if they slightly underperform from a wins/run differential expectations.

 

If you look at two above-average managers, the difference might come down to whose personal style best fits the ballclub.  The wrong manager can wreck the whole thing, of course (see Red Sox recent history).  All that said, though, as long as you have a good manager I don't think it's easy to quantify the value of the best, as you point out.

 

That makes it easy to say we should spend the money on a stud pitcher instead, but managers almost never have Tommy John surgery and they don't cost a quarter of the payroll.  So my conclusion is I'm glad I'm not a GM, I guess.

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#5 jay

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 06:18 AM

I would think that a really good manager, someone who concentrates on matchups, uses the hit and run efficiently, etc., would also be able to generate more runs out of a given set of players. If a manager generates more runs, they ought to have more wins, even if they slightly underperform from a wins/run differential expectations.


Shouldn't that same manager be able to use those skills to get the runs needed to scratch out a few more close wins than his counterparts? I don't see how we can say situational decision making improves runs but doesn't improve situational runs.
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#6 gunnarthor

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 06:54 AM

I applaud the effort that went into this and don't dispute the statistical analysis.  However, it seems to me that the charts may not reflect intangibles, such as getting the most out of each player and attracting better free agents.  

 

 

What free agents has Maddon attracted?I'm not sure that's a good measure anyway but a lot of guys that played under Gardy have wanted to come back to him after they've left. 

 

As for the "most out of each player" thing, I've mentioned before that the hardballtimes and WSJ did a study on best managers a few years back using three criteria: one run records, overachieving/underachieving pyth w/l records and players performance before and after leaving said manager.Gardy was #1. 

 

In any event, I'm still leaning Molitor b/c I think he has a better baseball mind than Maddon and he also has a good relationship with Buxton and Sano.I kind of worry that Maddon is opting out to get paid before his value as a manager declines. 

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#7 nicksaviking

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 07:24 AM

Great analysis.I agree that managers don't generally have a huge impact on the W/L record.Now general managers....

 

Still, there is something about new managers that is likely intangible.Why else would Buck Scholwalter, Terry Francona or Bob Melvin almost immediately turn around teams that the previous managers failed with? 

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#8 big dog

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 07:31 AM

Shouldn't that same manager be able to use those skills to get the runs needed to scratch out a few more close wins than his counterparts? I don't see how we can say situational decision making improves runs but doesn't improve situational runs.

I didn't try to say it doesn't, though it probably reads that way.My point is that it might not, and there are reasons to think that they might not be perfectly correlated.For example, if they are really good at executing/moving players ahead a base because of coaching, but I don't call it at the right time quite so often, we might get more runs but somewhat fewer wins than the Pythag projection.Or maybe I'm really good at platooning, which isn't situational on a day-to-day basis.

 

The Pythag projection doesn't usually show huge variations anyway, so I'm inclined to think that more runs (based on expected runs absent the manager) is important as its own measure.I have no belief that could be estimated with any degree of accuracy, though.

Edited by big dog, 27 October 2014 - 07:32 AM.

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#9 Dman

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 07:39 AM

I really liked the article but was surprised by the result.  Although I have never been a huge believer in managers making a ton of difference I guess I did buy in to the Maddon Mystique.  I was surprised the numbers didn't match the hype.  I still think Maddon would be a good manager for the Twins but I don't know why he would want to come to Minnesota over the Cubs or several other clubs.  

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#10 tobi0040

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 08:00 AM

Here is an example of getting more out of cheap players via platooning them. Here is a look at the Rays 2013 outfielders, a utility guy, and backup catcher:

 

Matt Joyce .747 OPS

Luke Scott  .741 OPS

Delmon Young.780 OPS

David Dejesus .741 OPS

Desmond Jennings .748 OPS

Jose Lobaton.714 OPS (.590 OPS in 2014 with Washington)

Sean Rodriguez .714 OPS

Edited by tobi0040, 27 October 2014 - 08:06 AM.

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#11 tobi0040

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 08:08 AM

 I kind of worry that Maddon is opting out to get paid before his value as a manager declines. 

 

I agree that is what he is doing.He is at peak value and the pipeline appears to be thin in Tampa Bay.But I still think he is the best guy out there so I want him in MN.

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#12 Willihammer

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 09:04 AM

Yeah but Maddon has thick rimmed glasses.
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Well, there's that.

-Dark Star, RIP


#13 TheLeviathan

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 09:32 AM

Yeah, I've always tended to think the role of the manager is overblown.  It's more symbolic than anything and far more prone to destroying a team's chances than turning water into wine.  We shouldn't expect anything radically different with a new manager, the choice is more about a symbolic changing of the guard.

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#14 Seth Stohs

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 09:36 AM

I think it's pretty close to a wash myself over time.  When Gardy had talent, his teams won a lot of games and outperformed the Pythag. When the Rays weren't great, Maddon didn't win either, but as they accumulated a lot more talent, he became a much better manager.

 

Could the platoons, shifts, etc., win a game here or there, probably. I can't imagine that the change would mean more than 1-2 wins a season.

 

Now, that said, the Twins should be able to possibly jump from 70 wins this year to hopefully 75, and maybe even 78... Whoever the manager is will probably look pretty good if that's the case. 

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#15 tobi0040

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 09:36 AM

Yeah, I've always tended to think the role of the manager is overblown.  It's more symbolic than anything and far more prone to destroying a team's chances than turning water into wine.  We shouldn't expect anything radically different with a new manager, the choice is more about a symbolic changing of the guard.

 

I say about 3 games is the difference between the best and worst manager.

 

I just think about the difference between certain guys facing righties and lefties, as well as how many hits pull hitters lose to the shift.I remember Mauer from April-June this year it seemed like drilled the ball right at the OF's a ton. Being on the cutting edge there has to play a role. 

 

But Tony LaRussa was not going to bring the Astros or Twins to the playoffs this year

Edited by tobi0040, 27 October 2014 - 09:38 AM.

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#16 Brandon

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 09:36 AM

I think Molitor is a great bench coach.But I don't know how good he would be as a manager.I do think Maddon is a good manager.I think he has all of the things that make Gardenhire a good manager and he is open to advanced stats and ideas to improve the teams odd of winning as opposed to Gardenhire.So my preference is Maddon.though I wouldn't mind the Twins bringing Gardenhire back.

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#17 Linus

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 09:48 AM

I say about 3 games is the difference between the best and worst manager.

 

I just think about the difference between certain guys facing righties and lefties, as well as how many hits pull hitters lose to the shift.I remember Mauer from April-June this year it seemed like drilled the ball right at the OF's a ton. Being on the cutting edge there has to play a role. 

 

But Tony LaRussa was not going to bring the Astros or Twins to the playoffs this year

Except it was hardly cutting edge.Every team (every manager) was playing Mauer that way.Most managers are very knowledgeable which is why they tend to cancel each other out, IMO.I think the biggest factor is when you get a guy that is a real jerk, then they can do some damage ala Bobby Valentine.

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#18 jay

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 09:52 AM

Could the platoons, shifts, etc., win a game here or there, probably. I can't imagine that the change would mean more than 1-2 wins a season.

 

If that's accurate and you could determine which managers are on the high end of that, wouldn't that make them easily worth $5-10M/season?

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#19 tobi0040

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 10:01 AM

Except it was hardly cutting edge.Every team (every manager) was playing Mauer that way.Most managers are very knowledgeable which is why they tend to cancel each other out, IMO.I think the biggest factor is when you get a guy that is a real jerk, then they can do some damage ala Bobby Valentine.

 

Fair point. I am using Gardy as my starting point.The league was 5 years ahead of him

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#20 Willihammer

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Posted 27 October 2014 - 10:07 AM

If that's accurate and you could determine which managers are on the high end of that, wouldn't that make them easily worth $5-10M/season?


I don't think managers can be considered free agents in the same way players can. For starters, how many wins is a replacement level manager worth? How would you even measure? Pyth. W-L doesn't seem to be very enlightening. Does anyone really think Maddon is worth -4 wins compared to a replacement manager over his tenure? Other issues are that managers don't face the same age-related decline - they can manage into their 70s. This leads to an overabundance of candidates for only 30 jobs, certainly that skews the economics a long way from $7m/WAR.
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Well, there's that.

-Dark Star, RIP




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