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  • Beginner's Luck? How Rookie Managers Typically Perform


    dwade

    How much sleep do you think Rocco Baldelli got Wednesday night?

    Sure, this is far from his first Opening Day, but there will be plenty of firsts involved in it: His first regular-season lineup card, his first win or loss in charge of a club, and who knows, maybe even his first managerial ejection.

    Image courtesy of © Daniel Clark-USA TODAY Sports

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    Like six other teams, the Twins enter 2019 with a manager looking to complete their first full season with the team. Of the seven new bosses, only one has completed a full MLB season for another team – Brad Ausmus, whose time with the Tigers he’d likely prefer to be stricken from the record – and while the expectations for Cardinals manager Mike Shildt are notably higher than they are for the Rangers’ Chris Woodward, it’s good to have a frame of reference for how first-year managers typically do.

    Rather than wading through the entire universe of MLB managers, then trying to make judgments about how similar a given era is to the modern game, I’ve looked at the current managerial cohort, all of whom joined their current teams this decade…except Bruce Bochy, who will be stepping aside at the end of this season. (Some managers go out on top, but Bochy – who owns three World Series rings and took the Padres to a fourth – looks set to do the opposite as the Giants are not exactly well-positioned in the NL West.)

    Managers making their true debut do reasonably well, but generally unremarkably so, in their first season. Their median record, 82-80, in those maiden seasons is unlikely to produce a playoff run; it’s also unlikely to get them pelted with rotten fruit in the streets. Extend that pace over the course of 20 years, however, and you end up in the company of venerable managers like Jim Leyland and Buck Showalter.

    But what happens when a manager takes over a new team, irrespective of whether they’ve managed before? Virtually nothing: Managers in their first season with a new team pilot them to a median mark of 80-82. No playoffs, no fruit in the streets, live to manage another day as long as you don’t make a habit of it. Still, .494 is a better career winning percentage than Tom Kelly, Eric Wedge, or Larry Bowa had.

    Mentioning Kelly as a manager who produced below-average results might get you run out of Minnesota on a rail, but it illustrates a meaningful point: If Baldelli wants a long managerial career, he’s better off having up and down stretches rather than being consistently mediocre. Kelly’s highs are obvious and memorable – Flags Fly Forever as the saying goes – but his lows are probably worse and more frequent than most would guess. Of his 13 full seasons as Twins manager – dropping strike-shortened 1994 and ‘95 and his partial season in ’86 – Kelly had 88 or more losses in six of them.

    Obviously there are myriad factors at play in any manager’s record, many of which are out of their control, and a managerial platoon of Joe McCarthy and Charlie Comiskey couldn’t have redeemed the 1999 Twins, but it’s proof that high enough highs will buy almost any manager the margin they need to have a few abject failures in their career.

    Assuming he ends up near the median for first-year managers, Baldelli can be expected to win about 81 games. On Opening Day Eve, PECOTA has the team projected for 82 wins, as does Fangraphs, and that feels about right given what the team showed in Spring Training. It would take a miracle of no small scale for him to best Alex Cora’s 108 wins in his first season as manager and a disaster of equivalent size for Joe Maddon’s 101 losses with the 2006 Rays to be in play. This doesn’t mean Baldelli won’t have an impact on the Twins’ performance this year, but what he has will largely determine where in the middle third of the bell curve he falls rather than whether the team is a success or a failure.

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    But what happens when a manager takes over a new team, irrespective of whether they’ve managed before? Virtually nothing: Managers in their first season with a new team pilot them to a median mark of 80-82. No playoffs, no fruit in the streets, live to manage another day as long as you don’t make a habit of it. Still, .494 is a better career winning percentage than Tom Kelly, Eric Wedge, or Larry Bowa had.

    This is pretty amazing if you think about it.

     

    It seems like the trend is these brand spankin' new managers are being given the keys to some really solid teams, some with even World Series aspirations, while rebuilding clubs are the ones scooping up the retreads. An interesting development.

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    82-80 with a new manager, 80-82 with a retread, every manager ends up averaging 81-81. Either it does not matter who manages a club on average or one needs to look for a different statistic than wins and losses to asses a new manager than average wins. 

     

     

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    A year later, a different manager, and yet, poor execution.

    Ahead 2-0, bottom of the 8th, runner (Polanco)on !B with one out. (Hit By Pitch)

    To this point, the team has accumulated only 4 hits.

    Nelson Cruz is in the Batters Box and Eddie Rosario is on deck.

    Cruz is 1 for 3. Led off the bottom of the 7th with a single to Left.

    Rosario is 0 for 3. Struck out on 3 pitches in the bottom of the 7th = Change-up, Change-up, and Cutter.

    In the bottom of the 8th, Rosario doesn't attempt a steal.

    One throw over to 1B with Cruz batting with a 1-2 count.

    One throw over to 1B with Rosario batting with a 1-0 count.

    Polanco S?H?B standing on 2B via stolen base with Cruz and Rosario coming up to bat.

    He wasn't. He didn't try.

    Failure in game execution and strategy by Rocco Baldelli.

    POOR at bats in the bottom of the 8th by both Cruz and Rosario.

    Edited by Jacksson
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    A year later, a different manager, and yet, poor execution.
    Ahead 2-0, bottom of the 8th, runner (Polanco)on !B with one out. (Hit By Pitch)
    To this point, the team has accumulated only 4 hits.
    Nelson Cruz is in the Batters Box and Eddie Rosario is on deck.
    Cruz is 1 for 3. Led off the bottom of the 7th with a single to Left.
    Rosario is 0 for 3. Struck out on 3 pitches in the bottom of the 7th = Change-up, Change-up, and Cutter.
    In the bottom of the 8th, Rosario doesn't attempt a steal.
    One throw over to 1B with Cruz batting with a 1-2 count.
    One throw over to 1B with Rosario batting with a 1-0 count.
    Polanco S?H?B standing on 2B via stolen base with Cruz and Rosario coming up to bat.
    He wasn't. He didn't try.
    Failure in game execution and strategy by Rocco Baldelli.
    POOR at bats in the bottom of the 8th by both Cruz and Rosario.

    Polonco is not a great base stealer despite having some speed.

    600 or more PA a season for a player and nitpick the first game. Wow

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    That's a fascinating article. Thank you. With great players you can win a lot of games. The Yankees could probably have R2D2 as their coach and they would still be in contention for the division, but for teams with fewer marquee players, the make or break of picking up a few extra wins or losses comes based upon their decision-making ability.

     

    The Twins coughed up a lot of late inning leads last year. If they cut that number to half, the Twins would be much improved, and a simple turn-around in one-run games would make for an 84-78, which I would call a great success (but I'm adding my 5 game Twins bias to the table to shoot for 89).

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    Polonco is not a great base stealer despite having some speed.

    600 or more PA a season for a player and nitpick the first game. Wow

    And from what I recall they were actively holding Polanco on the bag with the first baseman's position. A legit complaint is one thing but sheesh enjoy the win amirite?

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    And from what I recall they were actively holding Polanco on the bag with the first baseman's position. A legit complaint is one thing but sheesh enjoy the win amirite?

     

    Cimber was drawing the boo-birds big time (Really the only time they cam out all game).  It wasn't  just the throw overs either.  He stepped off two or three times as well.

     

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    Being around .500 as a new manager may not be too bad if one considers that fired managers often have teams that were below .500. While it’s not controlling for a single variable, it would be interesting to know the number of games has fared better or worse than the previous manager.

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    A year later, a different manager, and yet, poor execution.

    Ahead 2-0, bottom of the 8th, runner (Polanco)on !B with one out. (Hit By Pitch)

    To this point, the team has accumulated only 4 hits.

    Nelson Cruz is in the Batters Box and Eddie Rosario is on deck.

    Cruz is 1 for 3. Led off the bottom of the 7th with a single to Left.

    Rosario is 0 for 3. Struck out on 3 pitches in the bottom of the 7th = Change-up, Change-up, and Cutter.

    In the bottom of the 8th, Rosario doesn't attempt a steal.

    One throw over to 1B with Cruz batting with a 1-2 count.

    One throw over to 1B with Rosario batting with a 1-0 count.

    Polanco S?H?B standing on 2B via stolen base with Cruz and Rosario coming up to bat.

    He wasn't. He didn't try.

    Failure in game execution and strategy by Rocco Baldelli.

    POOR at bats in the bottom of the 8th by both Cruz and Rosario.

    If Polanco steals second, the Indians walk Cruz. In a heartbeat. And stealing bases isn’t something Polanco is terribly good at. 25 SB in 40 attempts forhis career.

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    I see some qwful poor decision making by the new manager in both game #1 and game #2.

    Luckily, Twins won game #1 despite the manager.

    Game #2 was lost due to the manager with assists from: Parker, Cron, Kepler, Rosario and Polanco.

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