Saturday, June 01, 2013

Baseball's Most Mediocre Managers

Eric Wedge, decidedly mid-level manager.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Brian Goff, Contributor, 5/30/2013

Last week I listed the best managers over the past 40 years in MLB.  These estimates flow out of  each manager’s impact on winning percentage after taking into account the GM, owner, performance prior to the manager, and population.  Here, I’m looking at the flip side of the same coin – the ten worst managers over 1970-2011.  That’s not exactly right – it’s the worst ten who managed at least 7 years.

An oddity in sports management, and, for that matter, any management setting is the mediocre or bad manager who keeps landing good jobs.  I’ve labeled it the “Kevin Loughery Syndrome” after the former NBA coach who parlayed 3 successful ABA seasons into a 5-team NBA career with an overall winning percentage of 0.417 – a number well below his closest coaching peer.  Somehow, employing a coach with experience, even bad experiences, seem to carry the day for various general managers and owners.

The MLB manager’s on my list don’t come close to approaching that kind of futility.  In fact, while all of the “worst” of these long tenured managers on my list had a net negative contribution to winning, the size of the negative impact is very small.  In this respect, a better title is most mediocre long-tenured MLB managers. The number of seasons includes partial seasons.
  1. Darrell Johnson (3 teams, 8 seasons)
  2. Phil Garner (3 teams, 15 seasons)
  3. Buddy Bell (3 teams, 9 seasons)
  4. Jim Riggleman (4 teams, 12 seasons)
  5. Jim Fregosi (4 teams; 15 seasons)
  6. Tom Kelly (1 teams, 16 seasons)
  7. Rene Lacheman (4 teams, 10 seasons)
  8. Ralph Houk (3 teams, 21 seasons)
  9. Eric Wedge (2 teams, 10 seasons)
  10. Pat Corrales (3 teams, 10 seasons)
In some cases, such as Ralph Houk or Eric Wedge, the individual managed part of their tenure prior to or after to my period of analysis.  In the case of Houk, the exclusion may influence his inclusion in the list since he won two World Series with the Yankees in his first two seasons.  The case of a manager such as Tom Kelly is a unique and interesting case.  While most of the others on the list experienced consistent mediocrity, Kelly’s Minnesota twins won two World Series over his 16 seasons, which helps explain his long tenure with the team in spite of an overall uninspiring record.

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