|Buck | Keith Allison|
In that article I compiled projected and actual standings for every team since 2003. I did not select one projection model over another as they all tend to be similarly accurate. One thing that struck me about the projections for the Baltimore Orioles was how much this team consistently underperformed according to the preseason projections.
In this data set, only three managers have ever outperformed the team's projected wins: Mike Hargrove (in his only season in the data set), Dave Trembley (amidst two and a half other underperforming years), and Buck Showalter. Showalter has an interesting series of performances. He had stellar over-performances in his short season debut in 2010 and the mesmerizing 2012 season (one of the greatest unexpected performances of the recent era). Showalter also put in a very strong year last year. In 2011, the team did horribly compared to expectations. You can likely put a lot of that underperformance being associated with Brian Roberts' injuries, Brian Matusz' unraveling, and a couple black hole performances coming from Felix Pie and every pitcher making their way from Norfolk to fill out Matusz' spot.
Anyway, I figure beyond the Orioles' history, this database could be broken out to evaluate all managers as well as maybe how certain managers may affect their team's projections (something no projection attempts to do). Below is the top 10 managers since 2003 in outperforming their team's expected wins with at least three seasons managed.
This list passes the sniff test quite well. All of these managers are highly regarded at their craft. The leading manager, John Farrell, has long been considered a great baseball man and only recently was given a chance to manage for the Blue Jays and Red Sox. I had highly supported the Orioles in employing him over Buck. Though more time may be needed to evaluate him with respect to this potential metric as he has two exceptional over-performance and one poor underperformance.
All of this said, these are actually some very fascinating numbers. On the free agent market, a win this past offseason was worth about 6 MM. If you would solely attribute any deviation from the expected wins to be the responsibility of the manager, then those top eight managers are worth over 20 MM per year. That is rather remarkable and probably obscures true value of other personnel in the organization. That said, I would be hard-pressed to say that the teams involved above are paying free agent prices for those increased wins.
Below are the bottom 10:
Depending on your point of view, this list may not exactly pass the sniff test. In order to put in three full seasons or more in the big leagues, teams have to think well of you. The listing actually suggests that as well with 23 of 42 managers having positive W/162 values along with another nine within -1 win. It appears few highly underperforming clubs' managers last long. However, I'd also be hard-pressed to fully associate all of the misfortune to the manager alone. That said, I think you would have a decent leg to stand on to say that Dusty Baker, Jim Tracy, Eric Wedge, Bob Geren, Jerry Manuel, John Russell, and Manny Acta have all managed some disappointing teams even though you do have a few playoff appearances within that group. Just like the guys at the top of the list, it is probably a bit rash to say that these managers are completely responsible for the entirety of their team's underperformance when compared with their team's expected performance according to projection models.
In the end, I am unsure how many grains of salt to take this little exercise. Maybe a sprinkle, maybe even a truckload. I would suggest though to lean more in the sprinkle direction. That said, Orioles fans should be quite content having a manager falling into the top 10 group as opposed to the bottom 10.