SABR

Remington: Is Jim Leyland a future Hall of Famer?

From Alex Remington at FanGraphs on October 17, 2013, with mention of SABR member Chris Jaffe:

Jim Leyland is an elder statesman of the game, usually recognized as one of the best managers in baseball, and his Tigers just won their third straight division title. The three best managers of the last generation, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre, have all retired. So, is Leyland a future Hall of Famer?

Jim Leyland has managed for 22 seasons. Remarkably, all of them have been full seasons: he’s never been fired or hired midseason. Leyland is the winningest active manager: his 1769 regular season wins are fifteenth all time, behind Lou Piniella (1835) and ahead of Dusty Baker (1671). He has taken eight teams to the playoffs, garnering one World Championship, three league championships, six first-place finishes, and two Wild Cards, both of which went to the World Series. He has won three Manager of the Year awards, in 1990, 1992, and 2006. He won the first World Series in Marlins history, took the Tigers to their first World Series since the Bless You Boys of 1984, and led the Pirates to their last division title in franchise history, 1992.

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It’s a lot harder to evaluate managers than players: while the Hall of Fame instructs voters to consider a player’s character including off-field activities, the bulk of a player’s worth is achieved on the field, while a manager may have his greatest impact in the clubhouse, in the long hours between games, helping his players to perform to the best of their ability and putting them in the best position to succeed.

So a player’s worth is easily measured with on-field stats, while a manager’s worth is not. Tactical screw-ups on lineup construction, bunts, situational hitting and pitching may cost a team a few runs here and there. It’s hard to measure how much the rest is worth, but it stands to reason that it’s worth something. In every other human endeavor, leadership matters. (Think about the difference between your best teacher and your worst, or between your best boss and your worst, and then try to imagine that $200 million was riding on your performance.)

By that standard, Leyland has been remarkably successful: not only have his teams won, but he’s one of the only people in the last two decades to coax wins out of the Pirates, Marlins, and Tigers. But by other measures, Leyland is less impressive. According to Chris Jaffe’s 2010 book “Evaluating Baseball’s Managers,” Jim Leyland actually is credited with being worth negative runs to his teams. Jaffe’s book is three years old, and his data is five years old, but it’s worth trying to understand why that might be.

Read the full article here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/is-jim-leyland-a-future-hall-of-famer/

This page was last updated October 21, 2013 at 1:21 pm MST.

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