FanGraphs Baseball


RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Posnanski’s original post was weakly argued, and Neyer’s argument seems largely off-point, but Gardy nonetheless presents an interesting problem that you’re not really dealing with. This comes up in Poz’s comments. The basic issue is that managing a baseball team has two major components:

    1) On the field tactics and strategy

    2) “Managing” in the human-relations, leader-of-men sense: keeping people happy, motivating them, maintaining harmony between teammates, creating a good work environment, etc.

    As fans, we have lots of information about (1) but very little information about (2). So we’re bound to systematically overrate good game tacticians relative to good leaders. The case for Gardy is that, based on the limited circumstantial evidence available, he appears to be very good at (2), even if he’s not so great at (1).

    The challenge for us as analysts is to figure out whether it’s possible to systematically measure both components of a manager’s role. Citing player WAR doesn’t get you anywhere since it would be partly a consequence of good managing in sense (2).

    It may not be possible to quantify both sides of managing, but in that case we should really just give up and say “we don’t know” anything about managers *in general*, not just Gardy, since an understanding based only on game tactics will be so biased as to be useless.

    Comment by chiasmus — September 20, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

  2. re: the Rauch/Nathan comparison. The WAR comparison makes the hoopla look a bit silly, but a WPA comparison is probably worth making, too – Rauch has 1.21 this year, whereas Nathan has averaged almost 4 WPA in his tenure with the Twins. That’s a pretty significant difference.

    Comment by Neil S — September 20, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

  3. I feel that a lot of being a successful manager is keeping players focused and content during the insidiously long season and that in game decisions are a very small part of the equation. Plenty of talented teams underachieve. These things are extremely hard to hang statistics on, and an “manager of the year” contest or whatever ends up being about unexpected team performance than anything else — so a manager who has three or four players get lucky with BABIP will win the prize. It takes a long time to figure out who is a good motivator (Phil Jackson being perhaps the best modern example of this, only basketball is such that these things are more transparent) and who will burn his team out in two years (think Larry Bowa).

    Comment by Brandon — September 20, 2010 @ 4:33 pm

  4. He makes plenty of questionable (and by questionable, I mean obviously wrong) in-game strategic decisions, that’s for sure. I think he does a good job of usually getting the right players on the field and taking care of the pitching staff, though. He’s good at keeping the players happy.

    My respect for him went up about three notches when he pulled Slowey (who was coming off an injury and had obviously lost it) with a no-hitter intact in the seventh. I didn’t think he had the yarbles to make an unconventional decision.

    All in all, I’d say he’s one of the better managers in the game. Sure, his strategic decisions suck from a SABR standpoint, but that’s every manager.

    Comment by cowdisciple — September 20, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

  5. My kingdom to you for using brackets inside a parenthetical, as opposed to more parenthesis.

    Comment by Todd Doug — September 20, 2010 @ 4:58 pm

  6. Rauch also wasn’t allowed to close for a full season. Yes, there was a difference, but not one that’s likely to matter this year.

    Comment by Kevin S. — September 20, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

  7. While we’re on the topic, taking Neyer’s “if we did have absolute knowledge, Gardenhire might look better than we think” and turning it into “we don’t know why the Twins are having success, so it must be due to Gardenhire” is a massive stretch in its own right.

    Neyer (at least in the quote you referenced) never said the success must be due to Gardenhire. He simply argued that the gap in quantifiable knowledge leaves room for more credit to be given (possibly) to Gardenhire.

    I do enjoy an article that rips on argument fallacies using fallacies of its own to aid in the process. Hey, your argument sucks! Let me build up this strawman and tear it down! If you’re going to blast Neyer’s words, do us a favor and blast his actual comments, not your own convoluted takeaway from what he wrote.

    Comment by Coby DuBose — September 20, 2010 @ 5:08 pm

  8. This is Matt (the author) posting from my mobile, from which I can’t see comments (although I can post them…). Weirdly, a couple paragraphs seem to be missing from the mobile version that are in the full web version… Don’t know why, but if you’re viewing from mobile, just note that some stuff is missing.

    Comment by Matt Klaassen — September 20, 2010 @ 5:28 pm

  9. “When the A’s were winning despite a low payroll in the first half of the decade, did everyone credit Art Howe”

    Maybe they should have. How’s Billy’s shit working in the regular season these days?

    Comment by NotDave — September 20, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

  10. The question isn’t so much whether Gardy makes non-optimal tactical decisions, but how he compares to the rest of the league’s managers in that regard. Yes, he never used Nathan with the bases loaded in a one-run game in the 6th inning, but neither does any other manager use his closer that way.

    Ironically, the two decisions that he’s gotten the most heat for this year were starting Punto over Harris at 3B & sticking with Jesse Crain – both of which turned out to be absolutely the right choice. Though now, of course, it’s “Why didn’t Gardy give Valencia the starting job from day one this year!” in classic highsight is 20-20 fashion. And it’s quickly gone from “Gardy should be fired for bringing Crain into a close game” to “Why doesn’t Gardy make Crain the closer!”.

    And most Gardy bashing isn’t done by SABR-metric types. It’s done by Twins fans who think Delmon Young has been the teams best hitter because he drives in the most runs, who ripped Morneau the first half of this year for taking too many walks, and who think playing a defensive whiz at 3B instead of the guy with the better batting average is absurd. Fans who’s #1 issue isn’t bullpen leverage, it’s that Young isn’t hitting in the cleanup spot.

    Comment by Mark — September 20, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

  11. It’s the same story with basically every manager of every business, baseball or otherwise. If the end results are good, you get credit, even if anyone could have stood just as high on the shoulders of others. And excellent work in a failing enterprise is rarely rewarded.

    Comment by Luke in MN — September 20, 2010 @ 6:03 pm

  12. Regarding (2): Looking at players’ performance when they move from one team/manager to another or when a team changes managers would answer that question (if you can get a big enough sample size).

    Comment by mettle — September 20, 2010 @ 6:16 pm

  13. I guess I am sabrmetric oriented and I don’t hate Gardy.

    Sure he frustrates me with his love for the light hitting utility infielder and his reluctance to platoon guys with extraordinary split. But he does do a very good job managing the pitching staff. He doesn’t overwork his starting rotation, you rarely see a Twin’s pitcher go much over 100 pitches. He can rely too much on a particular set up guy and wear them out, but he does seem to leverage the pen fairly well.

    Plus it is hard not to give him some credit for the development of young players, particularly Span and Valencia who both have hit much better than their minor league track record would have indicated (even if you account for some luck being in Valencia’s numbers this year).

    But the essential problem with this article is that we have very good ways of measuring a player’s contribution to team performance. We have no equally satisfying way of measuring the totality of a manager’s performance. So comparing subjective measures of player’s performance (which has satisfying objective measures) and subjective measures of manager’s performance (which has no compelling objective measures) is specious at best. What Pos and Neyer argue is that because there are not compelling objective measures we have to rely upon subjective ones and both of them similarly concluded that in their SUBJECTIVE opinion, Gardy is a good manager.

    Comment by John — September 20, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

  14. Not just a big enough sample, but you would have to control for a number of other factors.

    Comment by John — September 20, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

  15. Even if the Twins were heavily predicted to make the postseason this year–and I’m not sure it was that unanimous, but I don’t have access to the predictions now–it’s still true that Gardy seems to regularly coax more wins out of the Twins than the pre-season predictions would indicate.

    I’ll follow up on John’s good points from above: we have plenty of reason to think that Gardy is a good manager. Neyer’s point was that we should be more skeptical than have been that we have good statistical reason to doubt Gardy’s management. The only argument we have that Gardy is not a good manager is that he makes decisions that seem by the numbers to be questionable. Well, if he seems like a good manager and if his teams consistently outperform expectations, that gives us at least *some* reason (though not overwhelming reason!) to think that our judgments based on the numbers are flawed.

    I’m not saying that Gardy clearly deserves manager of the year, but I am constantly surprised at how many people think he’s doing an awful job, *and* think that the Twins don’t have the talent level of the Yankees or the Red Sox or the Rays or even Detroit or the White Sox.

    Comment by Randall — September 20, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

  16. Am I really way off in interpreting Neyer’s claim as generally the same as Posnanski’s, i.e., “I don’t know if Gardenhire is doing anything differently, no one really knows, but the results are there, so we should probably give a sizable chunk of credit to him?” I guess I think that’s a pretty accurate summary of what Neyer is saying (at the very least, he quotes and endorses Posnanski along those lines), and that is an argument from ignorance.

    I guess we disagree on the interpretation, which is fine, but I hardly think I’m being uncharitable — and I did take the time to address his non sequitors re: Morneau, Nathan, and the payroll.

    Comment by Matt Klaassen — September 20, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

  17. The line I’m criticizing in Poz and Neyer has nothing to do with subjective or objective, actually, which is why I said they don’t necessarily need numbers. My beef is with their explicit statements to the effect “The Twins are successful, and no one knows how much Gardy has to do with it at all, so we should assume he does have something to do with it, even though we can’t specify what, how, or how much.”

    “We don’t know, so we should assume” = argument form ignorance.

    Comment by Matt Klaassen — September 20, 2010 @ 7:56 pm

  18. Note that I don’t make any claims as to whether Gardenhire is a good or bad manager. One make that judgment (or not) based on other writings. My problem is with trying to make the argument (and it could be one way or the other) by saying “we don’t know what he’s doing.” Maybe other people do try to make the argument one way or the other based on strategy, playing time decisions, and so on. Those arguments at least have that going for them. I’m not addressing those here. What I’m addressing is the claim made by both Poz and Neyer that Gardy “must be” a good manager, even though they really can’t specify what he’s doing that makes him a good manager. It would be fallacious if they used the same sort of argument to prove that Gardy or any other manager is bad.

    Comment by Matt Klaassen — September 20, 2010 @ 7:59 pm

  19. As an objective observer, I need someone clarify the “obvious tactial errors” that Gardenhire makes? I don’t see the Twins everyday so I’m curious to get the perspective of people who do.

    Comment by Sox2727 — September 20, 2010 @ 9:25 pm

  20. This is a very well thought out comment that I completely agree with. My guess is that (2) doesn’t have 10% of an affect on the game as (1), though.

    Therefore we are correct to overrate the tacticians.

    Comment by The Duder — September 20, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

  21. What if the random assignment of value was that “(2) doesn’t have 10% of the affect on a season as (1)”? Then (2) could account for up to 15 games in the season and would be the difference in manager of the year voting.

    Comment by nate — September 20, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

  22. Shouldn’t Joe Vavra get some credit for the major league success of guys like Span and Valencia?

    After all, he is the hitting coach.

    Comment by Erik — September 20, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

  23. The (1) and (2) of this comment I think are spot on, and one thing that I’ve tried to express over the years to my friends, but not nearly as succinctly as done here by chiasmus.

    My follow-up to this thinking is that with a reasonable amount of talent, being good at (2) will help the talent over a long season, but being bad at (1) will weigh heavily in losing individual games. Thus, (2) can help get you to the playoffs, where a single error of (1) could cost you dearly in the playoffs.

    I’d argue that Bobby Cox might qualify as a good (2), bad (1) as well.

    Comment by scottz — September 21, 2010 @ 12:21 am

  24. So, basically, the only point of this post was to rip two mainstream writers for making unquantifiable arguments? Seems like a waste of time to me.

    Comment by dte421 — September 21, 2010 @ 12:34 am

  25. Yes, Bobby Cox is the classic example of this type of manager. Mediocre tactical manager, excellent clubhouse manager. Bill James once pointed out Cox was the only manager in history whose teams finished better than their consensus preseason projection 20 years in a row. (!!) And that was roughly 1980 to 2000 he was talking about, so it started well before the Braves’ dominant years began. Such managers are usually great for the regular season, not so great in the playoffs. But we all know there’s a ton of luck involved in playoff series anyway. Cox’s teams scored some huge playoff upsets, such as the 1991 NLCS over the Pirates and the 1995 World Series over the Indians. Of course his teams were playoff upset victims more often, going all the way back to Toronto blowing the 1985 ALCS to the Royals.

    I always thought of Dusty Baker as this type of manager too. He got many years of impressive regular season results in San Francisco, and now he’s doing it in Cincinnati. But of course he’s famous for his tactical meltdowns in the playoffs in ’02 and ’03. After ’03 he never had a chance to do his good clubhouse managing in peace here in Chicago.

    To use an NBA analogy, one might think of these managers as akin to Doug Collins with the Bulls: They can take a team to a certain level, but you need to bring in a sharp tactical manager to take the team to the next level.

    Comment by CubsNine — September 21, 2010 @ 12:50 am

  26. This is an odd comment. You are posting a message from your mobile stating you can’t read messages from your mobile warning people reading from a mobile in a message they probably can’t read. The people this message is intended for (mobilers) probably can’t read it.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the article, and do appreciate your willingness to try to warn people. Just thought I’d mention the strangeness of the comment itself.

    Comment by glassSheets — September 21, 2010 @ 1:38 am

  27. Poz and Neyer are hardly mainstream and are often felated by members of the saber community.

    Comment by vivaelpujols — September 21, 2010 @ 1:57 am

  28. I defy you to give me a single quote from Rob’s article that is to that effect. There is nothing resembling what you said in his article.

    He does say “If we did have absolute knowledge, Gardenhire might look better than we think.” Wow, that sure sounds like an argument from ignorance to me. He makes no assumption at all in his article and draws no conclusion. The closest he comes is to say “If not Gardenhire, then who?” But then goes on to grant that the front office deserves a lot of credit.

    As for Joe, there is never a statement to that effect. Certainly, he makes no bones about his feelings about Gardy, but he never says what WE should feel about him. Rather he simply explains why he has reached this conclusion. He even admits “And he insists that the Twins win DESPITE Gardy not BECAUSE of Gardy. And you know what? It could be true.”

    I am reluctant to be so critical, but being that you are criticizing other writers, I would suggest you should withhold such criticism until you understand what the word “explicit” means, because neither Rob nor Joe made implication to that effect, let alone an explicit statement. You have mischaracterized and/or misunderstood their position in your article and continue to do so.

    Comment by John — September 21, 2010 @ 2:48 am

  29. A. Loves weak hitting utility players like Nick Punto.
    B. Won’t regularly platoon some players with huge splits like Jacque Jones or Jason Kubel.
    C. Will try to hold onto his closer for a save situation in extra inning games on the road.

    Comment by John — September 21, 2010 @ 2:53 am

  30. Erik: Sure he should.

    Shouldn’t Gardy get some credit for putting together a staff of good coaches?

    Comment by John — September 21, 2010 @ 2:54 am

  31. A. Must remind him of his playing days
    B. Yet he has no trouble citing ridiculously small sample sizes (10 PA’s or fewer) when making lineup decisions.
    C. Unfortunately nearly every manager does this to some degree

    Comment by Not David — September 21, 2010 @ 3:36 am

  32. The world sure wastes a lot of time and money on leadership training then, if it’s so worthless.

    Comment by Huh? — September 21, 2010 @ 3:37 am

  33. You’re leaving out at least 3), which is the role the manager has in deciding the rotation, and who plays the pen and in the field. I imagine Earl Weaver would have broken camp with a rather different rotation than the one the Mets went North with. I don’t mean to nitpick here, and you may have meant to include this kind of thing in 1), but this is such a huge part of managing–and a part I don’t imagine we’ll ever find a way of measuring–that I thought it was worth being explicit about.

    It’s easy to imagine in the case of the 2010 Mets that the decision to include John Maine and Oliver Perez in the rotation–if indeed that was the manager’s decision–for the first 6 and 8 weeks of the season cost them several wins. I have to believe there are cases where a manager’s decisions concerning which players to go with have added or cost a club as much as a dozen wins–just don’t ask me to prove it.

    Comment by Jack Str — September 21, 2010 @ 3:55 am

  34. A. Should be reworded: … weak hitting, excellent fielding at three infield positions … I don’t believe he has ever intended to use Punto as an everyday player, but sees him as extremely valuable to the team over 162 games. For that reason, he sticks with him.

    B. And just who was he supposed to platoon him with? Jason Repko – now there’s an offensive powerhouse. He needs to have decent options for the alternative.

    C. This is just ridiculous. And, my recollection is of Gardy using his closer in the 9th or 10th inning on the road in tie games on many occasions,

    These examples are basically philosophical, not statistical. Gardy, form my observation, doesn’t believe in developing players at the major league level, unless forced to. He wants them ready when they get here. Hence, he will stick with Punto rather than promoting a Valencia he, (and presumably his minor league operatives) don’t see as ready. Sure, there are going to be instances where a player proves this wrong, but, like many executive decisions, when they’re right, there’s no way of actually justifying them other than success.

    Comment by Save Gardy Campaign — September 21, 2010 @ 4:15 am

  35. A. This is pure myth, repeated ad nauseum by people who don’t actually take a look at the situation. Maybe he ‘loves’ weak hitting utility players, yet every single time he’s had better option(s) those weak hitting utility players have been just that…utility players. It’s not Gardenhire’s fault that when he’s played Nick Punto regularly, Nick Punto was the best player available. Give me the name(s) of the superior players that Nick Punto has stolen PAs from, please.

    B. Who should Gardy be giving ABs to other than Kubel? Everyone in the world, especially Ron Gardenhire, knows Kubel struggles against LH pitching. But if the option is giving Brendan Harris more PAs at DH, then personally I’d just as soon let Kubel get his hacks in. He might run into a fastball now and again.

    C. “Will try to hold onto his closer for a save situation in extra inning games on the road.” Yup, you got him there. Funny though that despite the ranting and raving from many about Gardenhire’s bullpen usage, the Twins have had a bullpen ERA lower than league average in every single season of his tenure, only once finishing as low as 6th in the league. Bullpen management is a strength of Gardenhire, not a weakness.

    The man has proven to be a good manager. Just cause some sabre types can pick a nit here and there doesn’t make him a bad one, and doesn’t even mean the sabre types are right.

    Comment by mythbuster — September 21, 2010 @ 5:15 am

  36. “But the proper inference from “we don’t know” isn’t “he probably is,” but rather “we don’t know.””

    But we DO know. We know the man has overcome a lot of obstacles to post a career .552 winning percentage. So the proper inference is obviously ‘he probably is.’

    Comment by notDave — September 21, 2010 @ 5:27 am

  37. We know his teams have performed well. According to Poz and Neyer, we don’t know what connection he has with that.

    Comment by Matt Klaassen — September 21, 2010 @ 7:56 am

  38. vivaelpujols,

    Neyer works for ESPN, and Posnanski works for SI – that makes them mainstream writers. Just because they use deeper statistical analysis than, say, Jon Heyman, doesn’t mean they aren’t mainstream.

    Comment by dte421 — September 21, 2010 @ 8:41 am

  39. Matt:

    Weak sauce if all you are doing is providing us some lame lecture on debate technique. What’s the point? What did you want to accomplish? Because you are being perceived, fairly or no, as one of the crowd who regularly claim that a manager does not matter. Which, by the way, is a sorry crowd because THEY equate not knowing with not making any impact. And when speaking directly to a guy like Gardenhire with this history of success at some point the managers don’t matter schmucks have to concede that a manager generating these results receives some recognition.

    Comment by brew1982 — September 21, 2010 @ 8:45 am

  40. Only if you think Players have absolutely no impact on the game.

    Comment by Rich — September 21, 2010 @ 9:31 am

  41. Talk about revisionist history. The Twins were not “heavily favored” to win the AL Central. Almost all projections at the beginning of the season had it a neck-and-neck race between three or in some cases four teams. I don’t remember seeing any predictions that the Twins would win the division going away.

    Comment by Nick — September 21, 2010 @ 9:53 am

  42. I disagree with the author’s implication that Beane received all of the credit and Howe none. Howe was 2nd in MOY voting for four straight years. Yeah, he didn’t have a book written about him, but I think that counts as recognition.

    Of course, Howe didn’t do nearly as well before or after Oakland.

    Comment by Ken — September 21, 2010 @ 10:28 am

  43. I think this boils down to one thing: defense. Offensively, the Twins are and have been built around two cornerstones in the lineup (Mauer and Morneau), a few corner guys/DH with moderate power that are quite valuable at least every other year (Kubel, Cuddyer, and for once, Young)…and everyone else can field. If they get something out of those glove-first guys at the plate (like with Valencia), it’s a bonus.

    The question: is there something about Gardenhire’s philosophy that makes his players produce to fullest defensively, or is Terry Ryan just a genius when it comes to accumulating this kind of personnel?

    Because really, from judgings Gardy’s in-game tactics (unfortunately without many numbers to support the case), he really is bad. It’s just that his mistakes don’t matter enough. Having Nick Punto hit in the two hole regularly is undeniably dumb, but lineup structure is proven to be of minimal importance. Continually bunting with guys that can’t hit anyway isn’t necessarily a death knell. Sticking with one pitcher for each of the late innings isn’t ideal, but the Twins have had good pen arms for awhile, ones that can get both lefties and righties out reasonably well.

    As a Jays fan, I see the same thing personally with Cito Gaston. It annoys me to no end that Travis Snider and JP Arencibia don’t play nearly enough, but their replacements are exactly bad, so the team stays afloat in the short-term. It bothers me that the Jays don’t get on base enough, but Cito’s aggressive plate approach methods may be allowing guys to reach levels that may not have gotten to by trying to walk 15% of the time. Again, not ideal, but not disastrous.

    Comment by Matt 2 — September 21, 2010 @ 10:39 am

  44. The guy asked for the common criticisms Gardy gets. Those are it. I am not saying they are justified, just that they are made.

    Part of Gardy’s issue in the past has in fact been roster construction. I think he has done a very good job this season. In particular early on he was giving Thome a lot of ABs against LHP even at the expense of Delmon Young.

    You can’t expect a manager to make every decision based purely on the numbers, there is a people aspect to managing that is difficult to account for.

    Gardy also receives a lot of criticism for not playing younger players, which I think is generally unwarranted. The only two young position players I think the Twins clearly mishandled by not playing them were Bartlett and Cuddyer. Cuddyer got yanked in and out of the lineup and all over the field and the Twins never showed enough confidence in Bartlett early in his career.

    Comment by John — September 21, 2010 @ 11:25 am

  45. @ viva — I think you mean filleted. Fellated means something else entirely.

    Comment by chuckb — September 21, 2010 @ 11:37 am

  46. Pretty well actually. Boston, Texas, Tampa, all seem to be doing pretty well. What a stupid comment.

    Comment by Kevin — September 21, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

  47. Newsflash: Every “SABR-Minded” fan thinks their manager is an idiot.

    Comment by Steve — September 21, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

  48. No I meant the dirty one.

    Comment by vivaelpujols — September 21, 2010 @ 5:01 pm

  49. We often hear about GM’s of other teams, but very few people seem to talk about Bill Smith (or even Terry Ryan before him ) when talking about the Twins success. They may have a bigger payroll now but they (esp. Ryan) wrote the book on building a small market team. They just didn’t toot their own horn.

    As far as managers go, Every manager makes stupid moves from a Saber standpoint. Yes, him too. (A blanket statement for everyone bringing up a “great” manager’s name) But the biggest job of a baseball manager is managing the team. Getting 25 different guys on the same page and keeping them there. Doing the day to day behind the scenes work to keep people motivated. The best managers excel at that, and do good work that you never see which overcomes some of their lack of comprehension about the numbers.

    I pretty much know that every manager of a team I Iike will make moves or send out lineups of fail to make obvious moves that will make me want to scream. I know that every manager of a team I don’t like will do things that make me laugh at them. But, in the end, it’s about managing people.

    Comment by KHAZAD — October 4, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

Leave a comment

Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Close this window.

3.591 Powered by WordPress