Here Are the Complete Front-Office Ratings

Earlier this very week, I ran a polling project. The question being asked was simple: What do you think of your favorite team’s front office? That is, the front office, independent of ownership. The front office, independent of things the front office doesn’t control. We all have opinions. None of us have actual concrete answers. The question is simple and impossibly complicated. But so many of you voted, and I promised to analyze the results. That’s what we have here — sort of a crowdsourced FanGraphs community front-office power ranking.

There’s no real perfect way to evaluate a front office. Never has been. FanGraphs tried to do it before, by gathering input from a bunch of its own writers, but that was eventually put to a stop, because it was too controversial. We can’t know, we can’t know for sure, but the results here are still significant. What’s truly being measured is how people perceive the various front offices. Wouldn’t you like to know about the perceptions, league-wide? Wonder no more. Here’s what we have, according to, at least, a strongly sabermetric audience.

There was a poll for every team, and each poll asked you to select one of five options. Do you think a given front office is very bad, pretty bad, average, pretty good, or very good? This is the format I use for many of my polling projects, and, as always, for purposes of analysis, I assigned each answer a number score, from 1 to 5, with 1 corresponding to “very bad.” By putting numbers to words, the impossible becomes possible! You can make a mathematical plot!

No need to delay much more. Remember, again, this is just measuring opinions. And there’s also another complicating factor — it’s possible different fan bases assume different standards. “Very good” to a fan of the Yankees might mean something different from what it means to a fan of the, I don’t know, Angels. This only works if we assume that baseball fans across the continent and world share roughly similar definitions. I’m comfortable making that assumption. And so, at last, here are the front-office ratings, according to you. Teams are arranged in descending order of average rating.

There probably aren’t very many surprises in here. How could there be? These results are derived from your own collective input, and is it really possible for you to surprise yourself? According to the community, the best front office is in charge of the Astros, the team that most recently won the World Series. The runner-up front office is in charge of the Dodgers, the team that most recently finished as the…runner-up. The Cubs are up there, and they won in 2016. They’re followed by the Indians, who lost to the Cubs in 2016. Then you get the Yankees, followed by the somewhat more surprising Brewers and Cardinals. Those are the highest-finishing front offices among teams that didn’t just make the playoffs.

At the other end of the spectrum, people just can’t help but pile on the Marlins. The Marlins have done little to help their own case, and right now, as we speak, they’re waiting to find out when they’ll be able to rid themselves of the reigning league MVP. The Marlins are separated from the next-lowest rating by 0.76 points. That same gap is the difference between the Orioles and the Royals. Of all the Marlins votes, 93% were negative. Moving forward from there, you find the Orioles and the Mets. The Rockies and the Red Sox are the lowest-finishing front offices among teams that did just make the playoffs.

Even if you just give that image a glance, you can tell there’s a strong relationship between front-office rating and recent success. Here’s maybe the simplest possible analysis: linking front-office rating and 2017 team winning percentage.

Winning in the most recent season explains more than half of the variance. There’s a stronger relationship here than there is between front-office rating and projected 2018 record. I couldn’t make the relationship meaningfully stronger by including 2016 or 2015. The Rays and White Sox, I should note, finished with the highest ratings for teams that didn’t win even half of their games. But anyway, there is that linear relationship, for the most part. Winning isn’t the only thing, but it’s the biggest thing.

You can look at this in one of two ways. They’re both right! So, actually, you can look at this in two of two ways. Firstly, of course there would be a relationship between success and front-office rating. Front offices are supposed to build winners. Winning teams are more likely to be the result of more good decisions than bad ones. It would look a little strange if this relationship didn’t exist. But, secondly, I assume there’s an element here of results-based analysis. The original question is about evaluating front offices by process. That’s not easy. It’s much easier to evaluate front offices by how things have actually worked out. Winning can justify some bad decisions. Losing can color some good ones. Somewhat related to that, I imagine the Mets front office is being penalized here because too many pitchers have gotten hurt. I imagine the Mariners front office is being penalized here because Chris Taylor just reached his 90th percentile projection. In theory, you’d think that front-office ratings would hold mostly steady, given few changes in personnel. But winning and losing mostly determine direction. That’s the nature of how we perceive our teams.

Fans were most united in voting for the Astros. Of all their votes, 97% were positive. Unsurprisingly, fans were least united in voting for the Braves, and that’s because the Braves’ front office is pretty much brand new. They just got a new GM installed because the old GM was banned from baseball for life. Alex Anthopoulos does have a track record, but not in Atlanta. Moving past the Braves, fans were least united in voting for the Padres. Of all those votes, 41% were negative, but 28% were positive. Some people love where the Padres are going; other people still hold on to what the Padres tried to be a few years ago. Suffice to say it’s been a roller coaster.

There’s another fun thing to do here. I’ve run this polling project two times. Once this week, and once in July of 2015. Back then, the average front-office rating was 3.17, with a median of 3.26. This time around, the average front-office rating was 3.29, with a median of 3.22. Fans are generally over-positive, since you’d think the average rating would be exactly 3. For more, back in 2015, the standard deviation of all the ratings was 0.97. This time around, the standard deviation was 0.80, which is smaller by 17%. I think this reflects something we’ve understood to be true — front offices are looking more and more alike, so it’s harder to stand out. There are fewer of the obviously backwards executives. For better or for worse, the front-office picture of 2017 is defined by homogeneity, and I don’t see that trend stopping.

On the team level, how have things changed in two and a half years? Here are all the changes in rating.

There are 16 teams that have moved up, and 14 teams that have moved down. Six front offices have rated better by at least a point, while five front offices have moved at least a point in the other direction. The three biggest positive movers — the Diamondbacks, Phillies, and Brewers — have all installed new front offices. Among the negative movers, the Orioles haven’t changed much. They’re steadfastly refusing to rebuild. The Braves score a lot worse, compared to when people were most buying into the rebuild process. Fans of the A’s and Pirates have grown frustrated by stagnation, and then, with the Giants, the aura of winning has further worn off. I probably don’t need to explain this to you any more than I already have.

Thank you, everyone, for voting. In this project, and in all the projects. I love running polling projects, and they’d go nowhere without you. Until the next time.

We hoped you liked reading Here Are the Complete Front-Office Ratings by Jeff Sullivan!

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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brood550
Member
brood550

I hope they do this again next year when the Nationals and Orioles are in tatters. That’ll be fun. If the Orioles miss the playoffs and lose Machado and Jones to FA that’ll really make this interesting. I wonder if they can be lower than the Marlins are this year.

JimmieFoXX
Member
JimmieFoXX

I’m going to climb all the way out on the limb and say Jeter will keep the Marlins needle pinned to last.

This is the third Marlins ownership in a row like this and this one has a new ballpark with a retractable roof.

brood550
Member
brood550

I don’t know, but getting something for Stanton should mitigate the fallout somewhat. I think missing the playoffs and failing to receive anything for your 2 best players that most likely won’t be returning is far worse.

JimmieFoXX
Member
JimmieFoXX

HUH?

brood550
Member
brood550

I think if the Marlins get something for Stanton and show promise in a rebuild attempt that it will lessen the poor view of them.

I think the Orioles could commit a bigger blunder by missing the playoffs and loosing both Jones and Machado to FA and getting nothing but a draft pick comp picks in return.

JimmieFoXX
Member
JimmieFoXX

The Marlins have a young lineup. The Marlins own the 16th largest media market in MLB and have a state of the art ballpark.

The Marlins moves are signing Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. If that all goes wrong then they can sell and rebuild.

A $90 million payroll was a thing in MLB in 1997.

If you are awake here the Marlins announced parameters is they will try to make the playoffs in 2024 with a $90 million payroll, which we all doubt is going to happen so they will again sell off all their young assets….

How many more ownerships and new ballparks before we call this what it is?

Read my post again. The market is fine. No problemas there. That’s not the answer, try again.

brood550
Member
brood550

If you haven’t noticed the only thing fans care about in and around Miami is The U. College football is king in this area. Loria fleecing the city of Miami to the tune of 3 billion doesn’t help. But again that was the old guard so to speak. Miami needs to build a following since they really don’t have the following other teams do.

DookieHowserMD
Member
DookieHowserMD

“If you are awake here” there is a 0% chance of the Marlins signing either Arrieta or Darvish. The Marlins are trying to cut payroll not add it and both of those pitchers want to go to a contender, which the Marlins are not.

Dave T
Member
Member
Dave T

@Jimmie – the Marlins are also, as of right now, a bottom 2 or 3 revenue major league team with a roster that projects for sub-.500, $130 million in payroll for 2018 (before they traded Gordon), and an awful farm system.

What you’re talking about is the potential of the Miami market. The reality of the current Miami market is that the Marlins’ average home attendance in 2017 was third last in the majors, only above the A’s and the Rays, and they’re essentially tied for the lowest revenue local TV contract. The Marlins attendance has been last in the NL for 11 of the past 12 years.

As for why the new owners paid $1.2 billion for the privilege of taking over a team with a terrible short-term financial outlook and not much better baseball outlook because of it, I can’t say. Loria’s ownership screwed up the market to the point that the revenue just isn’t there to support the current payroll, much less push the payroll up the additional $40 or $50 million that would be required to spend this current team into being a true contender. The only really viable long-term plan looks to be a full rebuild with a contention window 3 or 4 years out and then trying to build from there to being a normal baseball market with at least middle of the pack revenue. I think that the new owners would have been better served to lay that out publicly as their plan to build a sustainable winner, but they’ve chosen not to do so for whatever reasons.

HappyFunBall
Member
HappyFunBall

Nationals in tatters?

brood550
Member
brood550

Have you seen what they will have following 2018? You got a 34 year old pitcher making $37.4 million, a 34 year old first baseman making $18 million, and no Harper, or semblance of a bullpen. Good luck with that.

HappyFunBall
Member
HappyFunBall

They will lose:

Harper – No two ways about it. That will hurt. Hopefully Robles will turn out well and they can spend the $400M other places

Murphy – I think if his 2018 is good, he gets resigned. If we have to live with Difo, the world won’t end.

Gio – A fine mid-rotation starter, but those guys can always be found

Madson – A good late inning arm, but hardly a fatal loss.

Kelley – Meh. No great loss.

Wieters – This will be an improvement!

So yeah. Clearly tatters.

brood550
Member
brood550

Difo had a 76 wrc+ in 124 games last year. Losing Murphy’s bat and replacing it with a below replacement level bat is really the end of the world when you’re already losing Harper.

When you lose Wieters who’s catching? Pedro Severino has been mediocre at best.

Hey, with the loss of Harper maybe they can resign Papelbon. Not sure who he’d choke next but it wouldn’t be Harper.

DookieHowserMD
Member
DookieHowserMD

“Losing Murphy’s bat and replacing it with a below replacement level bat is really the end of the world when you’re already losing Harper.”

Hyperbole is fun

Deacon Drake
Member
Member

Wieters is a bag of wet hair. People here were begging for him to test the market. Difo is a huge upgrade over Murphy in the field and on the bases… if they do resign him, it will be to shift over to first and sunset Zimmerman (who, all thing being equal, had the most unexpected year in MLB).

Young pitching is always a concern… Nats have never been good at keeping them healthy.

LHPSU
Member
LHPSU

When you lose Wieters you find some random catcher out of Triple-A to catch. It won’t be any worse.

JohnnyFang
Member
Member
JohnnyFang

They will have Rendon for one more year and Turner, Eaton, Scherzer, and Strasburg for several more years with Robles and Soto on the way up. Will suck to lose Harper and Murphy but they should still be a pretty good team in 2019 and beyond.

brood550
Member
brood550

Scherzer has 4 years left on his deal and has thrown 200+ innings in each if the last 5 seasons. Probability says he’s due for a major arm injury at his age and workload. He is due 34.5 million + each of those 4 years. Strasburg has yet to prove he can stay healthy. He’s basically a better version of Alex Wood, that will cost 15 million a year now and 10 million a year for 2024 to 2030. If the Nationals are set so well why did they defer so much money? Robles has looked good in the minors. But some players just can never make the jump. Soto is in A ball, expecting him to be there is a great thought but he’s still a lottery ticket and lottery tickets are fickle. Rendon’s cost next year will be north of 8 million easy and should top 10 million after his recent season. Meaning 2019 he should be close to 15 million himself. So the money just keeps going away here.

So Gio’s 2.96 era is nothing? 201 innings of 2.96 ball. Good luck replacing that. He was a 20 game winner before with a 2.89 ERA. Replacing him will be hard if he can keep putting it together.

Murphy will be pushing 34 too by then. LOL, you’re trying to become older than the 2015 Yankees. Have fun with that. May need to start buying rockers now.

DookieHowserMD
Member
DookieHowserMD

The Nationals deferred money because they are still in litigation with the Orioles over TV revenue.

Strasburg came in 3rd in the Cy Young ovting last year and had 6.5 rWAR (double Wood’s)

brood550
Member
brood550

I never said he wasn’t good. To be honest many of last seasons rates are very close for Wood and Strasburg. I just said he has an injury problem. I’m not a big fan of asking brittle pitchers to go 170+ innings and expecting them to hold up. I prefer the method the Dodgers are doing with Hill and Wood. But that’s what you have to do when you don’t have the depth the Dodgers do.

So what’s the National’s rotation for 2019? A 35 year-old stud that is facing a decline, a 31 year old stud with a track record of being injured, and a 32 year old Tanner Roark… Hard to count on Fedde being anything more than a continually injured player at current. He hasn’t thrown over 125 innings in any season. So what’s the plan there? Trade from a bare cupboard?

Will H.
Member
Will H.

Strasburg has the 30th most innings out of all 229 qualified pitchers since 2013. So…

brood550
Member
brood550

And his surgically repaired elbow flared up again last year. If it’s not that he’s had shoulder and back problems already too. It’s just a matter of time before it gets worse with those areas. So he’s what the pitching equivalent of Jacoby Elsbury?

HappyFunBall
Member
HappyFunBall

Sure brood. I will grant you that a worst case scenario does exist.

But, I mean, every team deals with contracts that end and players that age. Rizzo has spent 8 years now proving that he knows how to build a contender. Unless the Lerners are so absurdly penny-foolish as to let HIM go, I see no reason to presume that the Nats won’t continue to develop and sign good players.