FG on Fox: The Near-Impossibility of Evaluating a Manager

I’m a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, which means that I’m part of the pool of writers who are asked to cast ballots for MLB’s postseason awards. The MVP and Cy Young are the two big ones that get most of the attention, and then there’s Rookie of the Year, which has more recently turned into the Prominent International Star Who Made His MLB Debut This Year award — Jose Abreu will be accepting that one for 2014, though they’ll probably stick with the shorter title for now.

There’s also a fourth award that BBWAA members are asked to vote on — Manager of the Year. It’s the one award that we’re asked to give out that doesn’t go to a player, and not coincidentally, it’s the one in which there is usually the least consensus. Last year, nine American League managers received at least one vote in one of the three slots listed on the ballot, which might not sound like a lot until you remember that there are only 15 managers in the American League, so more managers got votes than those who didn’t.

This is what happens when you ask a panel of diverse members to try and come to agreement on a subject that is inherently difficult to measure. This challenge is compounded by the fact that there is literally no criteria or guidance provided along with the ballot. For comparison, the MVP ballot contains the following instructions:

Read the rest on Just A Bit Outside.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
8 years ago

Just spitballing…
Setting the most optimum lineup?

WPA of anything deemed a managerial decision…bunt, steals, hit-n-run, the bullpen in general? (you’d have to adjust somehow for performance, or maybe just focus on expected WPA – making it almost like a “best process” award)

Bench production compared to projections, adjusting for injury-forced moves? (idea being: he’s either deploying bench players well or correctly identifying improvement)

8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

If you’re looking for something you can measure, what about height? Or weight? Just give it to the biggest manager.

8 years ago
Reply to  Yirmiyahu

If we’re mocking the idea of measuring things…why not just give it to the manager with the best sideburns? Best accessory (Baker’s toothpick, Maddon’s glasses)? Longest tenure (oops…that’s quantifiable, maybe not that one)? Funniest press conferences?

8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

You don’t always know when a sub-optimal lineup was the result of “day-to-day” type injuries or other off-field factors. Even if you assume optimal lineups make all that much difference vs “real” lineups, which they mostly don’t.