Here Are the FanGraphs Community Manager Ratings

Every single baseball team has a manager. Some of them get paid a few millions of dollars. Given how they’re compensated, it follows that organizations believe a good manager is very important. But, who is a good manager? How do you identify a good manager? How do you measure a good manager? How do you compare one manager against another, or against the entire major-league landscape? I don’t know! I don’t know very much about managers, myself. But I do know that FanGraphs readers pay a lot of attention to baseball, and to specific baseball teams. What a terrific opportunity to crowdsource.

A little over a week ago, the Cardinals fired Mike Matheny. A little under a week ago, on the FanGraphs front page, I ran a polling project, asking what you think about your favorite teams’ managers. The polls were designed very simply — there’s not a lot of room for nuance, even though human beings are complicated, with upsides and downsides. Still, I saw this as a way to generate useful data. Useful data that doesn’t exist in other places. In this place, right now, we can dig into the results. Let’s take a look at what the FanGraphs community thinks of the 2018 managers!

I asked what you think of every manager, and for each, there were six options to choose from: very good, pretty good, average, pretty bad, very bad, and no opinion. There’s no shame in selecting the last one — it can be hard to develop a strong opinion about a manager, sometimes. That is, unless you’re really passionate about, say, lineup order, or the occasional bullpen controversy. We can look at our first plot. Which managers received the highest and lowest rates of no-opinion responses? This won’t surprise you, I bet.

About two-thirds of the results for Mike Shildt expressed no opinion. People went to the trouble of voting, only to say, you know what, I’ve got nothing. Mike Shildt, of course, has been the Cardinals’ manager now for all of six games, and that’s up through yesterday, which was several days after the original polling project was published. It’s way too soon to know much about Shildt at all. It’s more interesting to look at the landscape after Shildt. Andy Green is in second, which might as well be first, if Shildt gets an asterisk. Then there’s a big gap between Green and Jeff Banister. Green is new, I guess, but he’s managed the Padres for more than 400 games. There are ten newer managers in the National League alone. Green, though, hasn’t been given a whole lot to play with. Might be more difficult to notice a manager during a rebuild.

If you look at the other end, no one does a better job of eliciting opinions than Joe Maddon. Maddon generated a no-opinion vote just 1% of the time. There was a recent anonymous-player poll at The Athletic, and one question asked which manager the players would most want to play for. Maddon was the top result. Another question asked which manager the players would least want to play for. Maddon was the runner-up. Players have a lot of opinions about Joe Maddon. So do you.

Of course, the real heart of this polling project is the collection of ratings themselves. When the no-opinion option wasn’t selected, what were the opinions? As usual, I assigned a number to each response, from 1 (very bad) to 5 (very good). From there, it’s just a matter of simple math to calculate each manager’s average rating. The landscape of those ratings is seen in the following plot.

Understand, first: None of us know. We don’t know, absolutely, who is good and who is not. This is just a collective expression of informed opinions. We’re not players, so we don’t know that much about how well these managers lead. It’s worth noting that different fan bases might hold their managers to different standards. It’s worth noting that what might seem like a manager decision might sometimes be something forced upon him, by authority or by circumstance. And it’s further worth noting that a manager in one clubhouse in one year might be far more or less successful in another clubhouse in another year. Sometimes managers break through; sometimes managers get tuned out. It’s all very complicated. Allow this plot to make it all seem extremely simple. Here are the FanGraphs community manager ratings.

I went by team abbreviation instead of last name this time to make it easier to scan and compare. There were 31 polls, because, for the Cardinals, I collected results for both Matheny and Shildt. Matheny stands out, at the very back, designated by “STL1.” He’s the only manager to get a rating under 2. On the one hand, you could say, look, the model works! Matheny was the worst manager, and then Matheny got fired! On the other hand, the polls were also published after Matheny was already fired, so there was additional reason to vote him poorly. Why not kick a man while he’s down? His employer had already basically admitted he wasn’t the right choice for the job. Matheny getting fired demonstrated that there must not have been something positive going on behind the scenes.

The opposite of Mike Matheny, according to this, would be Terry Francona. You all love you some Terry Francona, the only manager whose rating would round up to a perfect 5 if we got rid of the decimals. Francona has a pretty good lead over A.J. Hinch, and then there’s another pretty good gap between the second-place Hinch and the third-place Alex Cora. Cora is in only his first season of managing, but the Red Sox also have baseball’s best record by a handful of games.

How dependent, then, are these ratings on team success? There’s a relationship, obviously. It would be weird if there weren’t. That’s what you’ll see below. Note that I’ve left Shildt and the Shildt-era Cardinals out of this. I’ve included Matheny, and the Cardinals’ 2018 record with him. And for Jim Riggleman, I’ve included only the Reds’ record since he took over.

It’s a weaker relationship than I usually see with these things. Yet the positive relationship is evident, and if you take away just Matheny, the R2 goes from 0.39 to 0.50. As dreadful as the Orioles have been, fans are still somewhat reluctant to bury Buck Showalter. You can easily spot the Francona point, even though his team this season has somewhat underachieved. Among the three best teams in baseball, by record, fans aren’t yet entirely sold on Aaron Boone. Part of that is because he’s so new. Part of that is because Yankees fans presumably expect more than just about anyone. And part of that, naturally, is because Boone has made some decisions people disagree with.

There’s so much here that we could talk about, if we wanted. I mean, there are polls and results for literally every single team, and every single manager has done good things and bad things. I couldn’t possibly begin to cover it all, however, which is part of the function of the comments below. You all get to fill in what I don’t address. As one last measure before I finish, here are the standard deviations of all the ratings. Which results were the tightest? Which were the most broadly distributed? That’s what this is supposed to find out.

Two points stand out, and they’re the points furthest to the left. I don’t really care about the Shildt information — obviously, results are more likely to be all over the place for someone so new on the job. If you mentally eliminate the Shildt bar, then, you’re left with Showalter standing above the others. This is a reflection of the fact that Showalter generated a variety of opinions. To some, it’s important that the Orioles have gotten so bad. That can’t reflect well on Showalter, and maybe he’s just lost the room. But, as recently as 2016, Showalter was widely regarded as a great success. Between 2012 – 2016, no team in the American League won more games than Showalter’s Orioles, teams that almost annually overachieved. You can see how fans are somewhat torn. They’re somewhat similarly torn, albeit to a lesser degree, on Mike Scioscia, whose overachieving Angels teams came years before. People aren’t really so torn on Francona and Hinch. People like them. Their teams are good and their managing seems good.

That’s all I have to say for now. I appreciate all of your participation. Without you, these polling projects would never go anywhere. I enjoy these analyses a lot more than you might assume.





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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CharlieC
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CharlieC

I didn’t realize we hated Mickey Callaway that much.

Roger McDowell Hot Foot
Member
Roger McDowell Hot Foot

In certain ways he’s obviously being hung out to dry by the ownership-driven front-office circus but there have been enough weird botches that were no one’s fault but his, too, that I think the new-car smell has kind of worn off already.

Psychic... Powerless...
Member
Psychic... Powerless...

I’ve seen zero Mets games this year. What are some of his issues?

Roger McDowell Hot Foot
Member
Roger McDowell Hot Foot

I mean, the team batted out of order in a game because he screwed up the lineup, he’s failed to warm up relievers several times, he’s made a lot of inexplicable decisions about who starts (eg playing Reyes every day). I’m not saying any of it is unforgivable but he’s done enough weird little dumb things totally on his own that it’s at least given fans a legitimate gripe that isn’t just the usual bullpen-usage stuff.

Johnston
Member
Johnston

Some of his issues are that he isn’t duly diligent, he fails to pay proper attention, and he makes bad decisions. He looks to me like a nice guy whose job is way over his head.

Curious Gorge
Member
Curious Gorge

Isn’t that what a bench coach is there to help with? Any boss needs a good assistant to make sure he isn’t missing things.

dodgerbleu
Member
Member
dodgerbleu

His ass is in the jackpot now

Johnston
Member
Johnston

“I didn’t realize we hated Mickey Callaway that much.”

You must have not been paying attention.

GoNYGoNYGoGo
Member
GoNYGoNYGoGo

As a manager Mickey Callaway is a good pitching coach.

Roger McDowell Hot Foot
Member
Roger McDowell Hot Foot

The Mets are baseball’s biggest believers in the Peter Principle.