I now have justification for why I hate Leo Durocher so much
It would be easy enough to state that Chris Jaffe’s "Evaluating Baseball's Managers, 1876-2008" will do for big league managers what “Bill James’ Baseball Handbook” has done for big league players. In a simplistic sense, this statement will prove to be true.
One major difference between the two books, though, is the ratio of subjectivity vs. objectivity in place. Jaffe, a writer for the sabermatician-friendly “The Hardball Times” website, relies much less on anecdotal evidence and more on pure, cold numbers than even James does. Now, my longtime followers know just how I feel about numbers – as a financial analyst by trade, I know how they can be twisted, omitted, and otherwise fudged to justify nearly any preconceived conclusion.
But Jaffe has done the heavy lifting, with big assists from the robust and exhaustive Birnbaum Database and Tendencies Database, to provide the stone cold facts that provide the preponderance of evidence behind his judgments of managerial effectiveness. Like any jury trial, certainly we cannot possibly be everywhere at anytime, and we rely on the unassailable facts to get as close to the truth as possible. Jaffe lays out his case better than the best District Attorneys. It can be said that Jaffe’s work is the next evolutionary step forward from James, just as James and his Run-Shares was once an evolutionary step forward from the ‘old-style’ method of player evaluation, which basically consisted of effusive praise for anyone who won a pennant for a New York or Boston club.
Regardless of the team you root for, Chris has the information on your historic managerial figures. From the perspective of an extremely provincial Cubs fan, I can give you detailed opinions on all their managers from Leo Durocher going forward. My humble opinions, but NOW I have the proof to back them up.
Thanks to “Evaluating”, I can now say, with confidence, that Durocher was cruising on his reputation alone during his tenure with us; that Don Zimmer either was too dumb or not respectful enough of the Unwritten “Book”, since he never used offensive platoons or put his best OBP men at the top of the batting order; that Dusty Baker was a touchy-feely Cali flake that did not understand pitching and hated walks, but as long as he led a team with a thick skin, he was ok; and that Sweet Lou Piniella also hates platoons, which may due to a deep-seated resentment from his own days as a platoon player, and our frequent complaints about his insistence of batting Soriano leadoff are justified, for he is one of the worst offenders in history of not penciling in his best OBP men at the top of the order (along with Baker, ol’ “Walks Clog Bases” himself.
For no other reason, buy this book and keep it handy, for those times when you feel like running down a beloved figure (like Lou Boudreau). When you are accused of being overly harsh towards a sweet old man who cannot defend himself from the grave, just point out that the numbers show that he relied too much on power and lost his competitive edge once he moved from “player-manager” to just “manager”. Jaffe’s got your back!