Monday, December 7, 2009
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier entry, Chris Jaffe has written a book evaluating baseball managers that is more comprehensive than anything I’ve seen, titled coincidentally enough, Evaluating Baseball Managers. He’s allowing me to publish another excerpt from that book following up on the one he published at the Hardball Times about Billy Martin. This excerpt is about Joe McCarthy, or as Chris calls him, “The Greatest Manager of All Time”. McCarthy managed the Yankees to seven World Series wins.
W/L Record: 2,125-1,333 (.615)
Full Seasons: Chicago (NL) 1926-29; New York (AL) 1931-45; Boston (AL) 1948-49
Majority in: Chicago (NL) 1930
Minority of: New York (AL) 1946; Boston (AL) 1950
Birnbaum Database: +1451 runs
Individual Hitters: +550 runs
Individual Pitchers: +649 runs
Pythagenpat Difference: -107 runs
Team Offense: +190 runs
Team Defense: +169 runs
Team Characteristics: McCarthy’s teams score well at practically everything. His defenses were good, pitchers were terrific, and offenses were the cream of the crop. If you could quantify batboy performance, McCarthy probably would rate the best with them as well. Most notably, his teams possessed great offenses. Bill James noted that McCarthy managed nine of the fourteen highest scoring teams of the twentieth century. Admittedly six were Yankees squads, but McCarthy also managed three of the five highest scoring non-Yankee teams. Neat trick.
Joe McCarthy won seven pennants in eight years, and never had a losing season in a quarter-century on the job. McCarthy’s success allowed him to publish his Ten Commandments for Baseball:
1. Nobody ever became a ballplayer by walking after a ball.
2. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
3. An outfielder who throws in back of the runner is locking the barn after the horse is stolen.
4. Keep your head up and you may not have to keep it down.
5. When you start to slide, SLIDE. He who changes his mind may have to change a good leg for a bad one.
6. Do not alibi on bad hops. Anyone can field the good ones.
7. Always run them out. You can never tell.
8. Do not quit.
9. Try not to find too much fault with the umpire. You cannot expect everyone to be as perfect as you are.
10. A pitcher who hasn’t control hasn’t anything.
Notably, only the tenth item dealt with pitchers. Several items are common sense bits that apply to all players, but this list primarily focuses on position players. That was appropriate because everyday players made McCarthy’s teams peerless.
Despite his fantastic career record, he managed virtually no great pitchers. When McCarthy arrived in Chicago, the Cubs had Pete Alexander, but McCarthy had him traded away after seven starts. McCarthy also had Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing with the Yankees, but both have their critics who think neither belongs in Cooperstown. Aside from that, McCarthy’s only immortal hurlers were Burleigh Grimes and Herb Pennock. Not only were both questionable Hall of Fame selections, but each was on the cusp of retirement when playing for McCarthy. He achieved a .615 winning percentage without top tier pitching.
Conversely, one can fill out a lineup of nothing but Hall of Famers from his position players and have enough leftovers for an extra team or two:
Joe McCarthy’s First Team
C Gabby Hartnett
1B Lou Gehrig
2B Rogers Hornsby
SS Phil Rizzuto
3B Joe Sewell
RF Babe Ruth
CF Joe DiMaggio
LF Ted Williams
McCarthy’s best pitchers—Gomez, Ruffing, Charlie Root, Mel Parnell, and Johnny Allen—would make an excellent staff, but are clearly outclassed by the above position players. In fact, they are nowhere near as good as the offensive B-team:
Joe McCarthy’s Second Team
C Bill Dickey
1B Charlie Grimm
2B Joe Gordon
SS Frankie Crosetti
3B Red Rolfe
RF Kiki Cuyler
CF Hack Wilson
LF Charlie Keller
That still does not exhaust the offensive stars who batted for McCarthy. Beyond them are Tony Lazzeri, Bobby Doerr, Woody English, Vern Stephens, Johnny Pesky, Earle Combs, Tommy Heinrich, Ben Chapman, and Riggs Stephenson. Not surprisingly, the Tendencies Database believes McCarthy had tremendous offenses. Here are its results for park-adjusted runs per game:
Most Runs, Park-Adjusted
Joe McCarthy 0.404
Hughie Jennings 0.429
Davey Johnson 0.460
John McGraw 0.478
Sparky Anderson 0.591
McCarthy’s squads almost always finished first or second in the league in scoring.
While McCarthy possessed great offenses, his squads excelled in some areas more than others. They bunted and stole infrequently. Also, despite his bevy of Hall of Famers, the Tendencies Database ranks McCarthy “only” twelfth at batting average. Instead, McCarthy focused on the “take’n'rake” approach in which his hitters practiced plate discipline while looking for a pitch to drill. Thus despite his lackluster (by his standards) performance in batting average, his squads still did a great job getting on base, as the Tendencies Database reveals:
Joe McCarthy 0.414
Hughie Jennings 0.476
John McGraw 0.526
Burt Shotton 0.578
Billy Southworth 0.593
His teams came first or second in OBP nearly a dozen and a half times.
With fantastic position players, McCarthy merely needed durable pitchers who would not give the game away. Red Ruffing exemplified a McCarthy pitcher. Ruffing had a career like none other. He initially played for a perennial sad sack Red Sox franchise, yet still lost games at a greater frequency than his teammates. Upon arriving with the continually contending Yankees, he suddenly won at a better clip than the squad. At first glance, it does not make sense. The key to unlocking Ruffing’s secret lies in the only pitching aspect of McCarthy’s Ten Commandments: control. In his Red Sox life, he walked 3.68 batters per nine innings, but as a Yankee he walked only 3.03.
McCarthy did not merely instruct Ruffing and his other pitchers to throw strikes, he made his hurlers more comfortable throwing the ball over the plate by emphasizing defense. Five times his bunch led the league in fielding percentage. From 1934-45, the Yankees finished first the league in Defensive Efficiency Ratio every year except 1940, when they came in second. Six times his squads topped the AL in Fielding Win Shares, and they came in second place a half-dozen more times. McCarthy normally had defense-first players in the middle infield, like Rizzuto and Crosetti. Ruffing trusted the solid gloves behind him, allowing him to attack the batters, and throw balls over the plate. With fewer hits and walks allowed, Ruffing suddenly became a better pitcher. He relied on his supreme attribute—durability. That was all McCarthy needed.
A similar philosophy existed in McCarthy’s approach to hitting and pitching. His hitters prioritized walks and home runs, and relying on fielders meant pitchers had to keep walks and homers in check. McCarthy’s teams clubbed more home runs than they surrendered in each of the 22 seasons he managed. The odds on that happening by random happenstance are one in 4,194,304. His record with walks was nearly as impressive. His squads drew more free passes than they surrendered every year except 1944 (when they allowed only nine more than they earned) and with a few of his Chicago squads. Overall, his squads belted 2,891 long balls while allowing 1,711, a difference of 1,180. As the list below shows, McCarthy gained more benefit from the home run than any other manger:
Best Home Run Differentials
Joe McCarthy +1,180 home runs
Bobby Cox +828 home runs
Miller Huggins +533 home runs
Tommy Lasorda +506 home runs
Earl Weaver +465 home runs
This includes only years in the Tendencies Database, so partial seasons make the results slightly inaccurate, but McCarthy’s dominance is overwhelming. When he retired, only Huggins and John McGraw (+232) exceeded the 200 mark. McCarthy also possessed the second best walk differential of all-time.
Years ago, ESPN writer Rob Neyer invented a stat called the “Beane Count” to look at how teams performed with walks and homers at both ends of the game. (Neyer named it after Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane, whose teams excelled at all these aspects in the early 21st century). It is a simple stat—take how teams rank in home runs and walks received and given, and find the sum of how they rank in these categories, (which the Tendencies Database examines on a per inning and plate appearance basis). Here are baseball’s most Beane Count-friendly managers:
Best at Beane Count
Joe McCarthy 2.505
Earl Weaver 2.641
Al Lopez 2.937
Jimy Williams 3.004
Tommy Lasorda 3.021
Only one manager is close to McCarthy.
A sound baseball philosophy was not enough to explain McCarthy’s exceptional record; he was also exemplary at implementing his notions. McCarthy had a reputation as someone who could see problems coming two years in advance and adjust accordingly. There were some occasions he did not read the tea leaves properly—most notably his decision to stick with aging shortstop Frankie Crosetti in 1940, a move that likely cost New York the pennant, but that was the exception, not the rule.
McCarthy not only knew when to break in kids, but also how to do it. When Phil Rizzuto first came up, McCarthy sat him on the bench next to him for several weeks early in the season. McCarthy quizzed the kid, making sure Rizzuto stayed alert toes at all times. He pointed out various intricacies to the young shortstop, making sure Rizzuto absorbed as much knowledge as possible. When McCarthy put him in the lineup to stay, Rizzuto was considerably surer of himself than he otherwise would have been. Rizzuto later concluded that this was McCarthy’s standard practice for breaking in young players. Rob Neyer investigated Rizzuto’s claims in his book Baseball Legends, and determined that although several other rookies (Crosetti, Joe Gordon, and Dixie Walker) had prolonged gaps as starters early in their rookie season, it did not happen often enough to qualify as McCarthy’s modus operandi.
The question arises, if McCarthy used this system repeatedly (as he apparently did), why would not he do it more often? Think it through: to have a player sit next to McCarthy on the bench for that much time entailed a considerable investment in the prospect. McCarthy would not spend that much time with a player unless he expected the foundling to spend many years in the starting lineup. Those players do not come along every year. Also, while the kid has to have enough potential to be a fixture, the prospect cannot be so exceptionally talented that he has to be played right away. McCarthy would not keep Joe DiMaggio on the bench. Furthermore, as Yankee manager, McCarthy possessed one of the most solid lineups in baseball, and thus fewer openings than others. Finally, it is worth noting most of the guys McCarthy established in this manner were infielders. By virtue of the geography of the baseball diamond, such players have to be a bit more aware of the game’s finer points. When McCarthy had the chance to break kids in by this method, he did so.
McCarthy’s method of handling rookies indicates an overriding attitude he prioritized—professionalism. He preferred, though not necessarily demanded, a level of proper conduct among his players. Early in his tenure with the Yankees he destroyed a clubhouse card table to make his point on how they should act. He also instituted a dress code and ordered his men to be clean-shaven. When a player misbehaved in New York, McCarthy told him to act like a Yankee. He did not just set down rules, but also enforced them. That was why shortly after becoming the Cubs’ manager McCarthy immediately got rid of Pete Alexander, a hard drinker who followed the beat of his own drummer.
That being said, McCarthy was not inflexible. His Chicago center fielder, Hack Wilson, was possibly an even bigger drinker than Alexander. However, McCarthy established a prodigal son relationship with Wilson. Rather than destabilize the team, Wilson’s problems strangely fit into the system as he always accepted McCarthy’s authority. After all, McCarthy gave him a starting job in center field after John McGraw banished him to the American Association. With the Cubs, Wilson became the exception that made the rule. Similarly, when he came to the Yankees, McCarthy also accepted Ruth’s bravado. After all, there was only one Ruth.
Still, it is telling that McCarthy’s career really took off once his squad had been cleared of any Wilsons or Ruths. Before 1936, he finished in second five times in previous six seasons. Then, with a lineup full of business-like professionals such as DiMaggio, Crosetti, Bill Dickey, and Tommy Heinrich, McCarthy won six championships and seven pennants in eight years. Their average margin of victory in those pennant-wining seasons was fourteen games. Their closest scare was 1942, when they won by nine games.
McCarthy’s emphasis on professionalism paid dividends. By stressing proper conduct, and gathering a core of players who embodied the character traits he extolled, he created an espirit de corps. Players came to live up to McCarthy’s Ten Commandments not because their manager told them to, but because they wanted to, and they saw those around them doing so. Yogi Berra once reminisced that when he first joined the Yankees, he failed to run out a routine grounder because he knew the throw would beat him. Upon returning to the dugout, the great DiMaggio came up to him, and asked the rookie if something was wrong with his legs. Another vet chided him for not running it out. Berra was a scared kid to whom the star center fielder had barely spoken. Berra finally had the attention of the Yankee Clipper, only to be upbraided. More importantly, Berra knew DiMaggio was right. He violated McCarthy’s Seventh Commandment: always run them out. The story happened after McCarthy had left the franchise, but it showed the mindset he instilled.
That professional demeanor helped McCarthy’s Yankee squads greatly in the postseason. In his seven world titles, New York went 28-5 in the Fall Classic. Even including the 1942 contest against the Cards—the only time his Yankees lost to the NL—they still went 29-9. While this would be an incredible achievement under normal circumstances, against the best clubs in baseball it was almost impossibly good.
Stonewall Jackson once remarked that an army conditioned to victory will become invincible. They will endure greater burdens while maintaining faith and order under the direst conditions. They can fight more resiliently than their opponent because they believe their sacrifices will not be in vain. That was the case for McCarthy’s Bronx Bombers. Their ultimate postseason moment came in Game 4 of the 1941 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Yankees, who led the series two games to one, trailed 4-3 in the top of the ninth in this contest. With two outs, two strikes, and no one on base, batter Tommy Heinrich swung and missed for an apparent game ending strikeout, but the ball squirted away from catcher Mickey Owen. Heinrich made it to first on a wild pitch. Given an inch, the Yankees took a mile. They ripped off a furious rally and won, cutting the hearts out of Brooklyn. They had followed with McCarthy’s Fourth Commandment—play with your head up. When the right players with the right attitude are under the right manager, the results can be miraculous.
I haven’t looked at him, but  disagrees.
He had a 113 ERA+ last season; his career ERA+ is 99.
I don’t want him. I doubt Cash wants him, but kicking the tires on a league average pitcher as a favor to an agent is not crazy.
He’s still trying to get “Worm-Killer” to stick, eh?
“He had a 113 ERA+ last season; his career ERA+ is 99.”
Ok, I’m wrong, never mind, that makes it a perfectly supportable conversation.
Though having looked at fangraphs his peripherals (sub-1.5 K/BB, FIPs towards 5) are much worse (some even last season) than what I’d expect for a league-average pitcher, and then there’s the NL adjustment.
But Marquis’ teams always make the playoffs! He’s a winner!
 I remember the A-rod to boston trade was vetoed. There’s probably more recent ones though.
 That was vetoed by the MLBPA not Selig.
A-Rod to Boston was negged by the Players Association because something in the way A-Rod’s deal was structured was construed to be a salary reduction.
MLB WANTED the trade to happen, as you can see in the article.
something in the way A-Rod’s deal was structured was construed to be a salary reduction
Yes. The massive reduction in his salary was construed as a salary reduction. Imagine that!
Somehow I keep missing references to his willingness to accept a massive reduction in his salary in media discussions of his salary.
He was offered “marketing and logo rights,” whatever that means. I assume those must have been worth a ton, as his agent is a savvy fellow named Scott Boras. But I understand why the PA said no.
someone will give Marquis a 2 year, 8 figure contract. that team will play in the National League.
agree with Rich, that it’s fine to take the meeting, but there is no chance he ends up in the Bronx.
Marquis will end up in New York, the swampy section.
The D’Backs pushed for a blockbuster three-way deal with the Yankees and Tigers today, only to see one of those two teams veto it, according to Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The deal would have sent Curtis Granderson to the Yanks and Edwin Jackson to the D’Backs.
Talks are apparently at an “impasse” now, though the D’Backs continue to push for a trade.
While trade talks are fluid and the names involved could change, sources say the following scenario is under discussion:
• The Yankees would receive Granderson from the Tigers and one or two prospects from the Diamondbacks.
• The Diamondbacks would get Jackson from the Tigers and right-hander Ian Kennedy from the Yankees.
• The Tigers would get right-hander Max Scherzer from the Diamondbacks, and center fielder Austin Jackson and left-handed relievers Phil Coke and Michael Dunn from the Yankees.—Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi
I don’t see anything in the excerpt about McCarthy’s philosophy around the use of the bunt.
10:31pm: Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the Yankees spent “much of the day” trying to acquire Granderson. They still haven’t offered Johnny Damon a contract.
Granderson plus 1/2 prospects for IPK, AJax, Coke, and Dunn. Sounds like a bit much, maybe depending on the prospects, no?
I admit I have an irrational appreciation for Granderson - perhaps it’s his .962 career OPS against the Yanks, his hustle, his obvious love of the game, or his teammates’ insistence that he’s a chemistry kind of guy. He’s likable, and he’s pretty good. But Rilke’s right…unless at least one of those prospects has some significant upside, that’s just too much for the Yanks to give up.
nyp_joelsherman #Yanks left Az/Det talks feeling dead (asking too high prospect cost) and unsure if revisited but clearly want granderson so stay tuned
Melky last year: .336/.416
Melky is four years younger and not yet at his peak, and there’s probably not much difference in defense. And Melky won’t look like a weak-hitting pitcher against a LOOGY (Granderson: .614 career OPS vs. lefties, .484 (!) last year). Yes that was probably a down year for CG and he will definitely provide more pop, but is the difference between him and Melky- who I am no big fan of- worth the money and prospects?
Granderson plus 1/2 prospects for IPK, AJax, Coke, and Dunn. Sounds like a bit much, maybe depending on the prospects, no?
Agreed. Giving up your #6 starter, 2nd best positional prospect, and 2nd & 3rd best LH relievers (which is a total of 22 years of service time with 10 of those being “free” seasons) is a bit much for Granderson and any prospect(s) without significant upside.
Hmm, wOBAs last year:
The fangraph predictions (which are really bizarre choices) think that next year those will be something like 0.36, 0.34, 0.325.
I very much enjoyed reading the “Evaluating Baseball Managers” excerpt on McCarthy. Very nice mixture of stats, history, and the human element.
What I find interesting is that despite his relative lack of great pitchers, when McCarthy won w/the Yankees, the pitching was excellent. I just scanned baseball reference for 1932, 1936-9 & 1941-3. Judging from ERA+, ERA, & runs allowed, the Yanks were either the best or near the best for the AL.
Granderson’s trendlines concern me:
2007: 135, 12.9
2008: 123, -9.4
2009: 100, 1.6
As do his disparate splits:
v. L: .202/.261/.309/.570
v. R: .301/.378/.562/.940
 Melky was (according to fangraphs) a 1.6 WAR player last year, for a value of $7.2M. He made $1.65M. So, he was a positive $5.55M.
Next season he project at 1.5 WAR for $6.8M in value. He will make let’s say $3M next season, so still a positive value of $3.8M.
Granderson was a 3.4 WAR for a value of $15.2M. He made $3.5M. So, he was a positive value of $11.7M.
Next season he projects at 4.8 WAR for a value of $21.8M. He makes $5.5M. So, he would be a positive value of $15.3M.
Granderson appears to have been twice the player Melky was last season, and fangraphs thinks he will be three times the player Melky will be next season.
 I assume those are Granderson UZR in CF #, wouldn’t he be in LF for the Yankees? Although that line against LHP is scary bad.
Looks like Granderson is getting $25 for 3 years. That’s paying for 2 WAR/year. Say he’s worth 4 WAR/year - that’s another 2 WAR/year free. I guess I think IPK may well be league average, so if Coke is worth 1 WAR that’s already too much. Maybe IPK never gets to start 10 games/year for NY and is worth a lot less?
But then of course I think TSBG would put up 2.5 or 3 WAR easily, and if AJax might as well then that 4 WAR is even more costly.
Why are they projecting Melky to decline entering his age 25 season? Why is Granderson supposed to improve 40%+ going into his age 29 season?
Moreover, we know Granderson will be better. The question was, better enough to justify trading IPK or Ajax or Dunn or whoever as well as taking on his contract?
“Why is Granderson supposed to improve 40%+ going into his age 29 season?”
7.4 WAR in 2007. Crappy BABIP in 2009.
Hmm, maybe. But it could just be a peak season, especially considering the trends (offense and defense) posted in 124. And 2007 BABIP = .360, career = .316.
Why are they projecting Melky to decline entering his age 25 season?
I think his significant declines in 2007 and 2008, at ages when he SHOULD have been improving, are factoring in there. I am bearish on Melky because of those declines.
I guess the case can be made that Melky might suddenly starting progressing. Bernie had a decline between his age 23 and 24 seasons, then bounced back at age 25, then took off. He didn’t go over 20 HR until his age 27 season. Melky is one year ahead of Bernie on that decline then bounce back schedule (Melky declined at ages 22/23 then bounced back at age 24). Melky will likely never touch Bernie’s peak (offensively or defensively) but if he can offensively give you 65 % to 75 % of Bernie’s offense and slightly above average defense with the arm he has, there is your long-term solution in LF.
Sounds like the Tigers are going to kill any chance of Granderson in pinstripes by continuing to request more than the Yankees want to pay. The Yankees won’t consider over-paying in a trade until Cameron and Damon are both off the market.
How much was Bruney getting paid or was schedule to get paid?
Seems like the move gives some flexibility.
When the Granderson rumors first appeared a month ago I was all for grabbing him. I still think he’d be a good pick up, but I certainly wouldn’t move any of the MLB ready starters for him. Maybe McAllister, I could see an argument for AJax, but considering his age I think it is probably best to wait another year or two even before the Yankees ship him off for player like Granderson.
I have a good feeling about Melky in 2010. He really never looked overmatched this year. He’s also been around for so long its hard to think of him as young. I’m not saying that Melky is going to reel off a 4+ WAR season, but I think he tops 2.
Watching Howard flail against lefties in the WS has me irrationally afraid of the Yankees acquiring Granderson. That and - as others have said itt - the fact that the D’backs/Tigers current asking price seems exorbitant.
But really, the thing that worries me most about the Granderson talks is that the Yankees already have 2-3 passable CF’ers. Overpaying (or paying even market value) for the upgrade in CF doesn’t make too much sense when you have that much CF depth and LF would still be a long term issue. And if you’re trading for Granderson to play him in LF, then that mitigates his value a good bit and doesn’t really solve their OF problem.
 Getting Granderson may move Melky to LF. His defense plays better there I think, and his bat may be enough to make him around league-average (offense+defense) if he gets 550PA. That is clearly an upgrade, w/ Gardner filling the 4th OF spot, and contrary to popular opinion, Gardner can hit lefties OK.
However, unless the prospect(s) the Yankees are getting back from Arizona (if any) are top-50 type players, the cost is WAY too much. And I’m thinking either a guy ranking around #50 and a top-10, or two guys in the 20’s. Dunn or Coke by themselves isn’t much. Both together leaves the Yankees w/ only one major-league ready lefty reliever in the minors (Kroenke), though I think he’s been exposed to the rule V (of course they’re freeing up enough spots to add him back). Just including those two themselves isn’t a problem. But Jackson AND Kennedy on top of that?
Honestly, if they offered that package to Toronto, while I don’t think it would get Halladay it would keep their GM on the phone. I like Granderson, but not that much. Now, if the Indians would shop Sizemore for that package…
He was offered “marketing and logo rights,” whatever that means. I assume those must have been worth a ton
That was the problem. A-Rod would have deferred a ton of salary, which substantially reduced the NPV of the contract (to about what the Red Sox were paying Manny; IOW, $5M/year). In return, the Red Sox were going to let A-Rod have a link to his web site on the team’s site. The MLBPA decided that wasn’t worth $5M/year.
Doesn’t the MLBPA know that the Red Sox normally charge $7m/year to put an ad on their website??
I don’t have a problem with letting go of the players mentioned (Jackson, IPK, Coke, Dunn), but it all depends on the prospects from AZ. Granderson, warts and all, is an upgrade for the OF. But with both AJax & IPK in the package, I want more back, which means the prospects have to be good. I imagine that’s the problem…
 Right. I guess just for Granderson, IPK+Jackson seems a little high. So you’d need a propsect back just on that. Add in Coke+Dunn and I think it would need to be a pretty good prospect, or a pair of decent prospects.
Looking at the 2009 BB America list of 100 top prospects (anyone have more recent for DBacks?), they only have two players on that list. #88 is 22 year old OF Gerardo Parra - BBRef had him w/ a .960 OPS in AA before being called up in May and putting up an OPS+ of 85 in the bigs - and #29 who is 20 year old P Jarrod Parker who threw less than 100 innings (starter) in A+/AA with pretty good K/BB rates. Assuming the DBacks want to keep Parra, they may only have one decent prospect…
If 2 teams in a proposed 3 team trade say no, is that really vetoing?
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