Eric Wedge's managing ability

Edit: I didn't remember that the place I had originally seen the Beyond the Box Score piece was on this site. Apologies to Jeff Sullivan and his original piece, if it made it look like I was bringing original info to the site. Jeff's piece 3+ weeks ago can be found here: Manager Wins Above Expectancy Released. That said, all my opinion and analysis still stands.

To be honest, I was fairly indifferent towards Wedge last year. The team started out well enough, which was obviously unsustainable, and as their luck changed the results started going the other way. The offense was terrible, but there also weren't really a whole lot of options.

But each year hope springs anew, despite the obvious shortcomings of the team. With limited financial options for player acquisition (don't get me started about the ownership), the question becomes: is Eric Wedge the right manager for the team? Is he a good manager in general? Better than average? Worse?

It's somewhat hard to quantify managing ability, since managers don't produce any outcomes on the field directly. All managers make decisions that fans question, and some of them work out better than others. Managing the bullpen, picking the lineups, and calling plays are the only real ways that they can influence the way a game plays out.

I haven't spent any time in a major league locker room. I have no idea about the leadership of a manager, or getting personalities to work together. What I do know is numbers, and thankfully I didn't even have to do the work on this one. Before the season, there was a piece in Beyond the Box Score that analyzed this question. There are two reasonable ways of figuring out how a manager does, compared to the abilities of his players. The first is by Pythagorean win expectancy, and the other is by player WAR. Both give an expectation; by comparing the expected to the actual, and attributing these surpluses or deficits to the manager of the team, we can get an idea of which teams did better than they were projected to, and which did worse.

Is this fair? I'm not sure. In any sample there are going to be data points on both sides of the mean. Maybe it's by chance, and maybe it isn't. Either way, it comes out like this: based on Pythagorean expectation, Eric Wedge is the 6th worst manager in MLB history. Based on summed player WAR, he's the second worst. That's a pretty powerful statement, and strong agreement between the two methods. That wasn't seen for everyone; there was a lot of agreement in general, but some managers went from the top to the bottom, and vice versa.

Not Eric Wedge. Wedge was bad, and worse.

However you look at it, his teams have underperformed their abilities, by a fair margin. 3.5 or 6.5 wins per season below their abilities, depending on which method you look at. The interesting thing is that this type of analysis doesn't take into account the players that didn't make it into a game. If you're sitting a better player, their influence won't be as great on game outcomes, and their WAR total will be lower. This means that playing the wrong guy actually makes you look better, and not worse. Wedge's insistence on playing oh, say, a guy like Miguel Olivo isn't taken into account.

Tonight, I would have loved to see a lefty come in for the ninth instead of watching Brandon League pitch against a string of lefties, a group of guys who have murdered him in the past. Maybe that was just me. But it's the kind of thing that Eric Wedge wouldn't do, and more's the pity.

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