By In Baseball

Manager of the Year

NBC SportsWorld

Few have written more “Ned Yost baffles me” columns than I have. Still, I have to admit that when I look at the voting for Manager of the Year this year, I’m every bit as baffled as I am by any Yost decision. The first-place votes went to:

Jeff Banister: 17
A.J. Hinch: 8
Paul Molitor: 2
Joe Girardi: 2
John Gibbons: 1

All of these managers had teams with worse records than Yost’s Kansas City Royals. Paul Molitor’s Twins, in particular, finished 12 games behind the Royals and never once threatened in the division. Did these guys really do a better managing job than Yost? If positions were swapped, would all of these managers have led the Royals to the American League’s best record and a World Series championship?

Fixing the vote

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27 Responses to Manager of the Year

  1. Dave says:

    My only complaint is about every two years. Even years? Or odd Years? It just ends up the same as now.

    ( I do like the idea though – can it somehow be a “rolling” things? Who is MOY over the “last two” years?

  2. Jason Colby says:

    Maybe there shouldn’t be a manager of the year award at all, or at least not one voted on by writers. Personally (and I’m not a writer, so maybe you ink – stained wretches know better) I have close to zero idea how good a manager the guy running my favorite team is. He seems like a decent, respected fellow, and some of his on the field moves seem odd, but I know maybe 10% of what I’d need to know to have an opinion I’d feel confident about. And that’s the one guy I know best.

    As noted sabermetrician Ludwig Wittgenstein once wrote, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”.

  3. Charlie Etmekjian says:

    Joe, you are a big part of the reason Ned Yost is held in low regard. A year ago, you hammered him mercilessly.

  4. Dennis says:

    Joe, I agree with your premise. It’s hard to figure how a guy who managed two pennant winners and a World Series winner didn’t get a single vote for manager of the year. But Bill James, as usual, offers something fun to consider.

    I just read James’ book on managers, and in reading your article was reminded he created a formula for the win expectancy of teams based on their past three seasons as a way of helping measure manager performance. In effect, he suggested multiplying the wins and losses of the most recent year by four, adding a .500 season multiplied by 2 (teams have a tendency to move toward .500), then adding the second most recent year wins and losses, and the third most recent year as well. The overall winning percentage of those four inputs gives an expected winning percentage for the current year. In the book, James admits it is not perfect, but apparently teams have performed pretty close to this formula as a group over many decades.

    Using this formula, KC won 10 more than its expected 85 wins, Texas and Minnesota were 11 games better than expected, and Houston was 18 games better. By this formula, Yost wasn’t remarkable, and A.J. Hinch definitely should have gotten more consideration than Bannister at least.

  5. jpg says:

    Come on Joe, it’s a little disingenuous to say that the Royals and Twins had similar preseason expectations using one projection system as the basis. It’s especially so when the one projection system you used, PECOTA, is universally derided as poor and antiquated. All of the other more prominent systems pegged the Royals as being a .500-ish team that would likely finish 7 – 10 games ahead of what was expected to be an utterly hapless Twins team. And that’s just on the sabr side. There were a lot of mainstream writers that thought the Royals could at least be competitive even if they mostly agreed that they’d take a step back. Those same mainstream people however, universally forecasted that the Twins would be a dumpster fire.

    You are trying too hard to make a point you know isn’t true.

  6. AaronB says:

    I agree, it needs fixing. Since I’m a NL guy, I’ll touch on that side of the argument. Madden was the media darling who took the Cubbies into the post season and seemingly has them ready to challenge for the whole thing next season, so he naturally won the award.

    Mike Matheny, a distant 2cd. Matheny’s been on the job for four years. I believe he is the first manager in ML history to guide his team into the playoffs each of the first four seasons. Since he’s with the Cards, he doesn’t get the credit because they’re supposed to win. Just like Joe Torre with the Yanks, or Bobby Cox with the Braves. They’re supposed to win, so they’re just doing their jobs.

    Never mind the fact that the Cards had a team riddled with injuries this season, and that they became the 1st team since the ’11 Phillies to win 100.

  7. I’m reminded of the line about Gene Mauch, that he could take a 5th place team to 2nd and a 1st place team to 4th faster than any other manager in baseball. Does that mean he was a good manager or a bad manager? I would say it depended on the players he had. Consider Leo Durocher: Roger Kahn referred to him as a great manager for having won three pennants and a World Series in about 15 years, while William Barry Furlong considered him bleah won only one series in 30 years of managing. Which is it? Maybe both.

    Joe mentions Tommy Lasorda. I have no doubt that he was crucial to the Dodgers winning back-to-back pennants in his first two years as manager because he was so different from his predecessor and improved the atmosphere, and got Steve Garvey to try to hit homers–but the Dodgers also got a comeback from Dusty Baker and there were some trades. I’m also equally convinced that compared with Lasorda’s field management, Ned Yost is a strategic genius.

  8. BillP says:

    Never in my life have I read a sportswriter so obsessed with how his peers express their opinions. Every one of these hand-wringing columns about voting boils down to a single point: If you disagree with the Great Posnanski, you’re clearly wrong.
    Joe, do you even understand what a VOTE is? No matter the contest – a Presidential election, a Cy Young award, or which third grader made the best lemonade – a VOTE is a compilation of ballots from constituents, who may choose ANY candidate for ANY reason they see fit. That is what freedom of choice provides us. Given enough voters for a particular contest, sample size and mathematics will generate a just winner. There are supposed to be disagreements, differences of opinion, disparities of individual criteria. The final numbers mete out the victor, and mitigate the individual selection.
    So, Joe, just stop it with all these baseball award columns. This is not Imperial Russia, and you are not the Czar of Baseball. State your opinions for the guy you voted for if you wish, but stop trying to impose your will on others and preach for the adoption of a system in which only one candidate should even be considered.

    • Karyn says:

      Heaven forfend a sports columnist should have, and write about, his opinions on baseball.

    • Ian R. says:

      Oh boy. I don’t even know where to start with this one…

      “a VOTE is a compilation of ballots from constituents, who may choose ANY candidate for ANY reason they see fit.”

      No, it quite clearly is not. A vote is a compilation of ballots from constituents, yes, but any vote – whether it’s a Presidential election or a baseball award – has certain rules and criteria governing those ballots. In the case of the MVP award, for instance, the writers are given specific criteria to choose the most valuable player. Writers who ignore those criteria – for instance, those who absolutely refuse to vote for pitchers or players from non-playoff teams, even though they are directly instructed to consider such players – are rightly called out by writers such as Joe.

      “Given enough voters for a particular contest, sample size and mathematics will generate a just winner.”

      Perhaps that’s the case, but what constitutes “enough” voters? Certainly in the case of baseball awards, there are enough blatantly unjust winners – Rafael Palmeiro’s Gold Glove award in a year when he was a full-time designated hitter comes to mind – to call the voting process into question.

      “stop trying to impose your will on others and preach for the adoption of a system in which only one candidate should even be considered.”

      Did you, uh, actually read the article? Because Joe has three proposed changes to the voting process, none of which involves narrowing the field to one candidate. He suggests increasing the sample size (by voting after the playoffs and/or voting every two years) and looking at a broader picture of each manager’s skill instead of focusing only on in-game strategy. He doesn’t want to take the vote away from the other writers; he wants them to use more information about each candidate in order to make the award more meaningful. Those aren’t the words of someone who misunderstands or rejects the concept of a vote – they’re the words of someone who embraces it.

  9. KHAZAD says:

    I just don’t think anyone really has a good read on what makes a good manager. I always assume it will go to the manager of a team that makes the playoffs that did not make it the previous year. (Yost finished third and got more votes last year than this year – though still none for first place.)

    A quick study of the last three years shows this to hold pretty true. Managers of playoff teams that did not make it the previous year got 86% of first place votes and 74% of votes overall. Managers of repeating playoff teams got 12% of first place votes and 20% of overall votes. Managers of non playoff teams got 2% of first place votes and 6% of overall votes.

    Though I don’t agree with the two year thing, I do think the voting might be different if it were held after the post season. As it stands, there are no managers of the year who managed in the World Series the past three years, and those six managers have combined for only 10% of the first place votes and 15% of the overall votes.

    I guess if they worry about lack of respect from the writers they can just look at their rings.

  10. David says:

    I don’t ever want to see voting for awards done after the playoffs. If that occurs, we know exactly what will happen: The team that won the World Series will win all the major awards the vast majority of the time. The arguments will go like this: “Well, of course Ned Yost was the best manager. He’s the only one that managed a team to a World Series win, wasn’t he? How valuable could Bannister’s managing really have been? If he was the best manager, why didn’t his team win the World Series?”

    That makes it really boring, and more awards would go to people that don’t deserve them. That’s why voting for awards happens before the playoffs start, because sportswriters can’t resist the urge to give all the awards to the team that wins the title. That’s why Finals MVP and World Series MVPs go to the player on the winning team 99% of the time, even though quite often the best player was on the losing team (such as LeBron James in the Finals last year). I don’t want to see that happen with Manager of the Year, League MVP, and the Cy Young awards, too.

  11. Marc Schneider says:

    Braves fans frequently complained about Bobby Cox’s in-game strategy even though other managers considered him a great tactical manager. But the players universally loved playing for him. Of course, it helped that those players included Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux. The problem is that in-game strategy is more than just looking at that game; fans have no way of knowing if a manager does something for a larger purpose. But, more than that, in-game strategy has, I think, a very limited impact on most games. If a manager were to do everything by the sabermetric “book” it would likely still have a very marginal effect on the results of the game. Given the randomness of baseball, it is very possible that the “wrong” move will work and the “right” move will fail in any given situation. So, how much does it matter; maybe tactics matter more in the playoffs where there are fewer games. I assume that Yost does a good job managing the clubhouse and maybe that is the most important thing. I still think having the best players is more important than the manager. At the same time, watching Matt Williams screw up the Nats seems to confirm what Jim Bouton said, that a bad manager will hurt a team more than a good manager will help.

  12. Richard says:

    Well, next spring Ned Yost will be given a World Series ring…. Somehow I think that will satisfy him.

    • stevo66030 says:

      Every time someone from the Royals gets slighted in the post season awards department, someone always says what you just said … and yes, every single one of them would not trade their World Series title for any of the accolades that come after the season. But it’s the height of simplistic thinking to deny them their due (not necessarily winning awards, but at least getting serious consideration) just because they busted their collective tails in winning a championship.

  13. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    I’ll side with those who say that evaluating managers is probably a hopeless task. Basing evaluations on pre-season expectations is far too subjective. Basing them on rings is far too simplistic. Basing them on wins above pythagorean projection ignores the possibility that teams with good managers play up to their capabilities, while teams with bad managers sometimes get lucky.

    Was Sparky a good manager because he won three rings, two more than Earl Weaver, or was he a bad one because he was gifted with one of the four or five greatest teams in MLB history and could only take them all the way twice? Would Weaver have turned the 1970s Reds into the 1950s Yankees? Who knows?

    Good players make good managers. The best managers probably add fewer than five wins a season. The rest is most likely luck.

  14. Noah says:


    I agree with a lot of what you said. But more so than for any other award, I think MotY goes to the “sexy” pick. The Cubs, with all of their history and their influx of young talent, were a very sexy team this year. And when Texas made the deal for Hamels, nobody understood why they made that move; it wasn’t as though they were just one player away. So when Texas made their push they became sexy.

    You know what’s not sexy? Voting for the same guy two years in a row.

    I will now stop saying “sexy.”

  15. Donald A. Coffin says:

    I remember a comment attributed to Casey Stengel…that his job was to keep the 5 guys who hated him away from the 5 guys who were on the fence. Maybe that’s what it takes to be successful.

    A lot of people have looked at managers [including Bill James, who wrote a whole book about the subject; others include Chris Jaffe–I thought his book was interesting; Scott McKinney (; three economists (, George Will…], and I think James actually got it right. Who will be a good manager for a team depends on the situation with that team. Replacing Billy Martin with Bob Lemon–brilliant! (That year.) Maybe Matt Williams was, in fact, what the Nats needed in 2014 (I don’t think so, but…), and not in 2015. (I was going to bring up Billy Martin, but his managerial career was basically over when the MoY award started in 1983.)

  16. stevo66030 says:

    Two things …

    1. Why has the vote gone so many years in favor of a manager who has his team essentially overachieving ? This over achievement is based most years on the preseason expectations of talking heads and other self-appointed baseball experts, who very often get it wrong. It’s a lame factor.

    2. This vote for MOY is subject to the same biases that inflict all baseball writers … the same ones who (over the years) have almost sneeringly denied certain people into the HOF because they weren’t friendly enough to cover when they were playing. Talk about your butt hurt children … they also in some cases have basically said that they didn’t vote for some players in their first year of eligibility because no one should be unanimous.

    “If Babe Ruth only got 95.1 percent in 1936, there’s no way we can allow Willie Mays or Hank Aaron to get a higher percentage.”

    The BBWAA is a bunch of simpering fools who must at some point begin to display adult character traits … should we hold our collective breaths?

    • stevo66030 says:

      Followup note: Some knucklehead gave a 1st place vote for MVP in 1980 to Rick Cerone … the year Brett hit .390. Just one example of hundreds in which sportswriters have shown themselves to be untrustworthy in voting for post season awards.

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