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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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Tracy No. 1 With a Bullet (Aimed Right at His Detractors' Sanity)
2005-04-27 06:30
by Jon Weisman

Though not definitive, a legitimate analytical attempt to rank major league managers, from by way of The Hardball Times, reveals:

Jim Tracy

  • Actual Wins vs. Expected - No. 2
  • Actual Player Win Shares vs. Expected - No. 5 (tie)
  • Actual One-Run Wins vs. Expected - No. 2
  • Fundamentals (Double Plays vs. Error) - No. 6
  • Fewest Baserunners Squandered - No. 11
    Overall Rank - No. 1

    The timing may be ironic given Dodger events of the past week, though interestingly, Tracy's biggest weakness appears to be his team not converting scoring opportunities, which in part would be a function of in-game management. But overall, here's evidence supporting the belief that many people have that Tracy does plenty right. It's not case closed stuff by any means (okay, yes, I admit it, I'm writing this paragraph with Steve apoplectic in my head), but it's worth paying some attention to, especially during a rough week.

    As they say on "Journey to Ernie", "Don't give up the ship, because here's another clue ..."

  • Comments
    2005-04-27 06:53:26
    1.   Suffering Bruin
    I went to bed at 9pm last night. I had intended to watch the Dodger game (had it TiVo'd) but the wife and kid had gone to sleep on the couch. I was tired so I thought, what the hey, I'll check in tomorrow morning on the Dodgers.

    Well, good morning.

    *The Diamondbacks on a half-game behind us.

    *Shawn Green is apparently only SHAWN GREEN against the team that's paying him ten million dollars

    *Hee-Seop the hero came thisclose to being a superhero last night, calling into more serious question why on earth Tracy pinch hit for him the previous night and...

    *Said Tracy is the number on manager in all of baseball according to people who might be smarter and sure as heck do a lot more research than me.

    This is going to be a weird day.

    2005-04-27 06:54:55
    2.   Suffering Bruin
    A few typos in above post. That's what you get when you rush to be number one!

    Hey, I gotta hang my hat on something...

    2005-04-27 08:45:22
    3.   the OZ
    Although I found his recent bench moves puzzling/infuriating, I'd never argue that ol' JT is a bad manager. However, in the interests of a good-faith discussion about assigning value to managers, I'll chime in on the rankings Jon provided.

    Jim Tracy has always had a solid-to-great bullpen, which I think is responsible for the 'wins above expected' success. Teams with better bullpens tend to be the ones that outperform expectancies (such as Pyth and its derivatives); I think this is largely independent of the manager's actions, although in this case Jim gets credit for generally fine use of his bullpen. However, if the Dodgers had less stellar arms in the pen, we'd see Jim's win expectancy a lot closer to neutral.

    As far as his one-run wins stat: I give all credit to Gagne.

    Here's a question for the board: can you name a big-league manager you'd prefer to Tracy right now? I can't, and for that reason, I'm glad to have him.

    2005-04-27 09:07:22
    4.   GoBears
    Here's a question for the board: can you name a big-league manager you'd prefer to Tracy right now? I can't, and for that reason, I'm glad to have him.

    Without even thinking about it: Bobby Cox. In a heartbeat. Otherwise, however, my preference is for a manager who doesn't intrude much once the game has begun. Managers are like offensive linemen during the game- you only notice them when they screw up. I've long believed that the hardest thing about managing has to do with dealing with personalities and egos between games, and that the in-game stuff just isn't that big a deal - unless you get too clever. And as far as that goes, folks like Scioscia, Torre, and yes, JT, seem to be pretty darn good at managing people. In Torre's case, of course, always having a lousy bench actually makes his job easier. No playing time to spread around.

    2005-04-27 09:19:29
    5.   Aug C
    Add Ken Macha and Terry Francona to the list, because they're on board with management's philosophy. MAYBE Tracy is magic psychologist, and he makes hitters hit better and pitchers pitch better than they would pitch for other managers. If that's true, then he deserves that ranking, but it's probably the case that the bullpen deserves the credit.

    disheartening statistic: 4.88 K/9, last in the majors
    slightly less disheartening statistic: 1.31 K/BB, good for 21st (of 30 MLB teams)

    2005-04-27 09:29:57
    6.   Aug C
    happy statistic: #5 ranking in Baseball Prospectus defensive efficiency
    happier statistic: 13-7 record, which projects to 105 wins

    The terrible K/9 rate is tempered by the possibility that our groundball pitchers induce grounders more easy to field than usual - which artificially enhances the reputation of our defense. With apologies to Voros McCracken, the 2005 Dodgers could provide testament to the argument that not all Balls In Play are creatd equal.

    2005-04-27 10:02:58
    7.   LAT
    I recognize this is speculation, but I wonder how much control Tracy has these days to make his own calls or whether he is managing subject to someone's whims. How does that effect the rankings? We know from $$ball that Beane, not Howe, was making either specific in-game decisions or demanding that Howe follow Beane's philosophy. The way Tracy (and his staff-real Colburn) were treated in the off season suggests to me that management was not that interested in resigning them but had to in light of winning the division and Tracy's over-all record. I have to wonder if during those negotiations it was made clear to Tracy that he has to manange Depo's way.

    At any rate, if Depo is pulling the strings, it seems Tracy's ranking is irrelevant. I suspect we won't know any time soon.

    2005-04-27 10:04:23
    8.   adamclyde
    Jon -

    kudos for working sesame street into a baseball blog. now I'm going to have that song in my head all day...

    2005-04-27 10:06:57
    9.   the OZ
    I think even Voros himself has backed off of that stance; his BABIP theorem has been often rebuffed, and frequently misunderstood. I think the greater lesson to be learned from McCracken is that from game to game and year to year, an individual pitcher's BABIP is not something he can control with great predictability and success.

    BP has done some work this month regarding "types" of pitchers and their BABIP rates (great fastball pitchers, changeups, curves, etc.) and found that pitcher with good changeups tend to have more favorable BABIP than others. There is some self-selection problems with the data since all the pitchers they selected are historically top players, but there is at least some small evidence that pitchers (at least very good ones) are better at getting hitters out on balls in play. The good news with sinkerballers is that even though they may or may not have a BABIP advantage, the hits they allow will tend more to be low-leverage hits (singles up the middle, ground balls with eyes, etc) than HRs or line-drive doubles.

    Our low K/9 rate is probably a function of Erickson - he's got, like, 4 Ks on the season, right? Even Lowe has struck out quite a few so far.

    Also, has Shawn Green homered off of anyone not named "Erickson? yet"

    2005-04-27 10:10:40
    10.   adamclyde
    Re: #7

    I don't know the background details, but it seems to me Tracy has quite a bit of freedom with how he assembles his team on game day, and how he manages during the game. Depo seems to run unilaterally (to borrow a political word) who joins and exits the team, but I think Tracy is given the flexibility to piece them together on game day.

    Not that I have any inside information... that's just my hunch.

    If you think about it, depo and tracy seem to be a pretty good fit. Depo has seemed to be fairly prescient at getting the right people who could deliver in the right situations (finley, kent, etc.). And Tracy does a good job getting good results by mixing and matching in the right way. Seems to work for me, at least.

    2005-04-27 10:22:12
    11.   LAT
    Re: No. 9:

    Yes Green hit one off Wunch on 4/10 at the BOB. I only know this little bit of usless info becasue I was there.

    2005-04-27 10:53:02
    12.   Xeifrank
    Love the "Journey To Ernie" reference. My 10 month old daughter just loves the skit between Ernie and Big Bird.

    We found him, we found Ernie!!!

    The Journey... To Ernie... Is done, la la la la la!



    2005-04-27 10:54:14
    13.   Jim Tracy
    Jim Tracy

    - Pinch hitting situations - No. 46
    - Making wrong decisions about bringing in relievers - No. 77
    - Faking a tantrum when the game is lost so he can watch the game from the clubhouse - No. 1

    Despite only 30 managers in the game, I have decided that Tracy must rank behind some assistant managers and even Vin Scully in some of these categories.

    Seriously, I pay as much attention to this ranking as I do to a stat like run scored. I mean, sure you have to be on base and you should be able to run, but so many things are out of your control and you are only as good as the guy knocking you in to score. I'm not sure anymore if that analogy works.

    I think Tracy is an average manager who is very lucky to have baseball's best bullpen in his 4+ years here. That being said, he has only made the playoffs once. Managers I'd rather have before him.... Scioscia (definitely), Cox (definitely... heck, I'd even take Mazzone over Tracy), Robinson (this guy never gets any credit.. no one mentioned his here), Gardenhire (another underrated guy), Francona (a good manager.. maybe, better than Tracy... definitely). And I won't even go into guys with good track records who I could argue both sides on.. guys like Torre and LaRussa. The only guys that I wouldn't take... Busty and FAlou, but I may be biased there.

    2005-04-27 11:02:33
    14.   Steve
    Mike Scioscia...don't think so.
    2005-04-27 11:12:06
    15.   Dr Love
    Add Ken Macha and Terry Francona to the list

    I don't know enough about Macha, but there is now way that you take Terry Francona over Tracy, or on equal footing. No way. He's a terrible manager, WS ring or not. I suffered through his god-awful managing in Philly, and I've seen enough Red Sox games with him there to see he hasn't changed.

    2005-04-27 11:15:03
    16.   Marty
    I'd pass on Robinson. He admits he manages "by his gut". This can look good when you have a team with no expectations, but I think he would kill a talented team.
    2005-04-27 11:18:45
    17.   Jon Weisman
    Although that Quantrill-Gagne episode from a couple years back is famous, I don't think bullpen management is one of Tracy's flaws. He has some amount of conventionality, but he has also 1) been willing to use Gagne outside the ninth often (in the face of media criticism) and 2) thrust new people into key situations at the earliest sign of talent, be they Sanchez, Brazoban or Schmoll (when others would have insisted they were too green).

    I think the bullpen problems he does have are largely a function of his pinch-hitting decisions.

    2005-04-27 11:21:34
    18.   Steve
    Scott Stewart.
    2005-04-27 11:23:35
    19.   jasonungar05
    I think no matter who the manager is we would complain about him. Thats the beauty of baseball.

    The only manager I would immediatly take over Trace is Cox.

    2005-04-27 12:17:50
    20.   Mark
    Tracy is having a good stretch, but he's no Tony LaRussa.
    2005-04-27 12:28:08
    21.   kegtron
    Check out Dusty's Dugout Dice. I love the disclaimer.

    2005-04-27 12:32:58
    22.   DougS
    I think GoBears makes an excellent point in that you're most likely to notice managers when they make mistakes, not when they get things right. So although I scratched my head, too, over the pinch-hitting for Choi and not pinch-hitting for Perez and Lowe moves, I may place less importance on individual instances like that than others on this board. Watch other managers intensely every game and tally up how many head-scratchers they make, then compare them to Tracy; then you can make a case on whether he's better or worse than most other managers, whether he ought to be fired or retained. I don't watch other managers as closely as I watch Tracy, so I don't know one way or the other.

    To me, the big-picture question is the most important one: Is the manager getting the most out of the talent that he has at his disposal? So far, it seems to me that Tracy has done all right. He did reasonably well with the mess that Malone gave him; Dan Evans never finished rebuilding the team for him; and he won a division title while DePo remodeled the team on the fly. Could the Dodgers find a better manager? Very probably, if they looked hard enough. Could they find someone worse? Most definitely, and more easily than they could find someone better.

    2005-04-27 12:46:41
    23.   mcrawford
    Why do baseball managers wear the team's uniform? In basketball and hockey, the coaches wear suits; in football they wear casual clothes, but not the team's uniform.

    I mean, I know the basic answer is tradition. I just always thought it was a bit silly. The manager is not a player. Any one know who started the tradition (non-player-manager)? Or who was the last one not to weat the uniform?

    2005-04-27 12:53:10
    24.   mcrawford
    #9 - our low strikeout rate is everyone's fault but Lowe's. Weaver and Perez are striking out less than a guy every 2 innings (which I mostly know because Weaver's on my fantasy team). But I know what you mean, Erickson's the worst.

    With Weaver pitching tonight, what's the over-under on how many times Vinny uses the line about "the girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead"? I'll set it at 2.

    2005-04-27 13:10:09
    25.   Im So Blue
    Mark Grudzielanek, now with the Cards, hit for the cycle today. Daryle Ward did it with the Pirates in May 04.

    We all know that Wes Parker was the last Dodger to accomplish that feat way back on May 7, 1970. Jeff Kent did it in May 99 and Jose Valentin in April 2000.

    Only 3 teams have never had a cycle hitter -- the DRays, Marlins and Padres.

    2005-04-27 13:12:17
    26.   LetsGoDodgers

    Regarding your comments in #17:

    ...and 2) thrust new people into key situations at the earliest sign of talent, be they Sanchez, Brazoban or Schmoll (when others would have insisted they were too green).

    If only he felt the same way about Hee Seop.

    2005-04-27 13:32:43
    27.   LetsGoDodgers
    So Jim Tracy (per the official team website) has said Wilson Alvarez is going to the 'pen when he returns and Erickson is keeping the 5th starter position despite the fact that he's wholeheartedly ineffective.

    Which pitcher gets voted off the 25-man island, and is it due to lack of production or because he happens to have a minor league option left? Or, does Tracy do the unthinkable and carry 13 pitchers?

    2005-04-27 13:35:09
    28.   Jon Weisman
    Carlyle, unless Schmoll falls apart, or the Dodgers change their mind and release Erickson. No way they go with 13 pitchers.
    2005-04-27 15:58:23
    29.   Langhorne
    Managers in uniform goes back to the beginning of professional baseball. The manager was a player. He was more of a team captain. They only had 11 or 12 players at most. Pithers played positions when not pitching. Connie Mack was the last manager I know of who didn't wear a uniform. I think that in the spirit of tradition all managers should be forced to dress like Mack. I'd love to see Joe Torre in a straw boater.
    2005-04-27 16:24:31
    30.   Bob Timmermann
    Burt Shotton, who managed the Dodgers from 1947 through 1950 also did not wear a uniform. At least during his Dodger stint. But I think that was because he was in his 60s and felt funny doing so.

    In one of Bill James' book he describes Shotton as a managerial prototype. "The Kindly Old Burt Shotton" type. Or KOBS type manager. Shotton was followed by Charlie Dressen, who was completely different and quite fiery and a bit of an egomaniac.

    Then came Walter Alston, a quiet, but respected company man. Lasorda was a loud company man. Then came Bill Russell, another company man, who wasn't cut out for the job.

    I don't know what you would consider Glenn Hoffman. Then Davey Johnson, who was more like Dressen. And now Tracy, who is sui generis.

    2005-04-27 17:15:51
    31.   Jim Hitchcock
    So what your saying, Bob, is that Tracy defies expectations. Oddly enough, that's one of the reasons Ilike him.

    And the fact that he could pass for Roger the Peanut Man's brother is also a plus, though I'm not sure why.

    2005-04-28 12:04:32
    32.   Bob Timmermann
    I can't find an appropriate archetype for Tracy. Tracy has said his biggest influence was Felipe Alou and he most definitely does not manage like him. He might take his approach to dealing with players from him, but he doesn't seem to use Alou's strategic methods. Such as they are.

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