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Introducing the Traditional Manager Index

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There aren't many stats for measuring managers, aside from raw win-loss totals. This is largely because most of the effects that a manager has are either difficult or outright impossible to quantify.

Well, I don't have a stat to help you assess managers, but I have come up with a junk stat that I think will at least tell us something about managers' personalities. I call it the Traditional Managing Index, or TMI*, and it's very simple. It consists of two statistics that can largely be attributed to managers:

TMI = sac bunts by position players + intentional walks

The higher a manager's TMI, the more "old school" his in-game managing style is. Take a look at the TMI results for 2011 so far:


Click image to enlarge. NL managers in lighter-colored rows.


* Yeah, I know. It's a great acronym. You're welcome.

Here are some observations about the above graph:

  • La Russa at the top and Francona at the bottom should come as no surprise to anyone. These managers' styles are already well-known. Likewise, it's unsurprising to see two Bobby Cox disciples (Ned Yost and Fredi Gonzalez) near the top of the list.
  • Many of the managers' rankings surprised me, however. I thought Dusty Baker, Bruce Bochy, and Ron Gardenhire would rank much higher. I was also surprised to see the managers of two of the most traditionally saber-minded clubs (Joe Maddon and Bob Geren) ranked at just a bit below average. I was expecting them to be at the bottom of the list with Francona.
  • Overall, there was virtually no difference in TMI between the leagues. The NL average TMI is 12.7, and the AL average is 12.2.
  • However, there were some slight distinctions in the individual components. AL managers were more likely to sac bunt (with an average around 12) and less likely to call for intentional walks (with an average of around 10). By contrast, NL managers averaged about 9 sac bunts and about 14 intentional walks.
    UPDATE: As some brilliant commenters pointed out, most of the difference in IBBs can be attributed to NL managers walking the 8th-place hitter to get to the pitcher (or a pinch-hitter). Without the 8th spot, the averages are 10.7 in the NL and 10.1 in the AL.
  • Some managers were clearly "traditional" (like La Russa and Ozzie Guillen), with high scores in both components, and a few were clearly "untraditional" (such as Francona and Kirk Gibson), with low scores in both components. 
  • Others, however, were idiosyncratic. For instance, Ron Washington loves to bunt (15 SH) but hates to walk hitters (6 IBB). Jim Leyland (20 SH, 9 IBB) also seems to favor the bunt. On the opposite extreme, Brad Mills and Bud Black have identical marks of 7 SH and 17 IBB.

All in all, this was an interesting exercise. TMI is not really a useful stat (few of my junk stats are), but it does seem to offer some new information. All of which makes me want to go back to previous seasons and see how consistent managers' numbers are from year-to-year.

One final note about the process: I didn't count any bunts or walks that increased the WPA of the manager's team (with the exception of sac bunts that had a positive WPA because of a fielding error). These positive-WPA plays are obvious decisions that do not tell us much about a manager's personality, because every manager will make the same choice. All told, I eliminated 21 bunts (including 8 squeeze bunts) and 7 intentional walks from the data set. That's out of 332 total bunts and 371 total walks.