Postseason awards are more narrative-driven than stats-driven. This is not news. With the voting pool still dominated by print journalists, the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, and Manager of the Year votes are tallied up backed by traditional statistics that are not context dependent.
Manager of the Year may be the most amorphous among the awards. While it's generally easy to ascertain how a player impacted his team between the lines, it is far more difficult to discern which skipper impacted his team the most.
There are several factors to consider when analyzing managerial prowess; some are numerical and some are the softer skills --- the ‘leader of men' narratives ---- that we so often hear about certain guys. What I attempt to do here is take a look at teams outperforming their expectations and try to ascertain how much of that we can attribute to MLB Manager of the Year candidates. It may not necessarily be the managers one would expect.
Using Baseball Prospectus' adjusted standings, we can pretty easily see which teams have outperformed their ordered winning percentages and which have taken a step back from their expected win total. As a reminder, first order wins are based on Pythagorean Record, which is derived by run differential (runs scored against runs given up). Second order wins are similar to first order but are based on projected runs scored. Primarily, second order wins are derived by taking out the clustered luck surrounding base hits and figuring out how many runs a team ought to have scored. Third order wins are the same as second order with the additional caveat accounting for quality of opponents.
A couple of easily digested notes from the BP table. It looks to have been a rough year in the American League East. Four of the five teams are underperforming all three of their ordered wins, with the Blue Jays doing the worst. Few analysts would cite John Gibbons as one of the worst managers in the league, but the Jays seem to have somehow lost between six and ten more games one would expect the team to win based on underlying numbers.
Robin Ventura gets a bad rap in the Central, but using ordered wins has actually gotten the White Sox to stretch themselves for a few extra wins. The clear improvements in the Cental however are unsurprisingly the Twins and Royals.
The Royals have a good team - they did win the AL pennant last year after all. Ned Yost continues to shift the narrative that he isn't just an old school, bunt happy, anti-numbers skipper. The team has already achieved 80 wins, nearly ten wins higher than would be expected. It's further statistical evidence the players play hard for Yost and can overachieve.
Likewise, Paul Molitor has done exceptionally well for the Twins. We knew this already because most people thought they would be celler-dweller irrelevants the majority of the season. The Twins remain in the thick of the wildcard race, having performed exceptionally well above their talent and expected win total. By second and third ordered wins, one could expect the Twins to be under .500, yet here we are in early September with the Twins still competing for a playoff spot.
The AL West is a bit of a mixed bag. The Athletics continue to underperform their underlying numbers and for the second year in a row look like the biggest underachievers in the baseball. Their win-loss record belies the talent assembled, but at the end of the season, they'll be hitting the golf course early. Is this a judgement on Bob Melvin? Billy Beane? Either way, it's another disappointing season for a team who not too long ago was one of the crown jewels of low-payroll success.
Likewise, despite their success, the Astros ordered wins are more aligned with Oakland than with Texas or Los Angeles. Mike Scioscia won the power struggle between him and Jerry DiPoto, and it can be argued that he's done well for the team despite their falling out of the wildcard spot. With Trout's probably nagging wrist injury and an underwhelming pitching staff, the Angels are a few games closer to the divisional lead than they probably should be at the moment. The Rangers have had the most unexpected success in 2015. Jeff Banister has Texas in the thick of the Wild Card race, a spot few people projected for the team.
The narrative right now considers Paul Molitor, A.J. Hinch, Jeff Banister, Ned Yost (yeah, still getting used to this), and perhaps Joe Girardi or Mike Scioscia as the top candidates for American League Manager of the Year.
Paul Molitor has gotten the most out of his team, and it seems the Twins are still flying under the radar. Writers and experts have been expecting them to fall back to their under .500 ways for the better part of four months. If they stay in the race, and especially if they end up in the wild card game, Paul Molitor should win the American League Manager of the Year award.