Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Star treatment

In his new piece at the Hardball Times, inner-circle Hall of Fame blogger Aaron Gleeman takes a mildly probative look at the correlation between playing skill and managing skill---if one exists, of course. Obviously, Frank Robinson is a natural subject of Gleeman's study, as he is the one Hall of Fame player who is currently a big league manager.

Gleeman groups the remaining managers (plus recently-dismissed Cincinnati skipper Dave Miley, at no extra cost!) into several other groups, ranging from All-Stars to Minor Leaguers, with a couple of classifications in between. He also throws in some nifty graphs, courtesy of Studes.

Fast-forwarding to the pay-off, I'll excerpt Gleeman's findings:

Not only is there no real correlation between playing success and managerial success, there might actually be a negative correlation. In other words, a number of the best winning percentages among today's managers belong to guys who didn't do much as players. Gardenhire, Cox, LaRussa, Showalter, McKeon, Jim Tracy and Charlie Manuel are in the top dozen for winning percentage, yet they have a total of 39 Win Shares among them.
Meanwhile, outstanding players like Trammell and Buddy Bell have two of the three worst winning percentages, and even Robinson has won fewer than half of his games as manager.

This paragraph does not exactly shake us on a "Luke, I am your father" level, I know. It's a common opinion that inferior players make better managers. If I had to guess wildly at the reason(s), I'd say:

1. reflective of conventional wisdom, I would surmise "bench players" get to observe the game from the bench, thus learning its ins-and-outs from a different perspective than that of star players, who are on the field most of the time (and this is even more advantageous for back-up catchers, who learn the fundamentals of managing the pitching game, too); and, perhaps even more importantly,

2. obviously, it's a natural consequence of a star player's career that it will stretch well into the player's thirties or even early forties---whereas during this time, a scrub's playing career is over, and he's receiving a managerial apprenticeship in the minor leagues.

Thus, it is possible that a star player (and especially a Hall of Famer) is hurt by being too good as a player and thus learning the managerial role on the fly. This could be one reason (in addition to selection bias, I suppose) why near-Hall of Famer Joe Torre experienced little success early in his managerial career and tremendous success later: he had to learn the ropes of managing.

I haven't thought about the development time angle before. That's an interesting take.

The reason for me has to do with their playing abilities. Reggie Jackson, to throw a random name out there, would probably throw his hands up in frustration wondering why the hell Ryan Church isn't hitting more home runs.

It's gotta be frustrating because the game was so simple for them; they may not be able to relate to the typical player, or explain what it was that made them so freakin' good.

Whereas a scrub player may have had to use more hard work instead of God-given talent to get the most out of his abilities. That might give him an edge in trying to explain HOW to succeed.
To that end, I think it's interesting that Mike Schmidt is (was?) managing A-ball in the Phillies' system.

In general, this relates back to Bill James' belief that all managerial prospects should be required to go through a "test simulator" before getting a big league job---i.e., managing in the minors. If I can be overly broad here, I'd suggest that:

a) the more experience, the better; and,

b) an ex-star is less likely to desire enduring more experience in the minors.
Scmidt walked away from the managing role. I think Chris' Reggie explanation played a large part in it. He didn't know how to translate hid God-given ability into lessons for his players
Based on radio interviews I heard of him, that sounds about right. He seemed somewhat between exasperated and non-commital about the gig.

I too think Chris is on to something here.
It seems to me that great players get angry with others as much as frustrated. I think even though the game was simple for a star, they don't see it that way. They all think that they were great because they worked hard, not because they lucked out on talent. So if a player isn't performing up to his standards, it must be because they aren't trying as hard as they did. Less they "aren't getting it" more they "aren't working hard enough"

I get that feeling playing softball with some less athletically inclined.

"Just hit the ball! Bat on the ball you can do that! Jesus Christ, just try harder!" (this is why I don't coach)
What Rusty Staub said...

That's what I was trying to get at, but couldn't quite say.
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