As far as I can tell, there is no statistical way to quantify a manager’s affect on wins and losses. Some say that managers have no bearing, that only performance by the players leads to victories and losses. Others lay of lot of credit to the guy that makes out the lineup card, makes pitching changes and is somewhat responsible for the way the team is run. It seems that most managers that have managed a long time have those value decisions made for them. But what do you go by? Many times, a manager’s overall record over time is considered. But again, a guy could get four jobs managing really bad teams. Does that make him a lousy manager? Joe Girardi has an overall managerial record of .570 and is .591 with the Yankees. That’s impressive. But how much credit can you give him?
I have often wondered if the Pythagorean won-loss record is any indication of a manager’s ability. This measurement looks at a team’s run differential and predicts what the team’s won-loss record should have been with that differential. During the mid-2000’s the Angels consistently outperformed their Pythagorean record. Did that make Mike Scioscia a genius? Is he a dope now that his team is struggling? In 2009, the Yankees beat their Pythagorean win-loss projection by eight wins. But they have been underneath that metric for every other season Girardi has managed the club. He is +2 for his career. Does that mean he managed great in 2009 and not any other season? I don’t think we can make that statement. So that doesn’t really work either.
Therefore, thoughts on the manager become subjective. Does he call a good game? Does he make the correct lineups? Is he less than others from a strategy standpoint? The answers become subjective. Intentionally walking a batter in the first inning flies in the face of statistical logic culled from many months of study. Yet he does that sometimes. Does that make him a stupid manager? Playing Eduardo Nunez in the field leads to defensive problems. Do we fault Girardi? Make no mistake, he gets called out for such things by Yankee fans and writers alike. But again, do such decisions make him a bad manager?
Ron Washington, the manager of the Texas Rangers is wildly criticized for his in-game decisions. The guy has taken his team to the World Series for two straight seasons. Does that make him a dolt that the team wins in spite of or does he get any credit for the team’s results? Make the argument. Show me your facts. Joe Maddon has taken the mantle of genius from Tony La Russa. Some of the things he does fails. Tony La Russa brought the wrong pitcher into a post season game last season. Oops. But his team won it all.
So, without any statistical nuggets to support such theories, any thoughts I have on the guy are subjective. Personally, I like him as the Yankees’ manager. From my subjective thinking, he seems to handle the bullpen extremely efficiently. From my perspective, he really seems to care about his players and is good with communicating with them. There is Mark Teixeira saying he’s never played for a better manager. And Teixeira has played for Bobby Cox and Mike Scioscia. But then again, Teixeira has not performed as well in recent years. So what do you make of all of that?
There hasn’t been a report of a single player angry at Joe Girardi. You cannot even say that of the great (at least to the subjective me) Joe Torre who was criticized by several of his ex-players. His events during Spring Training to build team camaraderie are now legendary. He seems to handle the media calmly and intuitively. He never throws his players under the bus in such events. His body language in the dugout is good. Compare that to Jerry Manuel during his tenure with the Mets when it always appeared that the sky was falling. Does all that make him a good manager? To the subjective me, well, yes. Does he always make the right calls during the game? Well, no.
These thoughts do not appear to be going anywhere. Perhaps, again, that is because there are no empirical ways to judge a manager that are satisfying. I can’t think of another manager out there that I would rather have for the Yankees than Girardi. Does that mean I won’t criticize his moves at times? No. But even those events have to be taken in context whenever possible. We can blame him for putting Raul Ibanez in the outfield, but when your bench is limited and you have two regular outfielders missing, what are you going to do?
The bottom line for me from a totally subjective point of view is positive for Joe Girardi. I like him. I like him a lot. Will he take the team to World Series win Number 28? That will be up to his players and luck in the post season if they get that far.