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For Whom The Bell Tolls? It Tolls For KC—So Far
2005-06-17 21:09
by Mike Carminati

The Royals swept the Dodgers yesterday, running their record under Buddy Bell to 11-4.

They became the fourth team in major-league history to sweep both the Yankees and the Dodgers, both times under Bell. The first to sweep both teams was the 1966 Orioles who took four straight from the Dodgers in World Series. The other two were the 1997 Mariners and the 1998 Angels (by the way, MLB missed the 1966 O's in their analysis).

Of course the Royals are still one of the worst clubs in baseball because of their record before Bell:


They have improved by .473 percentage points under Bell yet far. That made me wonder what was the best improvement under a replacement manager in baseball history. Has any team improved by that much over a full season?

Well, first I limited it to managers who took over a team that was at least ten games into the season. The 1986 Orioles started 0-6 before Cal Ripken Sr. lost his job. Frank Robinson took over and they went 55-100 the rest of the season. That's a .355 improvement, which sounds tremendous but doesn't really capture how the team performed under each manager (which was lousy in both cases). The small sample size obscures that. I also limited the search to managers who had a stint of at least ten games, in order to avoid lucky interim managers.

The results…No one's ever equaled Bell's improvement for a full season. Charlie had the biggest improvement taking the '44 Cubs from a 1-10 record when he started to a 75-79 record at season's end, a 487-point improvement over his predecessors. Here are the best all time:

ManagerYrTeamLgW prevLprevPCT prevGWLPCTDiffTm WTm LTm PCTPos
Charlie Grimm1944Chicago CubsNL110.0911467469.517.4277579.4874
Jimmie Dykes1959Detroit TigersAL215.1181377463.540.4227678.4944
Joe Start1873New York MutualsNA1117.39325187.720.3272924.5474
Joe Birmingham1912Cleveland NapsAL5471.43228217.750.3187578.4905
Bill Watkins1885Detroit WolverinesNL731.184703436.486.3024167.3806
Billy Southworth1940St. Louis CardinalsNL1529.3411116940.633.2928469.5493
Cito Gaston1989Toronto Blue JaysAL1224.3331267749.611.2788973.5491
Ralph Houk1966New York YankeesAL416.2001406673.475.2757089.44010
Tom Brown1897Washington SenatorsNL925.265995246.531.2666171.4626
Bill Joyce1896New York GiantsNL3653.404432814.667.2626467.4897
Gus Schmelz1890Columbus SolonsAA3941.488573813.745.2587955.5902
Billy Martin1985New York YankeesAL610.3751459154.628.2539764.6022
Jack McKeon1988San Diego PadresNL1630.3481156748.583.2358378.5163
Tom York1881Providence GraysNL2427.471342310.697.2264737.5602
Patsy Donovan1899Pittsburgh PiratesNL715.3181316958.543.2257673.5107
Harry Lord1915Buffalo BluesFL1429.3261106049.550.2257478.4876
Joe Maddon1999Anaheim AngelsAL7092.432291910.655.2237092.4324
Patsy Donovan1904Washington SenatorsAL116.0591393797.276.21738113.2528
Bill McGunnigle1896Louisville ColonelsNL217.1051153676.321.2163893.29012
Rogers Hornsby1925St. Louis CardinalsNL1325.3421156451.557.2147776.5034
John Gaffney1886Washington NationalsNL1367.163431525.375.2132892.2338
Johnny Goryl1980Minnesota TwinsAL5471.432362313.639.2077784.4783
Clint Hurdle2002Colorado RockiesNL616.2731406773.479.2067389.4514
Lefty Phillips1969California AngelsAL1128.2821246063.488.2067191.4383
Dick Higham1874New York MutualsNA1312.520402911.725.2054223.6462

Now, the biggest improvement in the expansion era:

ManagerYrTeamLgW prevL prevPCT prevWLPCTDiffTm WTm LTm PCTPos
Cito Gaston1989Toronto Blue JaysAL1224.3337749.611.2788973.5491
Ralph Houk1966New York YankeesAL416.2006673.475.2757089.44010
Billy Martin1985New York YankeesAL610.3759154.628.2539764.6022
Jack McKeon1988San Diego PadresNL1630.3486748.583.2358378.5163
Joe Maddon1999Anaheim AngelsAL7092.4321910.655.2237092.4324
Johnny Goryl1980Minnesota TwinsAL5471.4322313.639.2077784.4783
Clint Hurdle2002Colorado RockiesNL616.2736773.479.2067389.4514
Lefty Phillips1969California AngelsAL1128.2826063.488.2067191.4383
Haywood Sullivan1965Kansas City AthleticsAL521.1925482.397.20559103.36410
Lou Klein1962Chicago CubsNL416.2001218.400.20059103.3649
Rene Lachemann1981Seattle MarinersAL618.2503847.447.1974465.4046
Tony LaRussa1986Oakland AthleticsAL3152.3734534.570.1967686.4694
Jim Fregosi1991Philadelphia PhilliesNL49.3087475.497.1897884.4813
Jack McKeon2003Florida MarlinsNL1622.4217549.605.1849171.5622
Billy Hitchcock1966Atlanta BravesNL5259.4683318.647.1798577.5255
Dick Howser1981Kansas City RoyalsAL3040.4292013.606.1775053.4854
Whitey Herzog1980St. Louis CardinalsNL1834.3463835.521.1747488.4574
Jerry Royster2002Milwaukee BrewersNL312.2005394.361.16156106.3466
Bob Lemon1978New York YankeesAL5243.5474820.706.15910063.6131
Carlos Tosca2002Toronto Blue JaysAL2033.3775851.532.1557884.4813
Norm Sherry1976California AngelsAL3957.4063729.561.1547686.4695
Billy Hunter1977Texas RangersAL3435.4936033.645.1529468.5802
Terry Bevington1995Chicago White SoxAL1120.3555756.504.1506876.4723
Phil Garner2004Houston AstrosNL4444.5004826.649.1499270.5682
Johnny Keane1961St. Louis CardinalsNL3341.4464733.588.1428074.5195
Dallas Green1979Philadelphia PhilliesNL6567.4921911.633.1418478.5194

I had to include Dallas Green and the '79 Phils given that team went on to win the only World Series in franchise history the next year. As for the Royals, let's say that the change of mangers in Kansas City induces a similar improvement to one the Phils witnessed in 1979. That would be a .400 winning percentage under Bell or a 45-67 record. That would give the Royals a 58-104 record overall, still one of the worst teams in the game overall. Oh well.

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