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Reds' Incompetence Catches Up With Miley
2005-06-22 12:44
by Mike Carminati

Dave Miley, who I continually have to remind myself is not the same Dave Miley that lived across the street from me when I was a kid, was mercifully fired yesterday by the last-place Reds. There's been widespread speculation that Miley wouldn't survive past the All-Star game given the team's performance (27-43, 18.5 GB).

Judging from Miley's profile photo on, he was getting a bit worn down by the job:

Why Me?

Anyway, Miley was just asking to be fired given that his bench coach, and eventual replacement, was Jerry Narron, a lifetime backup catcher. Everyone knows that today's backup catcher is tomorrow's fast-track managerial candidate. Whether it's Eric Wedge, Ned Yost, Bruce Bochy, Bob Brenly, Buck Martinez, Lloyd McClendon, Mike Scioscia, or Bob Melvin, catchers are hot commodities in the dugout, and they seem to keep their jobs for years no matter how the team performs on the field. It's the Catcher Mystique. Willie Randolph and other minority candidates couldn't get more than a cursory glance for years. If you want to be a major-league manager, put down the Strat-O-Matic and pick up the Tools of Ignorance.

I call it the Tim McCarver Principle. McCarver has tried to sell catchers as astute students of the game for years, and I guess the owners are picking up what he's putting down. As for me, I wouldn't pick it up with a pooper scooper.

Take a look at the percentage of managers who were mainly catchers in their major-league career. Here are the numbers over the last twenty years:


2002 was the year of the catcher-manager, like some Jeffersonian mini-renaissance for the philosopher-king. And that's nothing compared to 1909 when eight out of the eighteen managerial jobs were filled by men who were primarily catchers in their playing days.

That made me wonder what managerial splits based upon player position would look like. I took the primary position that a player occupied during his career. This was based on most career games per position. (If there were two positions that tied for most games for an individual, he was counted under both. There were two such managers. That's why the totals are slightly askew.). Here are the results based on managers per individual position (Moose Stubing is the one without a position). I also looked at the totals for managers who never played in the majors (Note: Through 2004):

Total POS5343223521599081603672623.499

Catchers are second on the list, but when you consider that the outfield category actually consists of three positions, catchers are actually way ahead of the pack.

There's also one other thing you may note. Catchers have by far the worst record of any of the categories with more than a handful of representatives on the list. Non-playing managers also have done better than ones that played in the majors. This intuitive supports the "Ted Williams makes a lousy manager" theory that now seems to hold sway.

Maybe being a catcher had nothing to do with Narron getting the job. Maybe it's his sage advice. Witness:

"We've got to concentrate on little things."

Nuff sed?

2005-06-22 17:19:17
1.   Pinski
Its already not looking good. Dunn is now batting 7th. 7th. There is no excuse for the best power hitter and best guy at getting on base batting with a career .240 hitter and the pitcher behind him. Thats really going to get it dunn.
2005-06-22 17:19:55
2.   Philip Michaels
I dunno -- other than the fact that managers are ultimately judged by their win/loss record, are straight-up winning percentages really the best tool for determining who's a good manager? Or to put it another way, is Joe Torre's horrible record as the Mets manager any better an indicator than his fine record as the Yankees skipper? Did Joe suddenly figure things out after stop-overs in Atlanta and St. Louis? Or is managing a lot easier when you're filling the names "Derek Jeter," "Jorge Posada" and "Bernie Williams" on your lineup card instead of "Frank Taveras," "Alex Trevino" and "Joel Youngblood?"

A more telling aspect might be to see how a manager's Pythagorean W-L record stacks up to their actual winning percentage. While you'd have to make some allowances for luck, you could at least figure out whether a manager's team consistently outperforms (or underperforms) what you'd expect the team to do. That way, the managers who don't necessarily inherit the best talent base in the world aren't immediately handicapped the way they might be if you just look at winning percentage.

Another thought: could the winning percentage of catchers-turned-managers be an example of regression to the mean? In other words, the more catchers have been hired to fill managerial vacancies, the more likely you are to wind up with mediocre candidates. (Or, the more likely you are to have losing records since managerial vacancies pop up with greater frequency among teams that aren't any good to begin with.) I suspect that if we were to see a rash of hires among ex-middle infielders, for example, their overall winning percentage might start sagging accordingly.

Which is not to argue that catchers make the best managers or that any team that hires a catcher has doomed themselves to a lifetime of sub-.500 ball. I don't know what I am arguing, actually -- other than I don't think managers can be accurately evaluated using only winning percentage.

2005-06-22 19:46:55
3.   Mike Carminati

I would agree that W-L doesn't tell the whole story. However, I'm not convinced that Pythagorean W PCT does either. I haven't seen any studies that indicate that from year to year, it accurately measures anything for managers. Not to mention the fact that the runs for and against are not reliably recorded for partial-year managers.

Re. regression to the mean, I would agree if I took the average winning percentage since the average winning percentage for all managers is .447 (given that only the best and most prolific umpires tend to have winning records). So the larger the sample size, the lower the average would (or could) possibly be. However, I am looking at cumulative record per manager position. The more managers per group, the closer the cumulative average should get to .500.

I don't know if it means anything. I just think it's interesting that catchers as a whole have the worst record.

2005-06-23 06:31:20
4.   Murray
How much do Connie Mack and Wilbert Robinson weigh down the catcher totals?
2005-06-23 13:05:57
5.   Mike Carminati
Mack was 3731-3948, Robinson 1399-1398.

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