Well, it looks like he isn’t going to; but should he? Are four games in October a fair judge of the job he’s done managing the Yankees this year? How much influence over a team’s won-lost record does a manager even have?
It turns out that nobody really even knows. There’s two ways that you can look at a manager’s contributions: one, the tactical moves that he makes during a game, on the field (whether or not sacrifice a runner over to second, which pitchers to use in which situation, etc.); and two, all the “intangibles,” of managing a major league clubhouse, full to the brim with a heady mix of major league egos, and also ravenous press who are just as bored of reporting the same old Bull Durham clichés as the athletes are of saying them.
The extremely smart folks over at BP took a look at how much managers were able to effect a team’s record with in-game strategies, and they basically concluded that ALL managers actually REDUCED their team’s W-L record by over-managing. Managers like to do stuff like bunt runners over, steal bases, hit-and-run, etc., because it makes them feel MANAGERLY, and basically shouts “Look at me, I’m MANAGING!” The problem is that most of these strategies actually tend to reduce the total number of runs that a team scores, especially in today’s high run-scoring environment, where shortstops routinely hit 20 HR.
By BP’s calculation, the best job a manager has done over the last 34 years, in terms of increasing his team’s wins, was Dick Williams in 1983 with the Padres, who added a whole .63 of a win. Awesome. Worst, by the way, was Roger Craig, who actually took away six wins from the Giants in ’87. Nice work, Rog. Those are the outliers – most managers tend to take away a win or two each year, but they’re pretty much all the same.
The other part of managing is the clubhouse shit: motivating players, dealing with crazed/incompetent owners, keeping the press on your side, and so forth. Tony La Russa talked about it in Buzz Bissinger’s 3 Nights In August, that these days a manager’s job was more about managing personalities off the field, than managing strategy on it. So, how much is that worth, over a season? A couple of wins? Five? Sabermetrics doesn’t have a stat for that, so I can’t really say.
Managers are probably a lot less important than we think – that’s why the 30 ML managing jobs are always taken up the same rotating roster of 45 guys. One’s probably just as good as another. But if a guy can keep the press, the players, and George Steinbrenner happy, for 10 years, he’s probably doesn’t deserve to get canned.
Unless you decide that you want to make a change just for the sake of making a change. Go ahead, what could it hurt?