Recently, we looked at how the group of managers with 900 or more wins broke down globally. This piece attempts to ascertain how the attributes of managers with 900 or more wins changed or not over time.
1980s — Average playing career: 11.5 seasons — War: 20
Not surprisingly only two managers with 900 or more wins (Terry Francona and Mike Scioscia) started their playing careers after 1980. Of course, we could probably add Ron Gardenhire, Jim Tracy and Ozzie Guillen (I’ve done so in the chart, but not the averages) to this list as they’ll likely earn the requisite wins to join the club.
Oddly, Francona and Scioscia have the same amount of games managed and, combined, their managerial record is 2095-1793. If you add the three other likely managers, this group has a 4,431-3,947. Pretty impressive. Together they have four World Series titles.
Of course, their playing careers weren’t all that successful. Tracy played just two years and Gardenhire played in just five (although he managed 0.5 WAR). Francona was a pretty poor player for 10 seasons somehow. Scioscia leads the way in WAR (with 23.7), with Guillen coming in second (15.9).
While we don’t have a ton of data, it does appear that there’s no relation whatsoever in recent history between being a great player and becoming a good manager. From the minors, Ryne Sandberg weeps.
1970s — Average playing career: 9.8 seasons — War: 70.4
The players who began their careers in 1970 and became 900+ win managers (combined record of 5,802-5,984) weren’t as successful as the 1980s group. Together the ‘70s PTMs have three World Series, but only one (Mike Hargrove) has a .500+ winning percentage and he sits at .503. That said, the others are reasonably close with Tom Kelly being the furthest away from even at .478. It’s interesting in a clearly-doesn’t-mean-anything-sort-of-way that the highest WAR and best win% match-up and so on. Poor Tom Kelly.
This group fared a bit better when it came to their playing careers, though. Hargrove and Phil Garner put together 25+ WAR careers and played for 12 and 16 years respectively. Art Howe played for 11 years and accumulated 11.9 WAR. While Bochy wasn’t very good (2 WAR), he did play for nine seasons. Tom Kelly is the black sheep of the group, again, playing just one season.
1960s — Average playing career: 11.7 seasons — War: 173.1
A whopping nine players began their careers in 1960 and went on to manage ball clubs to 900+ wins. The group was pretty successful: 15,120-13,331, with 10 World Series (thank you Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa).
This group also brings the first potential Hall of Fame player in Torre and two other well above average players in Jim Fregosi and Dusty Baker. In addition, Davey Johnson had a fine and long career, while Lou Piniella played for 18 seasons. There were some duds as players: LaRussa (-1 WAR), Jimy Williams (-0.1 WAR), Bobby Cox (1 WAR) and Bobby Valentine (0.8 WAR). Still, the group averaged nearly 12 seasons as major leaguers.
1950s — Average playing career: 10.4 seasons — War: 169
The nine players who began their careers in the 1950s won 10 World Series and posted a 12,343-11,361 record. Frank Robinson is really the only poor manager in the group. Chuck Tanner, who also had a sub-.500 winning percentage, at least won a World Series and was just barely under .500 (1,352-1,381).
That said, bringing Frank Robinson into the fold gives us the first no-doubt Hall of Famer who went on to win 900+ games as a manager. However, the rest of the group is pretty inauspicious. Felipe Alou had the second longest career and second most WAR. However, aside from him and potentially Bill Virdon, it’s a pedestrian collection.
1940s — Average playing career: 11.2 seasons — War: 89.7
The six managers who began their careers in the 1940s had winning percentages between .483-.540. Together, they went 7,910-7,748 and won six World Series. Danny Murtaugh seems to have been the most successful (.540 with two World Series) but he had the third shortest tenure and only fourth most wins.
That said, Bill Rigney was clearly the worst, as his average yearly finish was fifth place. Oddly, this group’s average yearly finish was between 3.3 and 5.2, whereas seven of the nine managers from the 1950s group averaged in the 2s.
This is the first set of players who all had at least eight seasons of pro-ball. That said, only Red Schoendienst and Al Dark had careers of any note. Altogether, they averaged nearly 15 WAR, but that is entirely the product of Schoendienst (40.4) and Dark (38.6)
1930s — Average playing career: 8 seasons — War: 56.3
Only Walter Alston, who won four World Series and was nearly 430 games over .500, can be considered a top notch manager. Lou Boudreau had a below .500 record and his team’s average finish was barely higher than fifth place. Paul Richards wasn’t much better than .500, as he was 923-901.
If Alston carried the group managerially, Boudreau carried them in terms of playing careers. Boudreau played for 15 years and accumulated 56 WAR. Combined, Richards and Alston played for nine seasons and accumulated 0.3 WAR.
For all intents and purposes, Richards played from 1932-1935. He came back from 1943-1946 as baseball was devoid of talent due to the War. Oddly, Richards might have been a better player during the second stretch: he hit .231/.313/.310 with 1.2 WAR while during the first part of his career he hit .216/.285/.281 and was a -0.9 WAR player. Richards was a no-hit catcher who could lead a pitching staff. He is credited with turning Dutch Leonard’s career around by suggesting he learn the knuckleball.
Meanwhile, Alston appeared in just one game, got one at bat and struck out on three pitches (reportedly one strike was a long foul ball). He was subbing in for Johnny Mize who was run out of the game. He wasn’t much better with the glove as he made an error in his two fielding chances.
1920s — Average playing career: 16 seasons — War: 88.2
This is an odd bunch. Combined, the four managed teams to a 5,662-4,741 record, yet just one World Series victory. The managerial star of the group, Al Lopez, won five pennants and his team’s average finish was 2.4. Leo Durocher claimed the World Series and won 3,739 games. This is the first group with significant player-managers, as, combined, Durocher and Joe Cronin player-managed for nearly 20 seasons.
While the group averaged 16 seasons in their playing careers, Cronin was the only real successful player. Lopez was a solid catcher who caught the most games in baseball history until Gary Carter broke his record, but was just a 13.5 WAR guy over 19 seasons. Durocher similarly hung around without doing much (3.6 WAR).
1910s — Average playing career: 16.7 seasons — War: 181.6
The older we get, the more player-managers appear: five of the seven managers in this group were player-managers. Together, they won 13 World Series and had a 9,978-9,272, aided mostly by Billy Southworth (1,044-704), Charlie Grimm (1,287-1,067) and Steve O’Neil (1,040-821). While Frankie Frisch and Casey Stengel were fine managers, they didn’t have the year-in, year-out regular season success of the others.
As managers, these guys were tremendous, as players, not so much. While they averaged nearly 17 MLB seasons, Frisch was, really, the only accomplished player. Southworth and Jimmy Dykes were fine regulars but did nothing of incredible note in their careers. If you take Frisch out of the equation, the group played 98 seasons and accumulated 106.8 WAR.
1900s — Average playing career: 12 seasons — War: 38.2
Just two players started their careers in the 1900s and went on to win 900+ games as managers – but boy did they. Combined, Bill McKechnie and Miller Huggins went 3,309-2,857 and won five World Series.
Huggins was, by far, the better player though. Blessed with the knowledge that making an out was a bad thing, Huggins routinely led the league in walks, finishing with a .265/.382/.314 line. Meanwhile McKechnie was good in just two of his 11 seasons. He finished as a .251/.301/.313 hitter. Huggins was also the better manager. His teams finished higher in the standings, had a higher winning percentage and he won more pennants and World Series.
1800s — Average Playing Career: 16.7 seasons — WAR: 399.4
Five managers in this group had winning percentages above .576 – that’s astounding. As a collective, they were 16,949-14,481. While they had solid regular season success, they brought home just 11 World Series. Of course the first Series wasn’t until 1903 and many of these men began their managerial careers significantly before that.
As players, Cap Anson and Fred Clarke led the way, but Clark Griffith, Hughie Jennings, John McGraw and Frank Chance all had considerable MLB careers. In reality, Wilbert Robinson and Ned Hanlon were merely average players for their respective careers and Harry Wright was the only suboptimal player. This group averaged nearly 40 WAR as players.
Surprisingly the 900 wins or more managers don’t skew a ton to baseball’s infancy, but are evenly spread out over the first 70 or so years. However, it seems clear that the better players who became 900 win or more managers started their careers in the early days.
Players who became managers and started their career between 1871 and 1919 accumulated 619.2 WAR. Meanwhile players who began their careers between 1925 and 1947 accumulated 234.2 WAR, players who began their careers between 1950 and 1969 accumulated 342.1 WAR and players who began their careers after 1973 accumulated 90.4 WAR. In total, players who started their careers before 1920 and went on to win 900 games as managers accounted for 619.2 WAR, while the rest accounted for 666.7 WAR.
In addition, 22 of the 57 managers with 900+ wins were player-managers at one point. However, 17 of those 22 began their playing careers before 1920. With players having the chance to play and manage at the same time, it’s apparent that the managers with the most wins in MLB history who were also Hall of Fame type players skewed mightily toward the early parts of baseball history.