Friday, November 03, 2006


Bill Haselman will not return as the Red Sox first base coach. Dave Magadan replaces 'Papa Jack' as Red Sox hitting coach. What does it all mean?

I doubt that even the most ardent fan could name five current major league first base coaches. Terrific coaches can help a team in many ways, from scouting, to honing fielding or baserunning skills, and probably some serve as liaisons between players and managers who are not on the same page. But what does that mean in terms of 'Win Shares' as it were?

If given the choice between great talent and great coaching at the major league level, I'd take the talent any day. The Cardinals' win this year rehabilitated Tony LaRussa's image. LaRussa has a career managerial winning percentage of .536. Is this good or bad? If you have the opportunity to manage the Red Sox, Yankees, Cardinals, Dodgers, Braves, and so on, the (financial) royalty of major league baseball, shouldn't you be expected to deliver a high winning percentage? LaRussa has a .549 winning percentage in eleven years with the Cardinals.

Jim Leyland's magic ran out against the Cardinals. Was it LaRussa's genius or simply better pitching and offense at the time?
Even including this year's dismal performance, Terry Francona has a .574 percentage in three seasons at the Sox helm. Is it ever managerial genius that delivers pennants, or more likely the collective 'overperformance' of a roster, the statistical quirks that might even allow a small market team to win again someday?

All of us agree that having a superior manager (define superior) beats having a mindless boor in the dugout. But by how much? I doubt that Tom Tippett at Diamond Mind or the guys at Baseball Prospectus can give us an answer beyond rhetorical. Maybe Bill James has a handle on managerial win shares, but he's not telling. Success in life so often simply means getting the most from what you have.

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