In an earlier post I discussed the possibility of managers influencing the calling of balls and strikes by umpires. This was, of course, motivated by Tony LaRussa’s recent comments about Bobby Cox’s excessive complaining to the umpires over the strike zone. Using Questec as a controlled environment, where complaining would be less effective, I looked at how Cox’s and LaRussa’s pitchers performed, in terms of the strikeout-to-walk ratio, in Questec and non-Questec parks. Simple t-tests indicated that while Cox had no influence, LaRussa’s pitchers performed significantly worse in Questec parks, where lobbying the umpire should be less effective. While this test was fun, there could be many outside factors that explain the difference. What about the park, batter quality and pitching quality? These could all contribute to explaining the difference. So, I decided to take it up a notch to control for these factors and examine the lobbying impact of all the managers in the sample.
The data I used is the same as before. I looked at managers in away games (eliminating any impact from home field advantage) in 2002 and 2003. Instead of just concentrating on Cox and LaRussa, I used a sample of all managers who managed at least 60 away games over this time period. I used a multiple regression to estimate the impact of various factors on a visiting team’s strikeout-to-walk ratio in each game. The factors I controlled for were:
- the average K/BB of the pitchers on the visiting team on the road in that year
- the average K/BB of the batters on the home team at home in that year
- the park in which the game was played (using indicator dummy variables)
- the league of the home team (to control for the designated hitter effect)
- the manager of the visiting team (using indicator dummy variables)
- whether or not the game was played in a Questec park
- the manager of the visiting team in Questec parks ( an interaction term to pull out the individual effect of each manager in Questec parks
The results were quite interesting. And once again, the evidence indicates that LaRussa should not be the one complaining about the behavior of other managers. Here is a list of managers and their estimated increase/decline on their teams’ strikeout-to-walk ratio in Questec parks.
Manager Marg. Impact Bob Boone -1.017 Ken Macha -0.967 Tony LaRussa -0.966 Jim Tracy -0.869 Larry Bowa -0.743 Joe Torre -0.639 Jimy Williams -0.584 Clint Hurdle -0.494 Hal McRae -0.487 Mike Scioscia -0.453 Bruce Bochy -0.409 Lloyd McClendon -0.406 Bobby Valentine -0.387 Jerry Narron -0.283 Bobby Cox -0.275 Jack McKeon -0.255 Lou Piniella -0.230 Jerry Manuel -0.156 Bob Melvin -0.114 Felipe Alou -0.085 Jeff Torborg -0.084 Carlos Tosca -0.024 Jerry Royster 0.000 Dusty Baker 0.024 Ned Yost 0.113 Art Howe 0.160 Grady Little 0.197 Tony Pena 0.215 Frank Robinson 0.271 Alan Trammell 0.289 Mike Hargrove 0.348 Eric Wedge 0.369 Luis Pujols 0.428 Buck Showalter 0.483 Ron Gardenhire 0.749 Bob Brenly 0.771 Bold: statistically significant at the 5% level Italics: statistically significant at the 10% level
Update: I corrected the estimates from my previous posting. Brenly, Hargrove, and Gardenhire no longer have statistically significant impacts. Jim Tracy’s estimate is now statistically significant.
As you can see, most managers experience no statistical difference between Questec and non-Questec parks (rounded to thee decimal places). Only 3 managers have a statistically significant impact on K/BB. And right at the top of the list is Tony LaRussa. LaRussa’s ability to sway umpires is not surprising considering that he is a lawyer, which is about as a well-kept secret as John Kerry’s military service. I wouldn’t be surprised if LaRussa is also good at manipulating MLB’s umpire complaint department.
And then look at Bob Brenley (although his impact is large it’s not statistically significant. Why is he so “bad?” Well, there may be some as yet to be explained factors, but I’ve certainly never been convinced by anything he’s said during a TV broadcast. In fact, I’ve changed opinions based on the fact that he agreed with my thinking. I wonder if his arguing skills are so weak that he ends up hurting his pitchers. Maybe other managers take advantage of him when Questec is not around, and he can’t counter with anything. Or, it could be that protects his hitters to the extent that it hurts his pitchers, which was not such a bad strategy given the good pitching he had during these years.
Overall, most managers don’t seem to have any real impact in arguing balls and strikes, which is consistent with rent seeking outcomes. Everyone wastes energy arguing but nothing is gained. At least maybe Questec can get the excessive bickering over balls and strikes out of the game.
Given that Boone is no longer managing, I think it’s safe to say that Tony LaRussa is the best rent seeking manager in the game today. Although, rent seeking is generally considered to be bad, it certainly is good news for the Cards. So, I think it’s a quality to be admired, but certainly Tony LaRussa has no moral high ground to accuse any other manager for influencing the game through umpires.