Managers and One Run Games

Monday, September 24 2012 @ 06:55 PM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

You've all noticed that the Orioles have played .750 ball (27-9) in one-run games this season?

That happens to be the best winning percentage in one-run games... well, ever. Since we crawled out of the sea and rose up on our hind legs. The 2012 Orioles have played 60-56 in the rest of their games; it's their record in the one-run games that is lifting them, and not Tampa Bay, to the post-season.

What the 2012 Orioles have done is not the most dramatic spread above and beyond normal performance in history. If .500 is the centre, and surely it is, by winning 18 times more than they've lost the Orioles have added 9 games to the Win column above what could reasonably be expected. That's a very, very good thing. But it's not unprecedented. The greatest such single-season pickup in one-run games was posted by another Orioles squad, Earl Weaver's 1970 team. They went an amazing 40-15 in one run games - they played .727 ball and won 12.5 more games than you would reasonably expect . Not that it had a huge impact on the pennant race.  The 1970 Orioles went 68-39 (.635) in the rest of their games and finished 15 games ahead of the second place Yankees. Man, they were good.

By eerie coincidence, it was yet another Baltimore team that had the best winning percentage in one-run games prior to this season. That would have been Earl Weaver's 1981 crew. They went 21-7 in one-run games, which is a pretty nifty .750 winning percentage. It wasn't enough to get them into either of the AL East's post-season rounds, largely because they went 38-39 in the rest of their games

Anyway, all this is a tribute to the genius of Buck Showalter, surely? And Earl Weaver?

Except over the course of his career, Weaver's teams did not win as often in one-run games as they did the rest of the time. Weaver's teams had two of the greatest one-run seasons in history, and over his career his teams played .580 ball in one-run games, which is astonishingly good. I think it's probably the best mark by any manager in history. But it's still not as good as the .589 mark Weaver's Orioles posted in the rest of their games.

And Showalter? Thanks to the amazing performance of the 2012 Orioles, Buck Showalter's teams have now played .494 ball in one run games over the course of his managerial career. Which isn't as good as the .518 record they have in the rest of their games.

Who else? Joe Maddon and Davey Johnson? We all think highly of them. I know I do. Same deal, though. Maddon's teams have played .509 ball in one-run games, .516 the rest of the time. Johnson's teams have played .543 ball in one-run games, and .590 ball in the rest of them.

I gathered together the relevant numbers for 15 managers, more or less at random - well, not quite at random. First I took the top 11 winners of all-time. I kicked out Bucky Harris because... because he's Bucky Harris. I replaced him with Weaver. I then added three interesting active managers (Johnson, Showalter, and Maddon) as well as Cito Gaston just to provide some local flavour.

And here's how these men did in one-run games as opposed to the rest of their games. (NOTE - numbers are not quite complete. I only included complete seasons. If I got into the nuts and bolts of those seasons where the guy managed 64 games or 111 games... I'd be doing this until Halloween. And that's why Billy Martin isn't here, because most of Billy's seasons were like that.)


                 One Run Games                  Other Games
               W       L     PCT           W      L      PCT

Joe McCarthy    520    452    .535        1556    840    .649
John McGraw     749    623    .546        1915    1227    .609
Davey Johnson   342    288    .543        825    573    .590
Earl Weaver     429    311    .580        950    663    .589
Bobby Cox       681    629    .520        1783    1315    .576
Walter Alston   634    537    .541        1408    1078    .566
Tony LaRussa    697    704    .498        1933    1562    .553
Leo Durocher    532    477    .527        1338    1098    .549
Joe Torre       634    553    .534        1599    1315    .549
Sparky Anderson 590    502    .540        1548    1282    .547
Casey Stengel   502    524    .489        1325    1194    .526
Buck Showalter  269    275    .494        769     716    .518
Joe Maddon      163    157    .509         415     390    .516
Cito Gaston     225    235    .489         564     531    .515
Connie Mack    1067   1156    .480        2560    2735    .483

As you can see, everybody's teams played worse in one-run games than they did the rest of time. Everybody's.  I thought Connie Mack might be the exception. Mack was the only one of these men with a losing record over his career, and I thought his teams might have been slightly better in one-run games. But even they were slightly worse.

The most impressive performance, by a mile is Weaver's. But I think the work of Sparky Anderson, Walter Alston, and Joe Torre in one-run games probably deserves your respect as well.