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Managers, Sidebars

Best Player/Manager, Part I

We can do better than this answer, right?

We can do better than this answer, right?

I remember being incredibly disappointed as a kid when I heard the answer to a trivia question about the pair of brothers with the most home runs. Hank and Tommie Aaron. Really? How can Tommie Aaron count at 13 HRs compared to Hank’s 755? Sure, it would have been one thing had I been involved in a bar bat at age 12. I’d have had to accept the answer and pay up. But as a kid who wanted the question to mean something, I just couldn’t accept it.

In order to be the best brother tandem, I thought, both would have to be legitimate major league home run hitters, not one of the greatest ever and a guy who only once hit more than two in a season. Of course, trivia questions don’t need to be satisfying, just factual.

The project I’m starting today, however, is just representing an opinion. There’s nothing factual, so I can make my own rules when trying to determine the best player/manager ever. And I shall.

Rule #1: in order to be the best player-manager ever, you have to have a significant career in both roles. Even though Babe Ruth never managed, I suppose his playing greatness reached such a level that he could win the award. Nope. Not under these roles. You need to have had a significant playing career and a significant managerial career.

Rule #2: I’m not looking for the best player-manager, really. I’m looking for the person who best combined playing greatness with managerial greatness. It’s not necessary for him to have ever been a player-manager.

Okay, those are the only two rules. The rest is just opinion.

Let’s Narrow

There have been 572 men to ever both play and manage in the majors. That’s where we begin to narrow our list.

  • Of those, 187 managed one season or less. Thus, we’re down to 385.
  • Of that group, 96 managed only two seasons or parts thereof. We’re down to 289.
  • Of that group, we have 98 more who managed only 3-4 seasons. That means we can quite easily narrow out list to the 191 players who managed in the bigs for five seasons or more.
  • To keep narrowing, I used BBREF to determine all hitters in MLB history with at least 1000 games played. At the time of my research, there were 1543 such players. So I then found the top 1543 pitchers in terms of innings pitched. Of those players who managed at least five seasons, we’re down to 103 men in the top-1543 of hitters in games played or pitchers in innings pitched. Overall, the list contains 41 men who are actually in the Hall of Fame, so we have a pretty good group.
  • There’s one last bit of narrowing we’re going to do to get through this post. To reach the next phase in the battle for best combination player/manager ever, you have to be one of the nearly 900 guys we considered for the HoME’s player wing or the HoME’s managerial wing. Either one is fine. Thus, we bid a farewell to 23 more player/managers. In all, we’re going to consider 80 men for the title of best player/manager ever.

Here are the qualifiers.

Felipe Alou         Larry Dierker       Pinky Higgins       Mel Ott
Cap Anson           Hugh Duffy          Gil Hodges          Roger Peckinpaugh
Dusty Baker         Leo Durocher        Rogers Honrsby      Lou Piniella
Hank Bauer          Jimmy Dykes         Miller Huggins      Wilbert Robinson
Don Baylor          Buck Ewing          Fred Hutchinson     Frank Robinson 
Buddy Bell          Art Fletcher        Hughie Jennings     Pete Rose
Yogi Berra          Jim Fregosi         Davey Johnson       Red Schoendienst
Bob Boone           Frankie Frisch      Walter Johnson      Mike Scioscia
Lou Boudreau        Phil Garner         Fielder Jones       Billy Southworth
Roger Bresnahan     Cito Gaston         Joe Kelly           Tris Speaker
Donie Bush          Kirk Gibson         Nap Lajoie          Eddie Stanky
Frank Chance        Joe Girardi         Bob Lemon           Casey Stengel
Fred Clarke         Kid Gleason         Al Lopez            Patsy Tebeau
Ty Cobb             Joe Gordon          Billy Martin        Bill Terry
Mickey Cochrane     Clark Griffith      Don Mattingly       Joe Torre
Jimmy Collins       Charlie Grimm       John McGraw         Pie Traynor
Charlie Comiskey    Ozzie Guillen       Deacon McGuire      Bill Virdon
Del Crandall        Ned Hanlon          Pinky Morrill       Monte Ward
Joe Cronin          Mike Hargrove       Steve O'Neill       Dick Williams
Al Dark             Bucky Harris        Jim O'Rourke        Don Zimmer

Next Steps

The plan is to give each one of these guys a player score, which many of them already have because they’ve been run through my MAPES system. They’ll also need a manager score on level as MAPES. That’ll take some time to create, but not to name. Thanks to Eric, I have ZIMMER, Zooming In on Major Managerial Excellence and Rank.

Anyhow, once I have both scores, I can’t merely add them. That might result in Babe Ruth or Joe McCarthy becoming the best player/manager ever, and those results would be entirely unsatisfying. Instead, at least at this stage, I plan to use the harmonic mean of MAPES and ZIMMER, much like Bill James does for homers and steals to make his Power/Speed number. Basically, the formula is the following: (2 * player score * manager score) / (player score + manager score). In case you’re wondering, the best brother homer duos using a harmonic mean are Ken and Clete Boyer, followed by Joe and Vince DiMaggio, and then Justin and Melvin Upton.

The next steps are relatively simple. Find MAPES and ZIMMER for every player, and do the math. The plan now is to unveil the best combination player/managers ever on three Wednesdays in January, beginning on January 13. Lots of work. Very excited to see the results.

Miller

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Best Player/Manager, Part I

  1. I’m going to make a prediction and go with Joe Torre, Dusty Baker or Hank Bauer.

    Posted by Gary Trujillo | December 23, 2015, 9:23 am
  2. I’m with you on Torre, for sure. I don’t know about the other two though. Among A’s managers, I might like Al Dark and Lou Boudreau. I’m looking forward to the research!

    Posted by Miller | December 23, 2015, 5:55 pm

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