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Pioneers/Executives

GM Update #5: Pat Gillick

Finally! We have now added Pat Gillick’s complete transaction log to our burgeoning archive. Let’s see what we can see with our first fully modern GM. By fully modern, we mean that he built teams during the time when GMs worked under all the key conditions we know today: expansion, an amateur draft, free agency, and huge money. Gillick ended up in two different types of situations. In Toronto he used his scouting and player development experience to build an expansion franchise into a juggernaut. Then in Baltimore, Seattle, and Philadelphia he put good teams over the top and deep into October. In so doing, he racked up some impressive credentials. When you look at the tables below, remember that the only other modern GMs we have are the bad ones below the break in the tables.

Let’s go to the data! I’ll give you the alphabet soup as we go.

Team Performance

  • W/L : Won-Loss record while GM was in office
  • PCT: Winning percentage
  • vs EXP: An adaptation of the expected wins formula Bill James introduced in his managers book. Except we use pythagenpat records instead of actual records to calculate it.
  • OCT: Postseason apperances (starting in 1969).
  • OCT v EXP: Measures postseason appearances against the basic probability of any random team making it.
  • WS APP: World Series appearances
  • WS APP v EXP: Similar to OCT v EXP
  • WS WINS: Championships won
  • WS WINS v EXP: Ditto
  • MGR PYTH: This is the team’s variance against its Pythagenpat record as a measure of how much value the GM’s manager brought to the team.

 

TEAM PERFORMANCE
NAME RECORD PCT. VS EXP OCT OCT VS EXP WS APP WS APP VS EXP WS WINS WS WINS VS EXP MGR PYTH
BAVASI 1 2386-2166 .524 +54 2 +0.2 8 +5.1 4 +2.5 +42
BROWN 1816-1625 .524 +48 4 +2.5 2 -0.2 2 +0.9 -5
CAMPANIS 1576-1280 .552 +44 6 +4.9 4 +2.5 1 +0.2 +8
GILLICK 2276-1993 .533 +95 11 +5.7 3 +1.0 3 +2.1 +23
HOWSAM 1331-1049 .559 +63 5 +3.3 4 +2.8  2 +1.4 +44
QUINN 2147-2126 .502 +17 0 -0.7 3 -0.3 1 -0.5 -9
RICKEY 3265-3015 .520 +87 N/A N/A 8 +2.7 4 +1.5 +46
BAVASI 2 756-869 .465 -41 0 -2.9 0 -0.6 0 -0.3 -6
ROBINSON 683-772 .469 -6 0 -1.5 0 -0.5 0 -0.3 -5
SEGHI 883-989 .472 -11 0 -2.0 0 -0.9 0 -0.5 -4
SMITH 566-776 .422 -49 0 -2.1 0 -0.6 0 -0.3 -38

Gillick simply looks great. His career is very long (almost exactly as long as John Quinn’s), and his results are outstanding, especially given the era of increased competitive balance that he worked in. His 1992-1993 Blue Jays were the first team to win back to back titles since the 1977-1978 Yankees. Here’s the amazing part. Toronto was an expansion team. Let’s give him a pass for 1978 to 1980 since expansion teams take a few years to build up their talent base. From 1981 to 2008, his teams went 2097-1687, which is .554 baseball, about 90 wins a year. Consider that Al Campanis and Bob Howsam’s winning percentages are very similar to that .554 total after 1980, and they inherited better teams with excellent core talent.

GM Performance

  • Now let’s look at how the GMs themselves did at constructing competitive clubs. BASE: Talent in WAR that a GM inherited
  • GM: Talent in WAR that a GM acquired
  • GOAL: The amount of talent the GM needed to acquire to field a .550 team
  • %GOAL: How close he got, a career average
  • medGOAL: Median seasonal %GOAL

 

GM PERFORMANCE
NAME BASE GM GOAL %GOAL medGOAL
BAVASI 1 373 690 791 87% 100%
BROWN 281 552 557 99% 101%
CAMPANIS 342 407 364 112% 120%
GILLICK 385 684 671 102% 107%
HOWSAM 338 229 243 95% 81%
QUINN 222 729 824 92% 97%
RICKEY 388 871 1132 77% 78%
BAVASI 2 191 128 234 55% 52%
ROBINSON 124 183 260 70% 73%
SEGHI 115 239 350 68% 72%
SMITH 97 114 247 46% 55%

More gold here. Gillick’s maneuvers brought his teams toward contention better than anyone on the board except Campanis. If we look again at only his post-1980 record, he’s at an overall average of 114% of goal and a median of 110% of goal, comparable to Campanis.

Transactions Detail

Finally, the nitty gritty of building teams. First we’ll look at the kinds of transactions, then the value wrought from them.

  • AM FA: Amateur free agent
  • PUR: Purchased from another pro team
  • FA: Free agent (includes the short-lived free-agent compensation picks of the early 1980s)
  • AM DF: Amateur draft (any time of year, only players who signed with the team and played in MLB)
  • R5 DF: Rule 5 Draft
  • ML DF: Minor League Draft and First Year Draft
  • TR: Trade
  • WV: Waivers
  • SLD: Players sold to other teams
  • REL: Players released

Since I’m trying these attractive new tables, I’ll need to split the Inbound and Outbound transactions into separate tables to keep these manageable.

TRANSACTION DETAILS: NUMBER OF INBOUND TRANSACTIONS
NAME AM FA PUR FA AM DFT R5 DFT ML DFT EX DFT TR WV TOT
BAVASI 1 101 50 48 69 6 15 29 135 2 455
BROWN 93 33 20 49 7 7 0 85 3 294
CAMPANIS 40 12 38 79 5 2 0 69 2 247
GILLICK 71 49 207 148 19 8 0 130 31 663
HOWSAM 33 27 14 50 7 1 0 95 1 228
QUINN 137 95 33 25 16 12 0 113 8 441
RICKEY 174 78 49 N/A 24 11 N/A 108 24 748
BAVASI 2 16 15 157 43 4 0 0 69 16 322
ROBINSON 11 15 130 70 4 1 0 58 15 309
SEGHI 10 15 33 38 4 1 0 106 5 212
SMITH 11 8 103 34 9 2 0 65 22 254

What we see here from Gillick is a combination of context and ability. Gillick’s owners were willing to spend money as evidenced by the 207 free agents he signed. On the other hand, that’s fewer per year than our bad GMs signed. To his credit, however, he never used that as an excuse to go out and sign guys willy nilly. He used every means at his command to find, acquire, and develop talent. Those 71 amateur free agents famously include bushels of players from the Dominican where the Jays set up shop in the late 1970s. Gillick’s drafts tended to include really good players (especially early on) and they also to be deep in quantity of major leaguers. He found a lot of role players and depth players that way. Look at the Rule 5 draft column. He made frequent and in a couple cases extraordinarily profitable use of it. His R5 picks might well have put the rest of the league on notice to more guarded with the management of their roster. And Gillick made lots of trades. Not Swappin’ Phil Seghi numbers, but enough to say that it was yet another tool on his belt. Basically, he did everything he could to suck up as much talent as he could as efficiently and effectively as he could, no matter whether he had a big budget or a small one. With his deep scouting background, this likely came naturally to him, but his dexterity in all channels is deeply impressive.

TRANSACTION DETAILS: NUMBER OF OUTBOUND TRANSACTIONS
NAME SOLD REL R5 DFT ML DFT EX DFT TR WV TOT
BAVASI 1 58 59 27 13 6 135 10 308
BROWN 54 51 14 15 12 85 6 218
CAMPANIS 17 63 12 5 0 69 8 179
GILLICK 30 127 22 2 6 130 20 337
HOWSAM 25 24 11 3 5 95 1 164
QUINN 8 55 25 4 0 113 3 231
RICKEY 111 68 36 8 N/A 108 34 388
BAVASI 2 12 83 0 0 2 69 3 169
ROBINSON 9 66 3 1 5 58 13 155
SEGHI 12 39 2 0 0 106 1 165
SMITH 8 55 5 3 0 65 15 151

Just as Gillick found a lot of talent through the Rule 5 Draft, others mined his rosters for talent as well. The Jays’ talent pipeline was strong and well regarded, so it makes sense that his competitors would scour it for gems. also notable is that Gillick released a ton of players. But if we look at our three bad contemporary GMs, this appears to be part of the background noise of the game as it’s managed today. In general, he had a similar rate of outbound transactions as our contemporary bad GMs.

TRANSACTION DETAILS: VALUE IN WAR TO TEAM OF INBOUND TRANSACTIONS
NAME AM FA PUR FA AM DFT R5 DFT ML DFT EX DFT TR WV TOT
BAVASI 1 430 94 36 235 1 0 54 257 -1 1106
BROWN 313 1 3 228 2 4 0 216 -2 765
CAMPANIS 48 40 2 171 -1 1 0 257 0 518
GILLICK 132 62 194 295 60 -1 0 228 -2 978
HOWSAM 98 7 2 104 6 0 0 228 0 445
QUINN 443 45 182 141 25 3 0 480 1 1320
RICKEY 805 118 268 N/A 121 1 N/A 261 0 1947
BAVASI 2 27 8 96 131 0 0 0 24 5 290
ROBINSON 7 17 69 98 6 0 0 59 8 264
SEGHI -4 13 4 32 2 2 0 275 -1 323
SMITH 3 -2 27 36 -2 3 0 140 10 215

We see again that Gillick’s scouting talent rising up. He recognized good players and trusted his scouts to hunt down the best ivory. Netting 132 WAR out of amateur free agent signings is outstanding in this day when the draft eliminates so much talent from the pool. As we noted above, the Jays opened the envy of all pipelines to the Caribbean, which netted Gillick All-Stars Carlos Delgado and Tony Fernandez as well as very helpful surrounding players such as Luis Leal and Kelvim Escobar. His Mariners, signed a scout’s dream: Felix Hernandez. In the purchase column, that 62 WAR is virtually all Ichiro. That was a gutsy move that really paid off. At the time, no one knew how even the best NPB hitters would perform stateside. Ichiro’s power, like most of Japanse imports’, didn’t make the trip across the Pacific, but the rest of his game was so impressive that he became an instant All-Star. Gillick’s best free agent deals? Assuming we don’t count Ichiro, here’s what his best signings brought to his team:

  • Bret Boone: 18 WAR
  • John Olerud: 17 WAR
  • Jayson Werth: 16 WAR
  • B.J. Surhoff: 16 WAR
  • Doyle Alexander: 14 WAR
  • Roberto Alomar: 12 WAR
  • Paul Molitor 11 WAR
  • Mike Bordick: 11 WAR

None of these guys were on long, long deals, and Gillick managed to do well on short-term deals as well. His one-year contracts with Dave Winfield and Eric Davis returned 4 WAR each, and he got 6 WAR out of the shredded remains of Jimmy Key’s arm with Baltimore. Gillick managed to get prime (if not peak) years from them, but he appeared to be smart enough to let them walk when it was time. Not all his deals worked out superbly. But few if any of them were long-term for borderline players, so he reduced risk and only had to live with the Abraham Nunezes or Dennis Lamps for a season or two. Oh, and by the way, I’m including Tom Henke in this group. He was a free-agent compensation pick from the Rangers, and he pumped 17 WAR into the Jays’ bullpen.

In the draft, Gillick found some excellent talent. In the 1978 draft, for example, he got both Lloyd Moseby and Dave Stieb. Not bad for one day’s work. 1982 was Jimmy Key’s year. 1985 netted Todd Stottlemyer; 1986 Pat Hentgen; 1988 Woody Williams; 1989 John Olerud; 1991 Shawn Green and Alex Gonzalez; 1992 Shannon Stewart. All these guys gave the Jays 10 or more WAR before leaving. His subsequent drafts didn’t yield the M’s, O’s or Phils much value, but they did include some players that his successors rather wished they hadn’t traded. I think Frank Wren might regret dealing Gillick draftee Jayson Werth, and Bill Bavasi would sure like to take back trading Adam Jones. Generally, however, Gillick’s mission in his latter years was to build a quick winner, and his drafts yielded useful pieces without much star power.

OK, OK, so what you really want to know is who ARE those fabulous Rule 5 picks?

  • George Bell (21 WAR for the Jays)
  • Kelly Gruber (16)
  • Willie Upshaw (13)
  • Starting infielder Manny Lee (8)
  • Jim Gott (3 for the Jays before moving on to bigger things)
  • Jim Acker (3)

Gillick got two MVPs, two other starting infielders, and two reliable relief arms. To be fair he lost Mike Morgan, Graeme Lloyd, Jorge Sosa, Geronimo Berroa, and Aquilino Lopez (combined 32 WAR), but you’d trade his six for those five any day of the week and all weekend.

We’ll look shortly at Gillick’s trade record, but the overall value he acquired for his teams is startlingly high. Nearly as high as John Quinn and Buzzie Bavasi whose acquisitions weren’t ticking salary time bombs that after six years would blow up in dollars or leave.

TRANSACTION DETAILS: VALUE IN WAR OF PLAYERS IN OUTBOUND TRANSACTIONS
NAME SOLD REL R5 DFT ML DFT EX DFT TR WV TOT
BAVASI 1 17 20 129 20 30 438 19 674
BROWN 28 10 4 29 59 343 -2 471
CAMPANIS 38 13 4 23 0 298 17 374
GILLICK 16 20 25 0 -2 285 10 357
HOWSAM 8 4 27 -1 -3 251 0 286
QUINN 2 1 3 78 0 496 24 600
RICKEY 337 16 64 -3 N/A 574 8 1030
BAVASI 2 0 8 0 0 -1 147 0 154
ROBINSON 2 10 2 3 12 92 8 129
SEGHI 2 3 16 -2 0 253 0 272
SMITH 2 1 0 0 0 141 0 144

So let’s look now at Gillick’s trade record. Specifically the deals he won or lost by 10 WAR or more. Remember we’re estimating outgoing value as what the player did before his next officially scheduled free agency. That information isn’t always simple to interpret from transaction logs, so it’s a tad fuzzy.

Won

  • 12/9/82 (+24): Received Fred McGriff, Dave Collins, Mike Morgan, and cash (24) for Tom Dodd and Dale Murray (0)
  • 12/5/90 (+20): Received Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter (31) for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez (11)
  • 12/2/90 (+18): Received Devon White, Marcus Moore, and Willie Fraser (22) for Junior Felix, Luis Sojo, and Ken Rivers (4)
  • 3/25/82 (+16): Received Rance Mullinicks (16) for Phil Huffman (0)
  • 2/10/00 (+12): Received Mike Cameron (18), Jake Meyer, Antonio Perez, Brett Tomko (18) for Ken Griffey, Jr. (6)

Lost

  • 12/6/06 (-37): Received Freddy Garcia (0) for Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez (37)
  • 11/7/07 (-19): Received Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett (1) for Michael Bourn, Mike Constanza and Geoff Geary (20)
  • 8/27/92 (-15): Received David Cone (2) for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson (17)
  • 6/22/85 (-15): Received Cliff Young (0) for Mitch Webster (15)
  • 3/30/93 (-14 WAR): Received Darrin Jackson (-1) for Stony Briggs and Derek Bell (13 WAR)
  • 7/14/87 (-10): Received Juan Beniquez (0) for Luis Aquino (10)

Gillick also lost a few others near to 10 WAR and won a couple of those too. Generally, he wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger on the big deal, and he made small deals to patch things up or provide flexibility on his roster. In at least two cases, he was forced to deal his star player. Ken Griffey, Jr. demanded a deal, and later Jim Thome. The Thome deal was a net loss of 5 WAR but combined with the Junior trade made him a net +7 on deals where the whole world knew he had no leverage.

On the whole, we have to look at Gillick and be suitably impressed. He lasted 27 years, won three titles, made the playoffs 11 times, built a team from expansion dreck into a perennial contender, and took three other teams a long, long way. He did it with traditional scouting, by doing Moneyball before that was a thing (that is, exploiting market inefficiencies such as the Rule 5 draft and the Dominican pipeline). There’s really nothing here that sends up a red flag. We have a lot more fellows to look at, but Pat Gillick is certainly likely to be among the best we’ll examine.

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  1. Pingback: Pioneer/Executive #17, Pat Gillick | the Hall of Miller and Eric - July 15, 2016

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