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Pioneers/Executives

GM Update #11: Jim Campbell

As previously promised, today we roll out the goods on longtime Tigers GM Jim Campbell. Campbell’s tenure ran more than 20 years, during which time he won a World Series and set the team up for another. Mark Armour and Dan Levitt named him their 22nd best team builder of all time. In the modern sense of it. Well, maybe. The figures we’ve arrived at from his transaction logs tell a somewhat different story, especially when we couple it with a piece or two of key information.

Let’s do the numbers.

Team Performance

  • RECORD: 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
BARROW 2281-1394 .621 +160 N/A N/A 14 +11 10 +8.5 +72
BAVASI 1 2386-2166 .524 +54 2 +0.2 8 +5.1 4 +2.5 +42
BROWN 1816-1625 .524 +48 5 +2.5 2 -0.2 2 +0.9 -5
CAMPANIS 1576-1280 .552 +44 6 +4.9 4 +2.5 1 +0.2 +8
CAMPBELL 1733-1605 .519 +40 1 -1.5 1 -0.8 1 +0.1 +31
CASHEN 1342-1177 .533 +27 4 +1.2 1 -0.3 1 +0.4 -1
DALTON 2175-1965 .525 +64 4 +1.4 5 +3.0 2 +0.9 +9
GILLICK 2276-1993 .533 +95 11 +5.7 3 +1.0 3 +2.1 +23
GRIFFITH 2967-2964 .500 +24 N/A N/A 3 -1.88 1 -1.44 +35
HOWSAM 1331-1049 .559 +63 5 +3.3 4 +2.8  2 +1.4 +44
MACPHAIL1 904-777 .538 +69 N/A N/A 2 +0.6 1 +0.3 +6
MACPHAIL2 1181-1036 .526 +54 0 -0.7 0 -1.4 0 -0.8 +31
QUINN 2147-2126 .502 +20 0 -0.5 3 -0.1 1 -0.5 -7
RICKEY 3265-3015 .520 +87 N/A N/A 8 +2.7 4 +1.5 +46
SCHUERHOLZ 2348-1794 .567 +140 16 +10.8 6 +3.4 2 +1.1 +69
WEISS 1503-1303 .536 +28 N/A N/A 10 +7.9 7 +5.9 +3
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

Campbell’s teams performed reasonably well. Just a little worse than Joe Brown’s Pirates in a GM career of comparable length. On the other hand, among our good GMs (the ones above the gray line), his winning percentage is the third worst. Branch Rickey’s is only one point better, but then Branch Rickey has nearly double the number of team decisions under his belt. Looking beyond the W-L record, and comparing again to Brown, Campbell was a little worse in wins against expectation, but did much better in wins against Pythagenpat. The latter suggests that hiring Billy Martin, Ralph Houk, Mayo Smith, and, of course, Sparky Anderson was a lot better than giving the helm to mostly Danny Murtaugh. On the other hand Brown’s teams got into the playoffs more, got to one more World Series, and won one more title. Campbell’s record is not superb at the team level. It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong, it’s just not great.

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
  • CONT GOAL: The amount of talent the GM needed to acquire to field a contender, a .550 team
  • %GOAL: How close he got, a career average of the seasonal averages
  • med%GOAL: Median seasonal %GOAL
  • WS GOAL: The amount of talent the GM needed to acquire to field a typical WS entrant in his era
  • %GOAL: How close he got, a career average if the seasonal averages
  • med%GOAL: Median seasonal %GOAL
GM PERFORMANCE
NAME BASE GM CONT GOAL avg%GOAL med%GOAL WS GOAL avg%GOAL med%GOAL
BARROW 217 923 719 128% 119% 959 96% 94%
BAVASI 1 373 690 791 91% 100% 972 71% 88%
BROWN 281 552 557 97% 101% 696 76% 81%
CAMPANIS 342 407 364 128% 119% 469 87% 90%
CAMPBELL 354 386 493 78% 89% 596 65% 68%
CASHEN 255 361 370 98% 85% 462 78% 61%
DALTON 500 426 337 126% 84% 449 95% 68%
GILLICK 385 684 671 108% 107% 807 88% 91%
GRIFFITH 198 1025 1313 78% 79% 1703 60% 60%
HOWSAM 338 229 243 83% 81% 350 60% 53%
MACPHAIL1 183 193 257 69% 46% 356 46% 36%
MACPHAIL2 300 185 258 72% 69% 346 53% 57%
QUINN 222 729 824 92% 97% 1066 68% 72%
RICKEY 428 879 1132 73% 78% 1580 52% 58%
SCHUERHOLZ 487 576 539 116% 105% 667 87% 88%
WEISS 252 358 460 78% 107% 615 58% 67%
BAVASI 2 191 128 234 63% 52% 282 48% 47%
ROBINSON 124 183 260 74% 73% 315 58% 60%
SEGHI 115 239 350 63% 72% 420 53% 60%
SMITH 97 114 247 46% 55% 293 41% 47%

Campbell did a pretty good job of keeping the Tigers in contention with frequency. He’s middle of the pack so far in that regard. He’s also middle of the pack for creating World Series level teams. Again there’s nothing here that’s screaming out PICK ME!

Transactions Detail

OK, let’s see what these guys actually did to build their teams.

  • 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
  • ML XD: Expansion Draft
  • TR: Trade
  • WV: Waivers
  • SLD: Players sold to other teams
  • REL: Players released
  • NOTE: Unkown transactions not included except in TOT
TRANSACTION DETAILS: NUMBER OF INBOUND TRANSACTIONS
NAME AM FA PUR FA AM DFT R5 DFT ML DFT EX DFT TR WV TOT
BARROW 49 45 13 N/A 4 2 N/A 74 6 294
BAVASI 1 101 42 48 69 6 15 29 135 2 455
BROWN 93 27 20 49 7 7 0 85 3 294
CAMPANIS 40 10 38 79 5 2 0 69 2 247
CAMPBELL 35 30 25 95 7 5 0 92 7 303
CASHEN 31 8 46 97 4 2 0 116 3 313
DALTON 36 37 91 127 15 2 0 141 7 461
GILLICK 71 40 207 148 19 8 0 130 31 663
GRIFFITH 36 72 18 N/A 35 2 N/A 115 23 608
HOWSAM 33 23 14 50 7 1 0 95 1 228
MACPHAIL1 45 73 18 N/A 10 1 N/A 43 14 246
MACPHAIL2 47 38 18 33 13 6 0 82 7 255
QUINN 137 70 33 25 16 15 0 113 8 436
RICKEY 174 78 32 N/A 25 11 N/A 108 24 748
SCHUERHOLZ  62 14 265 142  7 1 0 150 17 659
WEISS 131 66 17 13 9 8 22 70 9 360
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 14 33 38 4 1 0 106 5 212
SMITH 11 7 103 34 9 2 0 65 22 254
TRANSACTION DETAILS: NUMBER OF OUTBOUND TRANSACTIONS
NAME SOLD REL R5 DFT ML DFT EX DFT TR WV TOT
BARROW 65 16 14 2 N/A 74 13 213
BAVASI 1 49 59 27 13 6 135 10 308
BROWN 46 51 14 15 12 85 6 218
CAMPANIS 13 63 12 5 0 69 8 179
CAMPBELL 52 59 6 4 11 92 7 237
CASHEN 21 45 16 4 0 116 3 208
DALTON  33 89 16 2 11 141 0 300
GILLICK 25 127 22 2 6 130 21 337
GRIFFITH 69 36 3 1 N/A 115 21 304
HOWSAM 22 24 11 3 5 95 1 164
MACPHAIL1 37 27 3 0 N/A 43 6 129
MACPHAIL2 28 30 14 0 14 82 3 178
QUINN 82 51 21 15 0 113 5 300
RICKEY 111 50 36 9 N/A 108 34 388
SCHUERHOLZ 6 170 11 2 6 150 18 366
WEISS 37 44 18 7 0 70 9 207
BAVASI 2 6 83 0 0 2 69 3 169
ROBINSON 4 66 3 1 5 58 13 155
SEGHI 10 39 2 0 0 106 1 165
SMITH 4 53 5 3 0 65 15 151

As we look at the number of transactions Campbell made, let’s group him with an appropriate cohort: those who spent all or most of their career in the amateur draft era but not to deep into the free agent era. And we’ll see how many transactions they made per annum.

  • Campanis (1969-1986): 14 Inbound / 10 Outbound per season
  • Campbell (1963-1983): 14 Inbound / 11 Outbound per season
  • Cashen (1972-1975, 1980-1991): 20 Inbound / 13 Outbound per season
  • Dalton (1966-1991): 18 Inbound / 12 Outbound per season
  • Howsam (1965-1967, 1983-1984): 15 Inbound / 11 Outbound per season
  • MacPhail 2 (1956-1965, 1967-1973): 18 Inbound / 13 Outbound per season

As you can see, Campbell was very careful. Al Campanis didn’t need to make lots of transactions. He had a huge farm surplus to work with and a core of talent that lasted for nearly ever. He didn’t need to get free agents, go waiver trawling, or make splashy trades because his farm system kept burping up quality players. Similar things could be said about Bob Howsam. How much tinkering do you need to do to Bench, Rose, Perez, Morgan, Concepcion, Foster, and company? Also, Bob Howsam hated free agency with a passion, an owner’s kind of executive. On the other end, MacPhail oversaw two rebuilds and needed to make more transactions to improve his talent base, while Harry Dalton moved his pieces around the chessboard pretty frequently in the scramble for contention. Campbell, on the other hand, had no such conditions. When he took the job in Detroit, most of the key pieces to the 1968 pennant winner were already in place: Kaline, Cash, Freehan, McAuliffe, Lolich, Horton. Many of those guys had come aboard while Campbell had been Farm Director (1956 to 1961) or Farm and Scouting Director (1961-1962), so he had a big hand in acquiring them, of course. His two important additions as GM were pitchers Denny McClain and Earl Wilson. He added no other crucial pieces to that team. That same team, for the most part, won the East in 1972 with contributions from Campbell adds Joe Coleman and Aurelio Rodriguez. All told, however, Campbell’s acquisitions from the time he gained the GM’s seat didn’t do most of the heavy lifting for his only two October teams. After 1972, the Tigers retracted their claws and didn’t play much meaningful baseball until the early 1980s. The question at hand is exactly how much Jim Campbell had to do with the next wave of Tiger greats.

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
BARROW 297 124 154 N/A -1 0 N/A 480 7 1216
BAVASI 1 430 70 36 235 1 0 54 257 -1 1106
BROWN 313 2 3 228 2 4 0 216 -2 765
CAMPANIS 48 40 2 171 -1 1 0 257 0 518
CAMPBELL  9 13 7 352 1 -1 0 164 29 580
CASHEN 56 2 9 251 -1 0 0 270 3 590
DALTON 18 47 65 313 4 1 0 285 2 733
GILLICK 132 62 194 295 60 -1 0 228 -2 978
GRIFFITH 95 233 26 N/A 39 -1 N/A 416 11 1087
HOWSAM 98 7 2 104 6 0 0 228 0 445
MACPHAIL1 116 100 38 N/A 19 0 N/A 219 48 632
MACPHAIL2 244 0 16 113 13 0 0 195 8 632
QUINN 443 45 183 141 25 2 0 480 1 1318
RICKEY 794 116 211 N/A 122 1 N/A 262 0 1898
SCHUERHOLZ 117 9 142 298 -1 0 0 246 7 818
WEISS 480 70 5 21 -1 -1 11 168 7 764
BAVASI 2 27 9 96 131 0 0 0 24 5 290
ROBINSON 7 14 69 98 6 0 0 59 8 264
SEGHI -4 14 4 32 2 2 0 275 -1 323
SMITH 3 -2 27 36 -2 3 0 140 10 215
TRANSACTION DETAILS: VALUE IN WAR OF PLAYERS IN OUTBOUND TRANSACTIONS
NAME SOLD REL R5 DFT ML DFT EX DFT TR WV TOT
BARROW 158 3 50 26 N/A 440 75 794
BAVASI 1 15 20 129 20 30 438 19 674
BROWN 18 10 4 29 59 343 -2 471
CAMPANIS 22 13 4 23 0 298 17 374
CAMPBELL 39 9 -2 0 29 154 1  239
CASHEN -3 8 8 4 0 304 -1 330
DALTON 18 0 7 0 42 284 0 354
GILLICK 16 20 25 0 -2 285 10 357
GRIFFITH 157 -2 0 0 N/A 528 73 832
HOWSAM 8 4 27 -1 -3 251 0 286
MACPHAIL1 45 39 9 0 N/A 146 4 395
MACPHAIL2 37 -2 15 0 95 166 1 332
QUINN 75 38 3 81 0 496 25 711
RICKEY 337 10 62 -4 N/A 573 8 1040
SCHUERHOLZ 7 46 2 -1 26 246 6 332
WEISS 28 22 13 51 0 326 17 463
BAVASI 2 1 8 0 0 -1 147 0 154
ROBINSON 3 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

Overall, Jim Campbell did a pretty good job of acquiring talented players. The amount of Inbound value is pretty good, especially for a GM of his era. He’s also number one on the board among good GMs in terms of the least value given away. This is a fine combination, obviously. There is, however, just a little more to it.

There’s nothing in the Outbound transactions that should make you start. Campbell did a really nice job limiting the downside risk of letting players go. He didn’t make many moves, and those he did on the Outbound side didn’t haunt him too badly. He rarely let go of a top-quality player. He also came out ahead on trades, which is good, and which we’ll look at a little more in just a minute, though he made few of them. On the Inbound side, however, there are some strange goings on. He got nearly two-thirds of the value he acquired in the draft. Yet, he got next to nothing out of the Amateur Free Agent market. He never signed free agents, never got much out of the Rule 5 draft. Even in trades, he got and gave up relatively little. Denny McClain accounts for the relatively good showing in the waiver market (though Johnny Sain might also have something to do with the success of that particular move). So what do we make of this? Without more information, we’d say that Campbell’s philosophy was to build from within via amateur talent and make a few stabilizing trades as needed. A classic scouting/development approach, right?

Except the facts don’t really match up.

If Campbell was so into the amateur market why does he show up as the very worst among the GMs we’ve so far analyzed at signing amateur talent? How bad were they at this facet of the game? The best amateur free agent they signed was Ron LeFlore, who Billy Martin, himself, recommended after watching the fleet-footed outfielder play in a prison game. Yes, LeFlore was incarcerated, got out, signed, and put up 14 WAR for the Bengals. No other Tigers signed as amateur free agents exceeded 1 WAR for the team. What about Latin America? Good question. The first and only person from south of the Rio Grande that the Tigers signed on Campbell’s watch who contributed to the big-league team was Cuban defector Barbaro Garbey in 1980. To make the picture more bleak in this regard, Campbell did sign Dick Drago (21 career WAR) in 1964. But he never brought him up to Detroit and lost him in the 1969 expansion draft. If a team was being built by developing home-grown talent, how can they miss on that guy?

Here’s another odd piece of information. Prior to 1975, no player the Tigers selected in the January or June amateur drafts gave the team more than 5 WAR. The first amateur draft picks to return much value were Tom Brookens (12 WAR) and Dave Rozema (15 WAR), both chosen in the 1975 January draft. The entire reason the Tigers fell out of contention in the mid-late 1970s was the inability of Jim Campbell’s scouting department to find foreign or domestic talent of any quality.

But what suddenly turned their scouting around so that they drafted 329 WAR in just the four years 1975-1978? The answer there is Bill Lajoie. For years and years, Eddie Katalinas had functioned as the team’s scouting director. Katalinas had scouted and signed Al Kaline in the 1950s, and when Campbell was promoted to GM, Katalinas took over as the head of scouting. Faced with awful drafts for nearly a decade, Campbell tapped Bill Lajoie to head up scouting and pushed Katalinas first into the Farm Director role, and then in a role subordinate to that. With Lajoie at the helm of scouting, the Tigers, picking very high in the draft several years running, took:

  • 1975 (January): Brookens and Rozema
  • 1976 (January): Steve Kemp (16 WAR)
  • 1976 (June): Lance Parrish (30), Mark Fidrych (11), Jason Thompson (12), Lou Whitaker (75), and Alan Trammell (70)
  • 1977 (June): Dan Petry (17) and Jack Morris (38)
  • 1978 (June): Kirk Gibson (24)

And that is how you build a great team very quickly. You hire Bill Lajoie to do your drafting. Actually, it’s not that simple because Lajoie never again drafted a player who made good in Detroit. He did pick Howard Johnson (1979) and Glenn Wilson (1981) after that, but both were dealt before they blossomed. So was Lajoie an inspired hire that brought the team four great years of drafting? Or did the Tigers just strike it rich out of sheer blind-squirrel dumb luck? How much of the credit do we give Campbell for the hire? And for listening to his scouting director? It’s a little hard to say. But that right there was the core of the next great Tigers team that won it all in 1984 and made the ALCS in 1987.

OK, before we go, the trades game. Here are all the trades that Jim Campbell won or lost by 10 WAR

Trades Won

  • 11/27/81 (+29): Received Chet Lemon (31) for Steve Kemp (2)
  • 10/9/70 (+20): Received Ed Brinkmann, Joe Coleman, Jim Hannan, and Aurelio Rodriguez (28) for Elliot Maddox, Denny McClain, Norm McRae, and Don Wert (8)
  • 6/14/66 (+15): Received Joe Christopher and Earl Wilson (16) for Don Demeter and Julio Navarro (1)
  • 12/9/81 (+12): Received Larry Herndon (11) for Mike Chris and Dan Schatzeder (-1)
  • 12/6/75 (+11): Received Jim Crawford, Milt May, and Dave Roberts (3) for Terry Humphrey, Mark Lemongello, Gene Pent, and Leon Roberts (14)

Trades Lost

  • 12/5/63 (-28): Received Don Demeter and Jack Hamilton (2) for Jim Bunning and Gus Triandos (30)
  • 10/14/63 (-12): Received Bruce Brubaker (0) for Pat Jarvis (12)
  • 12/4/69 (-12): Received Joe Niekro (4) for Dave Campbell and Pat Dobson (16)
  • 12/15/65 (-11): Received Dick Tracewski (1) for Phil Regan (12)

That’s a nice set of wins and losses. Obviously Jim Bunning was a stupid trade, but the Lemon for Kemp deal appears to have been a shrewd swap of a guy with limited but powerful skills for another with a broad range of abilities. And it is something like poetic justice that Don Demeter, a piece in the Bunning deal made it into the Earl Wilson fleecing. Overall, one thing to note is that Campbell rarely made in-season moves. He vastly preferred to make changes during the winter and avoid tinkering during the season.

So there you have it. It’s a very strange resume, and I can’t say that I’m entirely clear on it and on how to interpret it. Usually that doesn’t bode well for a candidate in my eyes. Especially because Campbell appears to have squandered the opportunity to transform his team on the fly by failing to go into the Latin American markets in a timely manner, eschewing free agency, and using too few of the talent-procurement channels available to him. Of course, some of that could have been limitations set on him by ownership, but it might also have been a lack of vision. I guess you had to be there.

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