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Pioneers/Executives

GM Update #13: Dick O’Connell

Here’s a guy I knew jack squat about when we started looking into GMs. I’d never heard of him, and I had no idea who ran the Red Sox during their Impossible Dream season or during their excellent run in the 1970s. Of course, it was the same guy, Dick O’Connell. His transaction performance is impressive, and even though he didn’t bring Boston a championship, it sure wasn’t for lack of trying or smarts. As we’ll soon see, he had a lot under the hood.

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
FEENEY 1956-1655 .542 +64 0 -0.2 3 +0.3 1 -0.3 +14
GILES 1136-1165 .494 +2 0 N/A 2 +0.1 1 +0.1 +11
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
O’CONNELL 1042-892 .539 +58 1 -0.5 2 +1 0 -0.5 +29
QUINN 2147-2126 .502 +20 0 -0.5 3 -0.1 1 -0.5 -7
RICKEY 32653015 .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

O’Connell’s career is short in comparison to our crop of good candidates (those above the gray bar). His winning percentage is a little over the group’s .533 median winning percentage. But when talk about performance against expected wins, things get interesting. O’Connell’s +58 score here is only 4 more than the group’s median wins against expectation, but he achieved it in about 55% of the length in games of the typical member of this group. Similarly, his +29 score against Pythagenpat is a mere 6 wins more than the group median, but again in about 55% of the time. He hired Dick Williams and got a World Series appearance out of it, so give him credit for that great hire.

This is similar to other shortish career GMs such as Bob Howsam and especially Larry MacPhail. It’s possible that the lack of a long tail on their careers means that they got out before the inevitable slide.

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
  • 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
  • med%GOAL: Median seasonal %GOAL
GM PERFORMANCE
NAME BASE GM CONT GOAL med%GOAL WS GOAL med%GOAL
BARROW 217 923 719 119% 959 94%
BAVASI 1 373 690 791 100% 972 88%
BROWN 281 552 557 101% 696 81%
CAMPANIS 342 407 364 119% 469 90%
CAMPBELL 354 386 493 89% 596 68%
CASHEN 255 361 370 85% 462 61%
DALTON 500 426 337 84% 449 68%
FEENEY 185 766 728 101% 913 66%
GILES 144 320 441 69% 591 55%
GILLICK 385 684 671 107% 807 91%
GRIFFITH 198 1025 1313 79% 1703 60%
HOWSAM 338 229 243 81% 350 53%
MACPHAIL1 183 193 257 46% 356 36%
MACPHAIL2 300 185 258 69% 346 57%
O’CONNELL 197 270 295 91% 354 71%
QUINN 222 729 824 97% 1066 72%
RICKEY 428 879 1132 78% 1580 58%
SCHUERHOLZ 487 576 539 105% 667 88%
WEISS 252 358 460 107% 615 67%
BAVASI 2 191 128 234 52% 282 47%
ROBINSON 124 183 260 73% 315 60%
SEGHI 115 239 350 72% 420 60%
SMITH 97 114 247 55% 293 47%

O’Connell, himself represents the median of the good GMs in his ability to cobble enough value together to contend. He is slightly above the median for the similar measurement against a World Series benchmark. His record in this regard is quite similar to several GMs in the pack, including his contemporaries Harry Dalton and Jim Campbell.

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
FEENEY 112 28 20 28 10 21 0 77 15 343
GILES 42 40 10 N/A 11  5 N/A 45  9 232
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
O’CONNELL 19 21  16 59 7 0  0  59 0 182
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
FEENEY 62  41 17 23 11  77  13 268
GILES 52 30  5  3 N/A 45 9 157
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
O’CONNELL 21 43 9 3 12 59 0 149
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

Every GM has a certain style to them. O’Connell’s could be described as careful. On a per-season basis he made relatively few acquisitions and a fairly typical number outbound moves. He spread things around among both the inbound and outbound channels, and made relatively few trades. In the event, he a high number of productive young players under contract all over the diamond and relatively little reason to move them. So he went with the kids and was handsomely rewarded for it.

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
FEENEY 556 6 59 52 -1 13 0 189 24 911
GILES 178 63 8 N/A -1 11 N/A 139 5 452
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
O’CONNELL 21 4 46 387 10 0 0 91 0 559
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
FEENEY 36 2 27 37 29 415 3 575
GILES 74 24 -2  0 N/A 147 36 303
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
O’CONNELL 10 4 2 26 12 200 0 253
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

OK, here’s the trick. Dick O’Connell is the best drafting GM we’ve encountered so far. He’s got 30 WAR on his nearest competitor, Jim Campbell, even though the Tiger’s boss drafted 35 more major leaguers than O’Connell did. As mentioned above, this is why O’Connell didn’t need to make a raft of moves. The drafts were so good that he didn’t have to. Consider this list and the value these guys brought back to the Sox:

  • 1967: 41 WAR (Carlton Fisk, 40)
  • 1968: 28 WAR (Bill Lee, 19)
  • 1969: 78 WAR (Dwight Evans, 66; Rick Miller, 9)
  • 1970: 18 WAR (Rick Burleson, 18)
  • 1971: 47 WAR (Jim Rice, 47)
  • 1973: 35 WAR (Fred Lynn, 32)
  • 1974: 28 WAR (Bob Stanley, 24)
  • 1976: 104 WAR (Wade Boggs, 72; Bruce Hurst, 20; John Tudor, 10)

In addition, O’Connell drafted the following who left the team before they provided much value:

  • Ken Brett
  • Cecil Cooper
  • Lynn McGlothen
  • Ben Oglive
  • Ernie Whitt

O’Connell also signed Rich Gedman as an amateur free agent in 1977 who gave the team 12 WAR before departing via free agency.

This is probably the most impressive drafting record we’ll come across. While Jim Campbell’s mid-1970s drafts were amazing, he’d never shown that ability before them and he didn’t show that ability after them. O’Connell’s front offices showed uncanny ability to keep finding, drafting, signing, and developing talent through his entire administration.

But O’Connell would probably have liked one transaction involving a young player back. In 1966, he let Amos Otis slip away in the Minor League Draft, costing the team two or three dozen WAR. Or not since the Sox had plenty of outfielders lying around what with Yaz still on the scene.

The one thing O’Connell did poorly was trade. As you can see above his overall record was 91 WAR in against 200 out. Not good at all, so it’s for the best that he didn’t make many deals. Here’s his ups and (mostly) downs.

TRADES WON (10+ WAR)

  • 11/30/67 (+11): Received Ray Culp (11) for Bill Schlesinger (0)

TRADES LOST (-10 WAR)

  • 10/10/71 (-39): Received Patrick Skrable, Tommy Harper, Lew Krausse, and Marty Pattin (9) for Ken Brett, Billy Conigliaro, Joe Lahoud, Jim Lonborg, Don Pavletich, and George Scott (48)
  • 12/6/76 (-26): Received Bernie Carbo and George Scott (5) for Cecil Cooper (31)
  • 6/14/66 (-17): Received Don Demeter and Julio Navarro (-1) for Joe Christopher and Earl Wilson (16)
  • 12/7/73 (-14): Received Reggie Cleveland, Terry Hughes, and Diego Segue (5) for John Curtis, Mike Garman, and Lynn McGlothen (19)
  • 10/23/73 (-13): Received Dick McAuliffe (0) for Beg Oglivie (13)
  • 3/22/72 (-12): Received Mario Guerrero and Danny Cater (3) for Sparky Lyle (15)
  • 6/13/66 (-10): Received Rollie Sheldon, Jose Tartabull, and John Wyatt (1) for Jos Gosger, Guido Grilli, and Ken Sanders (11)
  • 6/2/67 (-10): Received Jerry Adair (1) for Rob Snow and Don McMahon (10)

So basically, don’t trust Dick O’Connell to trade first basemen and relief pitchers. Well, everyone’s got their achilles heel.

On the whole, O’Connell’s performance as GM was impressive.  He built up the Red Sox’ talent base fast and smartly, wasting little effort in so doing, with the exception of those yucky trades. Had he been able to trade more effectively, he likely would have gotten the team to the World Series more often, then again, you can’t figure 1978.

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Discussion

One thought on “GM Update #13: Dick O’Connell

  1. As with you never heard of him. Thanks for bringing him to my attention.
    v

    Posted by verdun2 | August 17, 2016, 8:33 am

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