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Pioneers/Executives

GM Update #16: Barney Dreyfuss

Like several other execs we’ve looked at, Barney Dreyfuss was an owner-operator. He owned the place, and he made all the personnel decisions. Or what we might call baseball ops today. Of course, at the turn of last century, baseball ops meant catching wind of a player in some other state who looked pretty good, maybe going to see him, signing him up. Scouts? There weren’t any professional scouts for much of Dreyfuss’ career, and he did much of that work himself. Farm systems? Not until most of his career was over. So Dreyfuss, a German immigrant who fell in love with America’s game, did most of it himself with the help of a network of friends throughout the game who gave him tips and did a lot of informal scouting for him. And with that, he won a whole lot of games.

That said, we don’t actually know the full extent of Dreyfuss’ moves. For one thing, he ran the Louisville Colonels in 1899 before merging with the Pirates. However he’d owned a piece of them for more than a decade. The problem was that we can’t yet know what exactly he did to bring players onto the roster. We know that he signed Fred Clarke in 1894, and we know a few others he nabbed before 1899 (Tommy Leach, for example), but other part owners did some birddogging of their own, and the team’s Secretary Harry Pulliam (later NL president) also did some of that work. Including signing Honus Wagner whom you may have heard of. So we go with what we know and have documented. Perhaps someday history will be kind enough to share more.

One more note, in seasons prior to the 1905, if there was no World Series, we’ve counted a pennant as a World Series victory because, after all, its the best a member of a given league could do.

Team Performance

  • NAME: * = member of the Hall of Miller and Eric
  • 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 VS PYPAT
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 .528 +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
DREYFUSS 2701-2101 .562 +28 0 N/A 6 +2.6 4 +1.7 +111 
FEENEY 1956-1655 .542 +64 0 -0.2 3 +0.3 1 -0.3 +14
FINLEY  1488-1577 .485 -17 5 +3.1 3 +1.4 3 +2.2 -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
VEECK 1025-1089 .485 -5 0 -0.7 2 +0.6 1 +0.3 -15
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

Dreyfus has an outstanding winning percentage, he was around forever, he created two dynasties twenty years apart, his teams were nearly always contenders, and he had great taste in managers. To the latter, he made Fred Clarke and Bill McKechnie among others managers for the Pirates. That’ll do ya.

Oddly, he won very games relative to our expectations given how great those teams were. Overall, the team performance under him indicates a very strong resume.

GM Performance

Now let’s look at how the GMs themselves did at constructing competitive clubs.

  • med% GOAL CONT: In a typical season, how close did the value he acquired get him to a contending team (defined as a .550 winning percentage)?
  • med% GOAL WS: In a typical season, how close did the value he acquired get him to a contending team (defined variably across time based on the typical winning percentage of the World Series entrant with the lower winning percentage)?
  • WAR IN: Inbound WAR from transactions (WAR always means BBREF WAR)
  • IN/162: How much WAR (current or future) acquired per season
  • WAR OUT: Outbound WAR from transactions
  • OUT/162: How much WAR (current or future) given away per season
  • IN/OUT: Ratio of Inbound WAR to Outbound WAR
GM PERFORMANCE
NAME med%GOAL CONT med%GOAL WS WAR IN IN/162 WAR OUT OUT/162 IN/OUT
BARROW* 119% 94% 1216 65 794 35 1.5
BAVASI 1 100% 88% 1106 39 674 24  1.6
BROWN 101% 81% 765 36 471 22 1.6
CAMPANIS 119% 90% 518 29 374 21 1.4
CAMPBELL 89% 68% 580 28 239 12 2.4
CASHEN 85% 61% 590 38 330 21 1.8
DALTON 84% 68% 733 29 354 14 2.1
DREYFUSS  94% 72% 1198 40 920 31 1.3
FEENEY 101% 66% 911 41 575 26 1.6
FINLEY 85% 74% 570 30 385 20 1.5
GILES 69% 55% 452 32 303 21 1.5
GILLICK* 107% 91% 978 37 371 14 2.6
GRIFFITH* 79% 60% 1087 30 832 23 1.3
HOWSAM 94% 53% 445 30 286 19 1.6
MACPHAIL1* 46% 36% 632 61 395 38 1.6
MACPHAIL2 69% 57% 632 46 332 24 1.9
O’CONNELL 91% 71% 559 47 253 21 2.2
QUINN 97% 72% 1318 50 711 27 1.9
RICKEY 78% 58% 1898 49 1040 27 1.8
SCHUERHOLZ* 105% 88% 817 32 339 13 2.4
VEECK 42% 41% 498 38 495 38 1.0
WEISS* 107% 67% 764 44 463 27 1.7
BAVASI 2 52% 47% 290 29 154 15  1.9
ROBINSON 73% 60% 264 29 129 14 2.1
SEGHI 72% 60% 323 28 272 24 1.2
SMITH 55% 47% 215 26 144 18 1.4

Dreyfus may have had history’s greatest eye for talent…but been one of the worst at holding onto it. While he signed the likes of Fred Clarke, Tommy Leach, Paul Waner, Babe Adams, Max Carey, and a host of others who paid long-term dividends to the Pirates, he also signed a whole of other great players, brought them up as 20 year olds (or close to it), gave up on them if they didn’t pan out quickly, and sold them elsewhere only to see them become outstanding players. This list will show you what I mean, and they represent only the ones who earned 20 WAR after departing the Burgh:

  • Joe Cronin: 0.1 IN / 66 OUT
  • Red Faber: 0 IN / 65 OUT
  • Cy Falkenberg: -0.9 IN / 22 OUT
  • Burleigh Grimes: 0 IN / 36 OUT
  • High Pockets Kelly: -0.4 IN / 27 OUT
  • Hans Lobert: -0.1 IN / 23 OUT
  • George McBride: 0.1 IN / 20 OUT
  • Sherry Smith: -0.4 IN / 27 OUT
  • Terry Turner: 0.1 IN / 39 OUT
  • Dazzy Vance: -0.2 IN / 60 OUT
  • Rube Waddell: 4.4 IN / 54 OUT

 

That’s nearly 450 WAR right there. You could make a world beater of a team out of just those guys. Now, to be fair, a lot of folks gave up on Dazzy Vance before he finally made it. And a lot of Falkenberg’s WAR came in the Federal League. But nonetheless, it’s an amazing collection of talent to give up on.

The other downside of Dreyfuss’ record is the mid-late 1910s. After their stupendous 1909 team won it all, the Pirates went into a long, slow decline. Not so bad at first, but they hung around and finally collapsed around the time Honus Wagner hung it up. Dreyfuss had been slow to transition the team out of the Wagner/Clarke/Leach generation and into the next one. The Grimes, Kelley, Vance, and Faber giveaways noted above really hurt because they all represented opportunities to make that transition. In the event, it took a while. But to his credit, Dreyfuss acquired the likes of KiKi Cuyler, the Waners, and Ray Kremer en route to a title in 1925 and a pennant in 1927.

Behind the scenes, Miller and I are slowly trying to unknot what a resume like this means. Dreyfuss’ hits and misses are hugely impressive in whichever way you want to think of it. Do the hits outweighs the misses? We just don’t know yet.

 

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