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.
- 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.
|NAME||RECORD||PCT.||VS EXP||OCT||OCT VS EXP||WS APP||WS APP VS EXP||WS WINS||WS WINS VS EXP||VS PYPAT|
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.
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
|NAME||med%GOAL CONT||med%GOAL WS||WAR IN||IN/162||WAR OUT||OUT/162||IN/OUT|
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.