Commentary

Do managers matter?

When it comes to evaluating managers, there's little sound statistical evidence

Originally Published: September 5, 2013
By Peter Keating | ESPN The Magazine

peter keatingMark Smith for ESPNFor years, statheads have screamed at sports writers that managers don't matter.

UNTIL JUNE 22 of this year, the nation's sports writers tripped all over themselves to excuse Don Mattingly's managerial record -- a mediocre 198-197 to that date. "Mattingly has proven to be a victim of circumstance" was one typical take. Then LA ripped off 42 wins in 50 games, and the same pundits started talking up Mattingly for NL Manager of the Year. This kind of thing drives me bonkers. If Mattingly wasn't to blame when the Dodgers failed to meet expectations, why does he deserve so much credit for vaulting them into first place? It is recency bias and a man crush, not sound statistical judgment.

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.