The Baseball Hall of Fame recently announced their 2014 Veterans' ballot. A week or so ago, I took a look at seven people on the ballot
whose Hall-of-Fame case rests at least in part on their record as a player.
As I noted in my article on Joe Torre
, I calculate Player
won-lost records, so I don't necessarily have much to say about managers. But one of the other managers on this year's Hall-of-Fame ballot is interesting enough that I thought I'd at least try: Billy Martin. The SABR BioProject has a very good biography of Billy Martin
Billy Martin actually had a fairly long and respectable playing career, not enough to make much difference in his Hall-of-Fame case, but it was still worth noting. So, just because, the first table below presents Billy Martin's
career as measured by Player won-lost records.
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
| ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ |
|CAREER (reg. season)|| || |
| || || || ------ || ------ || ------ || || || || ------ || ------ || || || |
|PostSeason (career)|| || |
|3.7||3.0||0.555|| ||0.7||3.6||2.9||0.550|| ||0.6|
| || || || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || || ------ || ------ || ------ || ------ || || ------ |
|COMBINED|| || |
Billy Martin the Manager: Turnaround Specialist
Of course, Billy Martin is not on this year's Hall-of-Fame ballot because he was a league-average second baseman in the 1950s
. He's on the Hall-of-Fame ballot because of his managerial career.
Billy Martin managed for five different franchises. For all five of them, he took over a team that had a losing record the season before he got there and managed them to a winning season his first full year.
The 1968 Minnesota Twins
went 79-83 (after three straight winning seasons). Billy Martin took over in 1969 and the Twins
won 97 games and the first American League West Division title. That was Martin's only season in Minnesota.
Meanwhile, the 1970 Detroit Tigers
were finishing 79-83, after six straight winning seasons. The next season, they hired Martin as their manager and promptly won 91 games
. Martin lasted most of the next two seasons with the Tigers, but was fired late in the 1973 season.
Martin didn't stay out of work long, though, as the Texas Rangers
hired him to finish out a 57-105 season. There wasn't much that Martin could do that season, but in 1974
, the Rangers won 84 games. Martin was fired in the middle of the 1975 season.
He then took over the Yankees in mid-season of 1975, before being fired in 1978, re-hired in 1979, and then fired again. Because this didn't include him taking over a new team essentially to start a new season, we'll set this part of Martin's record aside for now.
Meanwhile, Charlie Finley had sold off his three-time World Championship team
and the Oakland A's bottomed out in 1979 with a record of 54-108
. In came Billy Martin to the rescue in 1980 and, true to form, his A's team
won 83 games. Also true to form, Billy Martin was looking for work again at the end of the 1982 season (although his three consecutive full seasons in Oakland was a first).
Meanwhile, the Yankees had fallen on hard times with the 1982 Yankees
going 79-83. For the third time in his career, Martin took over a team that had gone 79-83 the year before, and for the third time, led them to over 90 wins the next season, as the 1983 Yankees
won 91 games.
Five teams: an average record of 70-92 the season before Martin came (setting aside Martin's 23-game stint with the '73 Rangers
). The same five teams the next season with Martin at the helm: an average record of 89-73. They all had losing records before Martin; they all had winning records with Martin. They all improved by at least 12 games with an average improvement of 19 games.
That's a stunning record. So, how exactly did he do it?
The rest of this article compares the Player won-lost records of these teams before Martin came along to the same teams in Martin's first season as their manager.
The first table compares aggregate Player won-lost records in
Martin took over teams that under-performed their context-neutral performances (by about 7 games) and got them to out-perform their context-neutral performance (by about 4 games). But even controlling for context, the players on Martin's teams were about 9 wins better than the same teams had been the year before.
The rest of this article looks exclusively at context-neutral
Player won-lost records.
The next table compares the four basic factors: batting, baserunning, pitching, and fielding.
Martin's teams improved in all four aspects, although barely in baserunning. Only one of Martin's teams did not improve in pitching (the Yankees
) while all five of his teams improved in batting and fielding. On average, the biggest improvement came in batting where Martin's teams improved by almost 9 net wins.
Finally, the next table looks at (context-neutral
) results by position. Because of space considerations, only averages with and without Martin are shown here by position.
||Average before Martin
||Average with Martin
Again, the improvement brought by Billy Martin was broad-based. The only position at which Martin's teams did not see any improvement was second base. Gains were also somewhat minimal at catcher, center field, and in the bullpen.
In terms of pitching, the improvement from Martin came exclusively from the starting pitching. The most famous example of this is the 1980 Oakland A's
who completed 94 games, 53 more than the year before
and 46 more than the second-most by any AL team in 1980
. The A's were the most extreme example, but 4 of the 5 teams being considered here increased their complete games by at least 20. Only in Martin's first stop
did his team's starting pitchers complete fewer games than before he got there.
In terms of position players, Martin's teams tended to see the most improvement at the corner positions: the offense-first positions, first & third base and left & right field. Much of this was a willingness to play and benefit from improvement from young players - e.g., Mike Hargrove
and Lenny Randle
had their first chance as starters for the 1974 Texas Rangers
, the corner outfielders for the 1980 Oakland A's
were 21-year-old Rickey Henderson
and 26-year-old Tony Armas
, the latter of whom played 40 games more than his previous career high. Martin was also willing to push players defensively to get another big bat in the lineup: for example, Harmon Killebrew
played more third base than first base in 1969 for the first time since 1959, which opened up more playing time for Rich Reese
, who had an OPS of .875 (OPS+ of 139
) in 1969.
To be honest, trying to look for common denominators on the teams that Martin took over are a little hard to find, other than the obvious one: when Billy Martin took over a team, it got better - a lot better, in a lot of ways.
All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.
List of Articles