Bill James: Davey Johnson's already in the Hall

Patrick McDermott

A few weeks ago, I was wondering if Davey Johnson had already done enough to get into the Hall of Fame someday, and so I took a quick-and-dirty look at all the Hall of Fame managers. What I discovered was that every manager with at least 1,900 wins -- well, actually 1,896 if you want to get precise about it -- is either a Hall of Famer or will be ... with the exception of Gene Mauch, who lost more games than he won.

But that information doesn't really tell us anything about Johnson's candidacy, because he's still south of 1,300 wins and he just turned 70; he's probably not getting to 1,900 before calling it quits. As it happens, there are only nine Hall of Fame managers comparable to Johnson, which makes it fairly simple to evaluate his current qualifications. My conclusion?

Gun to my head? Yes, Davey Johnson does wind up in the Hall of Fame. But another good year or two might really help, and a second World Series would really help. Hey, why not? Seventy's the new 60.

Well, since I wrote that, Bill James has taken this to a completely different level. In a three-part (subscribers-only) series over at Bill James Online, he outlined -- as far as I know, for the first time anywhere -- exactly what makes a Hall of Fame manager. Essentially, Bill concludes that there are only five things that really matter:

a) Winning games,

b) Winning a high percentage of your games,

c) Winning championships,

d) Winning the World Series, and

e) Having teams that exceed reasonable expectations.

The first four you probably could have figured out for yourself, but the last one escaped me. It seems that managing a team to more wins than expected should be worth something, but I didn't figure it actually has been. Nice to know the voters do occasionally pay attention.

Anyway, Bill comes up with a points system (yes, I was shocked too): The baseline for a good candidate is 100 points. By that standard, Bill suggests (as I have) that Whitey Herzog didn't really meet the Hall of Fame standards, and that Wilbert Robinson was a silly sort of selection. Finally getting to the point of this little exercise, I present the salient point in Bill's concluding essay:

Of the 30 major league managers, I would say that there are 13 who would seem to have some credibility as Hall of Fame candidates, although there is only one who I think is a fully qualified Hall of Famer at this point. That one is Davey Johnson.

Johnson scores at 108 points in Bill's system. Among the current guys, there are three others who are actually in pretty good shape: Dusty Baker (94 points), Jim Leyland (93) and Mike Scioscia (91). Just spitballing here, but it would be really nifty if would add these numbers to their manager register. Otherwise it's going to be really hard to keep track of Baker's long march to Cooperstown...

For much more about Davey Johnson and his team, please visit SB Nation's Federal Baseball.


Gotta say

I’m a little surprised Bochy isn’t higher. I don’t have a subscription, and I won’t be getting one just to find this out, but I do wonder what his points are.

I think the only one of those 5 things up there that he was bad on was a high percentage of won games. He should reach 1500 games won this season, and is above .500 as a manager. Plus, he’s won 3 pennants and 2 World Series. You can’t tell me that his teams haven’t exceeded expectations (See 2010 and 2012, when no one thought they’d win the WS). All those bad teams with the Padres must be what’s hurting him, but I’m just surprised his score wasn’t higher, at least he wasn’t one of the three you listed as having a good chance.

He's not merely over .500

He’s .564. That’s 10th all-time, given a minimum win criterion of 1000.

The only manager above Davey not in the Hall as a manager is Cap Anson (.578), and he’s in as a player (he was really a player-manager for most of his career).

Sorry, reading comprehension fail

I was talking about Davey. Bochy is .502, but he’ll have a very fair crack at the Hall too based on pennants.

You mean BRUCE Bochy right?.....seriously?

If playing grizzly gamery veterans over better young players was one of the categories, Bochy would score 4 katrillion on this points system. Bochy has been blessed with great pitching in San Francisco, much more than he’s a good manager.

Chris Jaffe's book from a few years ago gave a lot of credit to Bochy for outperforming his roster

That’s been vindicated by his championships.

I imagine that Bochy is well on his way to Cooperstown. Another five or so more years gets him to the wins threshold mentioned in the article. A “decline phase” of a couple more postseason appearances should do it.

Davey Johnson already belongs in the Hall

would be a much nicer, and correct, title for the article, since he is not in fact already in the Hall, regardless of what Bill or anyone else says.

Does anyone who has a subscription know how James calculated "exceeded reasonable expectations?"

It's gotta be wins above Pythag, right?

It's expectations before the season

It’s not wins above Pythag, which would measure whether a team was run -efficient, more of a reasonable expectations at start of season based on weighted recent years results, regressed somewhat to the mean (weights the last 2 years, I think, with last year higher than previous, plus a .500 weighting). Measures the surprise results, for example when Davey took the 84 Mets, who hadn’t been .500 since ’76, to 90 wins (also a strong Pythag performance that year)

They vastly outperformed their Pythag in '84

They scored 25 less runs than they allowed. They should have been a 78-84 by their Pythag but instead pulled a 90 win season out of their asses.

whoah, huge coincidence there.

i didn’t realize that there are two managers named ‘dusty baker.’ that’s the only possible explanation for suggesting that someone by that name might make the hall of fame…the ‘dusty baker’ that i’m familiar with shouldn’t get anywhere NEAR it.

How dare you

The Dusty Baker I’m familiar with should be able to buy a ticket just like anyone else. He would then be free to tour the museum and insert-in his mind—the pitchers who would be in there had he not been their manager.

I know this is a treasured meme,

and I know Will Carroll’s PAP stat paints him in a bad light, but is there actually evidence that more pitchers have blown out on his watch than other managers?

I can't agree more

Dusty Baker is the opposite of what a HOF manager should be. If there was any justice, then Mister Clog Up The Basepaths would end his days as a reviled big box store greeter.

Curious about a few managers

Joe Torre – I assume he’s in?
Were’s Showalter? Does he have any prayer?
…wonder if Maddon is on his way
….would Girardi get in if he stays with the Yankees enough

Torre's in.

Maddon and Girardi both have a long ways to go, and it’s tougher for Maddon because he got a relatively late start. Showalter’s got 51 points, behind Manuel (74), Bochy (68), Francona (59) and even Gardenhire (55).

What about Jim Leyland?

He was

listed in the article as having 93 points.

View All Comments
Back to top ↑