AL Manager of the Year voters faced the deepest field of candidates of any of the major awards. Several managers merited serious consideration. Despite the closeness of the competition, voters nailed the winner and runner-up.
Their down-ballot work – spots three through six – was somewhat more problematic. But the only true error was a trivial one, giving Yankee manager Aaron Boone four votes and a fifth place finish he didn’t deserve.
Terry Francona’s work in walking away with a third Manager of the Year Award – he won in 2013 and 2016 – gave him the upper hand over the also-deserving Brandon Hyde. Francona took a team of lightly regarded non-stars and by season’s end had them playing like a scourge of gnats. At 92-70 the Guardians walked away with the AL Central by 11 games, playing .800 ball (24-6) after Sept. 4.
Some managers despair when they have to break in more than one rookie per season. Francona melded 17 first-year players into his championship unit.
The Pythagorean data supports Francona’s selection. The Guardians’ 92 victories were four more than the data says they should have won. Only one other manager drove his team to beat the Pythagorean data by as many as four games, and that manager was the guy who ran second to Francona.
In many seasons, what Hyde did with the Orioles would have won the hearts and minds of most if not all MLB voters. Unanimous selections for another season in the AL East cellar, Hyde’s Orioles won 83 games – that’s 29 more than a season ago – and gave the city its first winning team since 2016.
You could quibble with the choice of Mariners manager Scott Servais as second runner-up. Seattle reached post-season play for the first time since 2001, but a good share of the credit for that achievement probably ought to have gone to GM Jerry DiPoto’s personnel decisions.
The Pythagorean case for Servais’ work was flat neutral. The Mariners won 90 games, exactly the number their on-field showing says they should have won.
Probably the two most overlooked AL managers both worked in the AL Central. It was a disappointing season on Chicago’s South Side, where Tony LaRussa labored until his health broke down to kick-start the favored White Sox. Still, it’s fair to note that as disappointing as Chicago’s season was, the Sox did out-perform their numbers by three games. LaRussa may have been doing something right.
The same is true of A.J. Hinch in Detroit. His Tigers went only 66-96, but the data says that was three games better than the Tigers should have played. Like LaRussa, Hinch got no love from MLB voters.