If you haven’t heard by now, the Cleveland Indians have made their most important move of the off-season, signing manager Terry Francona to a contract extension through the 2018 season. The extension also comes with two team options for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. If all his options are picked up that means Francona will have spent the same amount of time managing the Indians as he did with the Boston Red Sox (8 seasons). It is unknown if Francona has a stipulation where, if Mark Shapiro or Chris Antonetti are fired, he can opt out of the deal, but it is assumed so. The contract extension signals that the Indians are committed to winning for the next couple seasons, because as Nick Swisher has stated, “You don’t bring a guy like this over here if you don’t plan on winning.”
It’s tough to quantify how good a manager is, obviously the only statistic you can use is wins and loses. However, there is a statistic called “Pythagorean winning percentage”, as baseball-reference.com describes it, “Pythagorean winning percentage is an estimate of a team’s winning percentage given their runs scored and runs allowed. Developed by Bill James, it can tell you when teams were a bit lucky or unlucky.” Over Francona’s two seasons managing the Indians, he has a record of 177-145, but his expected record, according to Pythagorean winning percentage, is 173-151. Meaning that Francona (while maybe not directly) has given the Indians an average boost of 2 wins per season. If you go back further, and look at his Boston days, he has a record of 744-552, but a pythagorean record of 738-558, a difference of 6 total wins. While that might add up to less than a win over his 8 seasons in Boston, how do you explain him winning two World Series with a team that hadn’t won one since 1918?
Looking at a previous Indians manager, Eric Wedge, and his Pythagorean win percentage, in 7 seasons with the Indians, Wedge had a record of 562-573, however his Pythagorean record was 588-546. A staggering difference of 26 wins, or an average of a little under 4 wins a season. Just imagine if Francona had been around with the likes of Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, C. C. Sabathia, or Cliff Lee. Those Indians teams from 2004-2008 had far more talent on them than the current roster, yet they always underachieved.
There is no denying the greatness of Terry Francona. Had Francona not come along in the winter of 2012, the Indians would have never signed Nick Swisher or Michael Bourn, both highly sought after free agents at the time. Francona has brought a winning attitude to the clubhouse, he engineered a 24 win turnaround in one season as the Tribe’s manager, and was named the AL Manager of the year. John Farrell won the World Series with the Red Sox in 2013, but ask any of their fans and I guarantee that they’d rather have Terry Francona. One of the most respected guys in baseball, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, Terry Francona is the Indians’ MVP.
— Chris Sladoje (@CST_Doje)
Photo via cleveland.cbslocal.com