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BP's Best And Worst GM's of the Decade: Where's Beane?

It seems that perhaps Billy Beane's magic touch has suffered slightly since the 2006 season (well, perhaps up until yesterday's signing of Ben Sheets--see Blez' article here), but is that enough to discount the rest of the decade? How does Beane measure up with other GM's? Can he be in the running for first place without a World Series title? I thought this Baseball Prospectus article did a nice job of explaining what they have dubbed PER--Payroll Efficiency Rating--which allows GM's to be ranked statistically in their own right, over the course of the decade.

For me, this is a lot of fun, but as a refresher, here's how these rankings are calculated. First, we find each team's expected revenue, based on their third-order winning percentage, and how big their market is. Then, you divide that by what each team's marginal revenue should have been, had they won exactly as many games as their payroll would have predicted. (Draft pick value is also factored in, so the worst teams get slightly more credit than the vanilla mediocre teams.) The end result is PER—Payroll Efficiency Rating—which tells us how well each team spent their payroll dollars.

To run through a quick example, the Rockies spent $75 million on payroll last year, a bit below average. That should have led to around 79 wins, which, given their local market, would have created around $41 million in marginal revenue. But the Rockies actually had 90 third-order wins, which likely created somewhere around $58 million. Divide the two, and you get a 1.43 PER. Since 1.00 is average, we can say the Rockies' front office performed 43 percent better than average in 2009.

With a few exceptions, the software basically confirms what we already think; if you were to list the best and worst GM's of the 2000's off the top of your head, chances are you would come close to the rankings. As Shawn Hoffman states in the article; most of the GM's would have made your list whether you were "objective, subjective, or otherwise".

So, who would you rank as the best and worst GM's of the decade?

If you are a BP subscriber, you will see the entire list of PER rankings (and individual year rankings, as well). I'm giving the top three and the bottom three for discussion, with a quick caveat that the fourth worst GM on this list is Brian Cashman, who had a lot of decisions made out of his hands. BP explains this odd ranking:

The only name that doesn't fit here is Cashman. The Yankees made a lot of mistakes this past decade, and it's not totally clear which of those were his and which were George Steinbrenner's. But it's pretty easy to look at that list and pick the one that doesn't go with all the others. We'll probably have to wait another five years to really judge him on his merits, but there's already been significant progress -- the Yankees are spending much less now than they did earlier in the decade (after you adjust for baseball inflation), and they just fielded their best team since 1998.

Let's get on with it: Who makes the cuts?

Worst:

3) Syd Thrift - Baltimore Orioles (2000-2002) - Thrift returned to baseball in 1999 (he was the GM of the Pirates in the 80's and I believe he also scouted for the A's) to become the GM of the Orioles, and things did not go well for the Birds. From Syd Thrift's Reign of Error: "He oversaw the franchise further descent into absolute suckitude."

2) Bill Bavasi - Seattle Mariners (2004-2008) - Bavasi was at the helm of one of the A's AL West rivals during two of the A's playoff runs in the 2000's. He is credited with the following: "At mid year of the 2008 season, Bavasi could have been the first general manager in the history of the MLB to have a 100 loss season with a 100 million dollar payroll, which was unprecedented in not only MLB, but sports history."

1) Steve Phillips - NY Mets (2000-2003) - In addition to his very public off-field exploits, which have currently derailed his baseball career, Phillips is best known for "acquiring aging and ineffective players with large contracts" during his stint as the Mets' GM.

Best:

3) Pat Gillick - Seattle Mariners (2000-2003), Philadelphia Phillies (2006-2008) - Gillick, who also managed successful Blue Jays teams in the 80's and early 90's, and led the Orioles to two playoff spots in the late 90's, has the unique distinction of GM'ing two other teams in the last decade. He led the Mariners to the first back-to-back postseason appearances in club history in 2000-01 (and also traded Ken Griffey, Jr.), and most recently led the Phillies to their 2008 World Series win. Not a bad resume, all in all.


2) Andrew Friedman - Tampa Bay Rays (2006-2009) - Friedman all but singlehandedly turned a club with eight losing seasons in its first eight years into a force to be reckoned with in the powerhouse AL East. (And if you want to feel old? Friedman is one month younger than yours truly.)

Now, believe it or not, the GM with the highest PER ranking of the last decade is none other than...


1) Billy Beane - Oakland Athletics (2000-09) - Beane took over the Oakland A's after a payroll cut, and crafted team after successful team; sending the A's to the playoffs almost every year during the first half of the decade. Much of the weight of this ranking obviously rests on 2000-2003; Beane won the individual PER ranking in all of these years.

It will be interesting to reevaluate Beane's performance with the A's after all has been said and done. If you write off 2007-2009 as "rebuilding", and look at 2010 as a chance to at least get the team back to .500 (and I think the pitching is definitely there), who knows what 2011-2012 has in store for Beane and the A's?

So let's hear it! Do you agree with the rankings? Would you trade GM's, if you could? What do you wish Beane had done differently during the decade? What was his best move? Do you think the A's are building up to be a strong AL West contender in the future?

And...hi, Ben Sheets! You can join Duchscherer in this little bubble we have made for you here.