As a scientist in our day job, we reach our apex of nerddome every Tuesday when we rush to the newspaper stand to get our copy of the New York Times and their weekly “Science” section.
So color us surprised yesterday when we see that one of the feature stories in the Science Times is a story in which a researcher used Chernoff Faces to evaluate the managerial styles of every major league manager including Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Aside from won-lost records, few metrics quantify what these men actually do and the tendencies they exhibit. But an associate professor of statistics at Swarthmore College is trying to set that right, quite literally putting a face on managerial performance.
The mathematician, Steve C. Wang, applied a method called Chernoff faces, in which data points in many dimensions are presented in a form that people react to more intuitively: the human face.
Aside from the bizarre and humorous image of each managers style portrayed as a caricature, there are some really neat revelations that come to light once you orient yourself to what the different patterns represent.
- We can see that Maddon is fairly close to league averages for most categories based on the size of the face, hair, eyes and nose.
- The only two categories in which Papa Joe deviates significantly from league averages are the use of sacrifice bunts (he doesn’t) and the use of pinch-hitters (he rarely does). The latter may be explained by the amount of speed already inherent in the Rays starting lineup.
And finally here is Maddon as compared to Mike Scioscia, under whom Maddon served as a bench coach.
As you can see there are definitely some strong similarities in the styles of the two managers. The most telling differences is the more frequent usage of pinch-hitters by Scioscia (face width), the increased usage of different lineups and hit-and-runs (eye size) and the usage of strong platoon matchups (hair size). On the other hand, steal attempts, pinch-runners and sacrifice bunts are nearly identical.
One feature we wish they would have included was glasses. Papa Joe’s would certainly be “rose-colored”.
Professor Puts a Face on the Performance of Baseball Managers [New York Times]