Of the 30 Teams in the MLB, 12 of the Managers are Former Catchers

Matt Blumberg cites a Harvard Business Review article:

Of the 30 teams in Major League baseball, 12 of the managers are former catchers.  A normal distribution would be 2 or 3.  Sounds like a case of a Gladwellian Outlier, doesn't it?  The authors explain their theory here…that catchers face their teammates, that they are closest to the competition, that they have to keep track of a lot of things at once, be psychiatrists to flailing pitchers, etc.  Essentially that the kind of person who is a successful catcher has all the qualities of a successful manager.

Catchers in baseball, by virtue of their physical place on the field and job description, are uniquely positioned to build the skills that later make them good managers of teams.

Matt advises businesspeople to identify similar types of "training ground" positions within their own organization, and to rotate high potential folks through those positions to build a leadership pipeline.

9 comments on “Of the 30 Teams in the MLB, 12 of the Managers are Former Catchers
  • I have not read the article but maybe catchers have a shorter career than others position´s players. So they star their coaching careers (manager´s path)earlier. Sounds like a big advantage.

  • I didn’t read the article, but I think I know a fair bit about baseball anyways. I’m not sure if I agree with the connection you’re making. Being a catcher requires the traits necessary to be a manager (the main one being that a catcher calls the game from the field); no other position does. So while it’s possible for other position players to become managers, it doesn’t happen as much due to simple probability. However, I think referring to catching as being a “training ground” of sorts is a bit spurious. That would imply a far greater distribution of catcher-managers than roughly 1 to 3 I would think.

  • Ben,

    I agree that catching is a sort of training ground. They are generally the smartest (baseball wise) player on the team. A premium is placed on their catching ability which includes baseball knowledge.

    From my own baseball experience, the catcher is always sort of a guy’s guy. He’s kind of a bruiser, but he’s also got the knowledge to earn respect from teammates and his players (i.e. Mike Scioscia and Joe Girardi).

  • I too know a fair bit about baseball, although I’m not a catcher. But I’ve been a pitcher for a long time and can provide some insight.

    Catching is, as Ben says, a unique position. I’d like to say that shortstops and pitchers are in the same boat, but it’s totally different. Sure, pitchers are in “control,” but catchers are calling the game. They can see the whole field, see the batter from up close, etc.

    I’d like to see which position is next on the list and if it’s statistically significant or not. Typically you put your most athletic guy at SS, so maybe those players tend to have a big head or something. And pitchers are just an odd breed. I’ll vouch for that.

  • you said “by virtue of their physical place on the field and job description, are uniquely positioned to build the skills that later make them good managers of teams.”

    Well, what nobody pointed out is that they’re in the only spot where they have to turn their head the least to see everything. So their physical position is such that they may literally see everything all the time, giving them a sense of the whole game/play.

    Successful managers are usually ones who see the big picture as well as themselves and others in relation to the big picture, not just their little fiefdom.

  • Technically left field, center field, and right field are different
    positions, no?

    You can¹t just exclude pitchers from the probability equation.

    I agree that cause/effect is not 100% clear ­ maybe the catchers had the
    leadership qualities that made them be catchers in the first place, rather
    than the position imparting upon them the critical skills. It¹s probably a
    little both.

  • *Insert politically incorrect comment warning here

    My guess is that catchers have one of the most mentally challenging positions, don’t have need a for foot speed, but need a strong upper body. Generally, in professional sports, this fits white very well. Another example, offensive linemen.

    So what would be interesting to see is if there is a relationship between baseball position and race. (Hint: there is.)

    Sailer writes about this.


  • As a former collegiate catcher, let me shine some light on the parallels between the catcher position and leadership.

    1)Accountability – Fact: pitchers are crazy. And left handed pitchers are insane. Ask any big league ball player and they will agree (unless they are a pitcher of course). The catcher therefore takes full responsibility for ensuring that the pitcher stays composed, throws strikes (to maintain momentum), and keeps a demeanor that is both intimidating and focused without their craziness getting in the way. Just like a coach will maintain responsibility over wins and losses, they take responsibly for the outcomes of a pitcher’s outing.

    2)Competency – the catcher knows who he’s facing and their weaknesses, the situation of the game, what pitches the pitcher is throwing well, where their teammates should be playing on the field (if the batter is a pull hitter etc), how to correct each pitchers mistakes, and oh by the way, they have to hit too! Every catcher will tell you they have a million things that have to be aware of at any given time.

    3)Humility – the catcher never takes credit for a successful game. How many of us remember a pitcher who threw a no hit game? How many of us remember the catchers who caught no hit games?

    I can go on and on but I’ll leave it there. By the way, catchers actually have the quickest feet on the field. Did you know that catchers have to get the ball to 2nd base from the time it hits their glove to the time it hits the middle infielder’s glove (called pop to pop time) in 2.0 seconds or less? Think about that one… that comes from exceptionally quick feet. They get a reputation for being “slow” because they squat for 3-4 hours a day for 162 days a year. Try it and then see how fast you can run to first base!

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