Friday, April 24, 2009

Today in Improve Relief Pitcher Usage

Last night Joe Torre used Jonathan Broxton to record a five-out save. Torre brought Broxton into the game to preserve a 2-0 lead, with speedster Michael Bourn on first base and Hunter Pence at the plate to pinch hit. Pence, a righty, would face a platoon advantage over the Dodgers traditional 8th inning pitcher, Hong-Chi Kuo, leaving Torre with a choice between Broxton and weaker right-handed options. Under these circumstances, where one good swing leads to a tie game, the correct decision is to use the most effective pitcher available, regardless of his pre-defined role. Torre's decision is bad for fantasy owners (as Broxton is probably unavailable to pitch tonight, or if he does, will certainly be unavailable on Saturday) but he's not in the business of pleasing them.

Elsewhere, I continue to be puzzled by the rising trend of teams carrying twelve and thirteen man pitching staffs, especially in the American league. With 13 pitchers, teams can only carry a starting 8, a backup catcher, an a measly three fielding substitutes. This almost requires the designated hitter to be someone who can at least passibly play one position in the field; to wit, only Cleveland, Chicago, Boston, and to a lesser extent Oakland carry a full-time DH. The continuing obsession with the 100 pitch limit at the decline of multi-inning relievers has reached the point where it impacts the offensive side of the equation. Some day, an inventive American League GM will go back to the four-man rotation (while reducing the number of 110+-pitch outings seem to have improved pitcher health and effectiveness, the extra day of rest does not) and bring back the long relief man, making even a DH Platoon a possibility. But that day seems to be far in the future.


Arbitrista said...

Damn I hate the AL. Stupid DH.....

dr said...

It might, to some extent, be an artifact of the time of year. A lot of managers like to keep pitch counts low in April and May while their pitchers are rounding into form, and that means they need more arms.

low-tech cyclist said...

This trend has been driving me nuts for years. During the 1960s and 1970s, the norm was 15 everyday players and 10 pitchers, +/- 1. Hell, I remember awhile during the 1978 season when Earl Weaver had an 8-man staff. And the Earl of Baltimore got 90 wins from his club that year.

It's been especially agonizing as a Nats fan: during their brief existence, they've had a plethora of starters who usually had to be lifted in the fifth or sixth. What you need in a situation like that is a long man - someone who can step in and pitch through the eighth or ninth, depending on whether it makes sense to bring in the closer.

Instead, they'd typically use four relievers to finish up the game. That's just crazy.

If the starter's only gonna pitch into the sixth anyway, make your fifth starter into a long man, and go with a four-man rotation.