Interlude: Bobby’s bullpen management

I’ve gone through the bullpen mainstays, and I’m really not up to tackling Manny Acosta right now. So let’s talk bullpen management. Last year (this stat is from the Bill James Handbook) Bobby was the manager most likely to use a pitcher on consecutive days. I think we all knew that, instinctively, but it’s been confirmed.

Here’s the thing; this was the second consecutive season in which this was the case, but Bobby’s total relievers used went down from a league-leading 545 to a more normal 488. This is, no doubt, due to the much stronger starting rotation. Basically, the appearances by the back of the bullpen were shrunk as the starters took their innings, but Bobby piled on his top relievers more than ever. The list of most-used relievers in the majors was dominated by Braves, as Moylan, Gonzalez, O’Flaherty, and Soriano were all in the top ten in appearances. However, the next-most used reliever was Acosta, who tied for 188th, and had only one more outing than the most prolific starters.

Piling appearances on your best relievers makes sense, especially in a pennant race… but all of the top four except O’Flaherty were injury concerns coming in. On the other hand, since the Braves didn’t control Soriano’s or Gonzalez’s rights (or at least didn’t think that they did) using them hard is, if a bit cynical, arguably correct.

Off-topic, Bobby also led the majors in sacrifice bunt attempts and in pinch-runners used. This probably reflects the early season when the Braves were having such trouble scoring even though the offense didn’t seem like it should be so bad. The 125 sacrifice bunt attempts were a career high; it marked the third time, but the first since 2000, that Bobby led in sac bunts called. He actually only called for 37 pinch-runners, but the bench shortages caused by bloated bullpens have changed the standards. Bobby’s led the league in pinch runners six times now, but in previous years that always required a number in the fifties — except for 2000, when he used a remarkable 72 pinch-runners.

The good news is that he managed to control, somewhat, his penchant for calling for intentional walks. In 2007 he called for 89 and in 2008 80, both league-leading totals. Last year, he held it to more normal 59. Again, this is probably a reflection of better pitching rather than a paradigm change… BIS keeps track of the results of intentional walks, and as you’d expect they backfire a good bit. In 2007, Bobby called for so many IBB that he led in all of their categories — “good” results, “bad” results, and “bombs”. In 2008, he led in the latter two. He just called too many of the damned things, so they were bound to backfire.

54 thoughts on “Interlude: Bobby’s bullpen management”

  1. Well, with Wagner only signed for one year (I think he has a team option for 2011), then will he hit the top 10 in appearences? I wouldn’t be surprised.

    Of course, Wagner may have the chops to tell Cox that he’s not available tonight also. I doubt Gonzo or Soriano could have gotten away with that, but when you’re pushing 400 career saves you can get away with a lot of things other pitchers can’t.

  2. Wagner has an option. Is there that much more risk with Wagner/Saito over Gonzo/Soriano? I dont believe there is a significant difference

  3. After last year? No, I think there’s a significant chance that both of our guys from last year have arm trouble.

    That’s just me, though. Take it for what it’s worth.

  4. Wellp, looks like I’m following it on Twitter again. Not having my MLB.tv subscription is really breakin my balls the past couple days.

    Heyward HBP his first at bat apparently.

  5. @8

    I have. Not too bad. Cheap and they fly to small airports. They have raffles on the flight.

    The engines are on the tail, so sitting in the back is kind of loud.

  6. The biggest issue for the pen last year was that only Soriano and Moylan could consistently throw the ball over the plate. On good nights Gonzo and O’Flarety did really well, both has the bad habit of pitching behind in the count. Of course they were the only 4 the braves had. Acosta and Bennett stunk and Campillo was hurt (and stunk).

    The braves management has to know how Cox likes to use the pen and should have spent a little more money on the pen for an extra arm last year. I think it would been worth 3-5 extra wins.

    I give Wren some credit, he did try to get more numbers out there. I don’t know if the back end is as good, but the middle has a chance to be better. (It better, because Wagner and Saito won’t last if BC uses them like he did Soriano and Gonzo.)

  7. Sending Heyward down for 10 days to start the season is absolutely the correct move, and we should expect it. It would be a fail to do otherwise. Mr. Hjort has a nice breakdown of this from a few weeks ago at capitalavenueclub.com: http://capitolavenueclub.com/?p=1892

    There’s not a definite correct answer. But the likelihood of Heyward being more valuable to the Braves for 10 days this season, instead of for the entire 2016 season when he’ll be hitting his prime is so inverse that I don’t see a good argument for doing otherwise.

    So I think we’re looking at the weekend series vs the Rockies around April 15/16 in Atlanta before we get to see Hanson and Heyward in the same game (a series that I really hope the Braves win. If the Rockies don’t win the West, they seem the biggest threat to deny Atlanta the Wild Card).

  8. I was looking around the internet today, and I just wanna brag on myself a little bit, and pick on the Mets at the same time. The Rangers have a righty reliever named Darren O’Day, who pitched for Bishop Kenny HS in Jacksonville. My freshman year, I got called up to varsity for the last week of the season (which at the time sucked but is cool looking back). He had a sub-1 ERA as a starter, and we absolutely lit him up in the first round of the regional playoffs and chased in the first inning. Our left fielder was hurt, so I got the start that game and actually got a RBI single off him. I’m done bragging.

    Anyway, he pitched fairly well for Anaheim in 2008, and then got picked up in the Rule V by the Mets. The Mets had to make room for The Nelson Figueroa in May, so they designated him for assignment and the Rangers picked him. He then threw 60 innings for them and had a 1.84 ERA, while the Mets bullpen sucked. The Hardball Times wrote an article about it and listed all the pitchers who held a roster spot instead of O’Day, and it’s a pretty comical list. I just thought that was an interesting story that makes the Mets once again look like idiots.

  9. if the braves start heyward in the majors, i bet they approach him with a long-term deal relatively quick. 6-7yr,/50 million?

  10. @14 – Rob, maybe the Mets were scouting that day your freshman year and you (you, sir) are responsible for the Mets having lost him to the Rangers.

  11. what does the 10 days help the Braves with? I thought he’d have to miss the first two months to aviod super 2

  12. csg,

    There are two different issues.

    One is what counts as a year toward the 6 before free agency. It is a very short and small (I couldn’t have said 10 days, but that sounds right) that makes this year a partial year so as to leave 6 full years.

    Then as a protection or chip to players who barely miss the full year, there is a thing called “Super 2” which applies to the 17% of players with the most service time (among 2 year players). They get arbitration after their second year. To avoid “Super Two” Heyward would have to stay down until early June.

    So if Heyward is down for 2 weeks or so, he gets prorated 400,000 this year; 400,000 for 2 years; then 4 arb years.

    If Heyward is down for 60 days or so, he gets prorated 400,000 for this year; then $400,000 for 3 years; then, 3 arb years.

    If Heyward is up on day 1 it is 400,000 for 3 years and then 3 arb years.

  13. That’s a really tough decision for the Braves. If you wait two months, that could really hurt us this season, but in 2016 (wherever we’re at then), it could prevent us from perhaps landing a free agent we could really need. Plus, who’s to say Melky can’t give us what we’ll get from Heyward during his first two months? The two months in AAA could really help him hit the track running against ML pitching.

  14. Mac,
    O’Flaherty could have been classified as an injury risk. He was supposedly hurt most of 2008, though I don’t know a lot about the nature of his injury.

  15. Rob,

    I think their reasoning may have been “Well, if that lousy freshman Cope can hit him, how good can he be?”

    Actually, that’s a pretty cool story. Who are you coaching for now?

  16. From the BP article Mac linked above…

    “About as likely as…the Royals acquiring a hitter with an OBP over .319….it just isn’t bloodly likely.”

    Ouch! :lol:

  17. I coach Calvary Christian High School in Clearwater, FL. We’re 2A in the FHSAA. And we’re on the move…

  18. Coaching baseball in Clearwater, Florida – pretty close to heaven on earth.

    If you wish, post your team’s website so we can follow you.

  19. Rob,

    Are either Aaron Watson or Zack Wolfe any good? And congratulations on your first win with Calvary!

  20. This quote from Ed Price (AOL Fanhouse) on Twitter was priceless:

    “And instead of “ANDERSON” on jersey, they can put “EFFORT” RT @dylanohernandez: Garret Anderson will wear No. 00.”

  21. Mets’ Jose Reyes out, for now, with an “overactive thyroid.”

    If it weren’t for bad luck, they’d have no luck at all.

  22. Aaron Watson and Zack Wolfe are strong players. Wolfe is a lefty starting pitcher/right fielder, but has injury problems. Watson is a righty starting pitcher/first baseman, but he is also very committed to golf and is looking to play golf in college. The best player on our team is our catcher Jeff Johnson who has committed to play D-II for Cedarville.

  23. Any of you happen to know why that At Bat app for iphone and touch went up to $15 this year? I figure it’s just because they can charge more…

  24. @37 – I don’t know. But I just paid that much to get it on my Droid. Totally worth it. I can listen to games all day while at work.

  25. Joe Thurston pauses on the base paths to watch Freeman’s three-run jack, and Freeman passes him and is called out. Sigh.

  26. I don’t know if the Braves are still running a kangaroo court but either way Freeman (and Thurston to a lesser extent) is going to be hearing about that one for a long, long time.

  27. I feel like this game would’ve made for an extraordinarily entertaining recap. There was so much nonsense going on the entire time it seems like.

  28. Only in Spring Training do your closer and set up man give up four runs in the third and fourth inning and Todd Redmond picks up a 6-out save.

  29. “The braves management has to know how Cox likes to use the pen and should have spent a little more money on the pen for an extra arm last year. I think it would been worth 3-5 extra wins”

    The braves could carry 20 pitchers, and Bobby would still use a couple favorites till their arms fell off.

  30. I have a question for the crowd here. Playing at home during middle school baseball, we had a couple of cages next to the home dug-out. 2 or 3 batters before he intended to use a pinch-hitter, our coach would send four of us (a LHB, RHB, and two pitchers) into the cages to take a few practice swings. I don’t see this implemented anywhere in professional baseball (nor did we have the opportunity to do so in high school ball). If there is a designated area for relief pitchers to warm up (i.e., the bullpen), and this warm up period increases the effectiveness of the pitcher and reduces chances of injury, wouldn’t an area meant for the same purpose for pinch-hitters increase their effectiveness also?

  31. Probably. There are usually cages under the stands where hitters can work out if necessary, and of course the pinch-hitters can go out on deck.

  32. We had cages next to our dugout in high school. Guys that were pinch-hitters would sometimes take some hacks while our team was in the field. Aren’t there underground cages at Turner Field too?

  33. @22
    My spouse noted that Gaetti, when his hair grows long, bears a striking resemblance to Alice Cooper.

    Maybe he made too many appearances as an Alice stand-in that year he only hit 5 dingers. Working as Alice would require copious amounts of golf, and many think that ruins your swing in baseball.

    Okay, it’s just a theory. Maybe Gary was just hurt.

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