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D-Man
06-21-2007, 10:46 PM
The late-1990s Rangers clubs always intrigued me.

Tell me if this recipe sounds familiar. . .They built a power-hitting offense that was helped tremendously by a homer-friendly ballpark. They had a deep bench. They employed an okay rotation that gobbled up innings. And they constructed lights-out bullpens that were true assets.

[The Reds were trying to follow this formula in the O’Brien years, in case you missed it.]

How did the late-1990s Rangers make the playoffs twice?? That last component really got me—how did the Rangers build a great bullpen in a relentlessly brutal ballpark? Were there lessons to be gathered from those clubs?

Starters IP and Bullpen Quality
My hypothesis was that the Rangers’ innings-eating starters helped the bullpen substantially by pitching deep into games. The predictable six- or seven-inning starters make it easier to build a good bullpen because it provides relievers with more consistent and predictable work. A few years back, I sought to study the issue. I gathered 1998-2004 team data on IP and IP/start, and examined it relative the quality of the bullpen, as measured by aggregate adjusted runs prevented (ARP). This data set gave me 210 pitching staff seasons to work with. So I looked at top 2 starters on each club, the top 3, and the top 4.

What I found was that the bullpen’s ARP results were largely random and not related to starters’ IP. . . at least the way I studied it. The results were statistically significant in a few cases, although the starters’ IP only explained 20% of the variance (if that) in reliever ARP.

What was really interesting to me is that, if you compare the clubs in the top 30 in terms of IP to those in the bottom 30, the top clubs’ bullpens were 11 runs better than those on the bottom. So yes, teams with high-IP starting rotations generally have better bullpens than those with low-IP starting rotations.

I suspect that there is a tactical benefit of high-IP rotations, which is not captured in my study—that regular, predictable work and rest is essential for bullpen success. High-IP rotations usually provide that predictability to bullpens. I'm afraid the proof is lost in the fog, if there at all.

After putting in a lot of work into this study with very little to show for it, I finally let it go.

Until the past few weeks, that is. I began looking at the IP projections from ESPN, and what do you know, the Reds top four starters are pace for more than 830 IP. Take a look:

Harang: 220 IP projected
Belisle: 206
Lohse: 204
Arroyo: 202

This would have placed this Reds rotation as #16 out of 210 teams I studied, in terms of IP among Top 4 pitchers. Astonishingly, the Reds Top 4 guys were on target to surpass the 2001 Mariners, the 2000-2004 Braves, the 1998 Yankees, and the 2004 Red Sox, among other great rotations of that time period. I was quite shocked this rotation had anything close to resembling the quality of those rotations. But there is the proof—the Reds have four innings eaters!

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that, despite the bullpen woes, the Reds appear to have a great foundation for building a very good pitching staff. Bullpen included. (The health caveats apply here, as well as the looming Lohse trade caveat.)

And there certainly is circumstantial proof that the current Reds bullpen performs well with predictable work and rest. With one day of rest, the bullpen ERA is 3.23. With zero or two days rest, the bullpen ERA is 5.32 and 7.55 respectively. Reliable bullpen usage makes a difference.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/psplit.cgi?team=CIN&year=2007

In case anyone wondered, for those clubs with top 4 starters in the 820-860 IP range, the bullpens average +30 ARP. I don’t know what the Reds bullpen ARP currently is (I don’t have a BP subscription), but I can only imagine its godawful bad. . . like negative 20 or negative 30. That would put this bullpen as the worst, by far, among teams that got this many IP from their starters. So this bullpen has been freakishly bad, in case you needed any additional proof.

Lohse
Man, what a frustrating pitcher to root for. He looks like he has it some days, and then he has one bad inning that snowballs into a nightmare outing.

On the other hand, I think most Reds fans have underappreciated his contributions. As a Red, he has been a fine asset—he provides 5 ½ -IP per start and performs around the league average. He has been healthy and continues to take the ball every fifth day.

Plus he flashes signs of dominance now and again. He is the owner of two sparkling performances this year: he has an 85 and a 77 game score. That puts him tied for third in the NL in starts with 75+ game scores this year:

1.) Peavy, 5 starts with 75+ game score
2.) Hamels, 3
3.) Lohse, 2 (Harang has 2, as well)

Hopefully other clubs trying to pick him up before the deadline look askance when they see his 3-9 record. With his agent and likely price tag (three years and $21M+ is the going rate now), I can’t imagine why and how the Reds would keep him beyond July 2007.

Home/Road Splits
Contrary to their offensive counterparts, the Reds pitchers have struggled pitching at home (5.21 ERA) and done quite well on the road (4.22 ERA). That’s a pretty substantially split, although I think it can be easily summarized in a few metrics:


HR K/9 IP HBP
Home 45 6.92 25
Road 21 5.72 5

The Reds pitchers have relinquished more than twice as many HRs at home as on the road. We know that the GABP is a home run park. It inflates HRs by ~25 percent, but certainly not by 109 percent. So what the devil is going on here??

The final two columns might provide some help: the K/9 and HBPs at home and on the road.

I suspect the Reds pitchers have taken a different tactical approach at home than on the road. On the road, they trust their fielders more, let the ball fall where it may, and generally pitch more conservatively. At home they gamble more—they come inside more frequently and pitch only centimeters from hitters’ wheelhouses. The benefit is more Ks, but the significant side effect is more HBPs and HRs. And the HRs more than offset the Ks. Coffey, Arroyo, Stanton—these guys have all displayed dramatic home/road splits in HRs, Ks, and HBPs. And they have all displayed the same dramatic home/road ERA splits, too.

It may be that these pitchers lack the “stuff” to success in the unforgiving GABP environment, but I suspect a lot of the results have been poor coaching and a poor tactical approach in GABP.

[I’m a guy that “watches” the Reds play on the radio, so I appreciate any input from those who gets to see the pitchers play at home and on the road.]

Good, Bad, Ugly
Good: Harang, Lohse, Belisle, the rotation’s IP, lots of interesting young bullpen arms
Bad: old, mediocre bullpen chaff
Ugly: Narron’s bullpen deployment

For the previous article on the defense, see this link:
http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=58658

For the previous article on the offense, see this link:
http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=58038

RedEye
06-21-2007, 11:10 PM
Really nice post. I had not realized the how workman-like our starters have been, and when you add Bailey to the mix it gets really interesting. I hope we can get good value for Lohse. Forget about Dunn and Griffey -- he might be the #1 player we try to deal at the deadline just because he could really bring back value from a contender looking to stock up for the arms race.

Cyclone792
06-22-2007, 12:42 AM
Until the past few weeks, that is. I began looking at the IP projections from ESPN, and what do you know, the Reds top four starters are pace for more than 830 IP. Take a look:

Harang: 220 IP projected
Belisle: 206
Lohse: 204
Arroyo: 202

This would have placed this Reds rotation as #16 out of 210 teams I studied, in terms of IP among Top 4 pitchers. Astonishingly, the Reds Top 4 guys were on target to surpass the 2001 Mariners, the 2000-2004 Braves, the 1998 Yankees, and the 2004 Red Sox, among other great rotations of that time period. I was quite shocked this rotation had anything close to resembling the quality of those rotations. But there is the proof—the Reds have four innings eaters!

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that, despite the bullpen woes, the Reds appear to have a great foundation for building a very good pitching staff. Bullpen included. (The health caveats apply here, as well as the looming Lohse trade caveat.)

And there certainly is circumstantial proof that the current Reds bullpen performs well with predictable work and rest. With one day of rest, the bullpen ERA is 3.23. With zero or two days rest, the bullpen ERA is 5.32 and 7.55 respectively. Reliable bullpen usage makes a difference.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/psplit.cgi?team=CIN&year=2007

Great stuff, D-Man.

One interesting thing with Narron's bullpen management is he's still burning through relievers at a quicker pace than the average National League team. In 2006, National League relievers faced 4.57 batters per relief appearance. This season, Reds relievers are only averaging 4.04 batters per relief appearance (as of early May, it was down below 3.70 batters per relief appearance).

Here's a look at each individual relief pitcher ...

Santos: 6.42 batters per appearance
Weathers: 4.77 batters per appearance
2006 NL Average: 4.57 batters per appearance
McBeth: 4.17 batters per appearance
Coffey: 4.09 batters per appearance
Salmon: 4.00 batters per appearance
Saarloos: 3.95 batters per appearance
Burton: 3.54 batters per appearance
Stanton: 3.51 batters per appearance
Majewski: 3.30 batters per appearance
Coutlangus: 3.05 batters per appearance
Gosling: 3.00 batters per appearance
Cormier: 2.33 batters per appearance

Not surprisingly, Santos is the team's leader in batters faced per appearance, but that's to be expected since he's been the team's designated long reliever and has posted multiple long inning mopup sessions. Weathers is also above the league average, and that's not surprising either as Narron's called on him in the 8th inning to try to nail down a 4-6 out save.

The rest of the bullpen isn't really anywhere close to the average length of a relief appearance. As relievers are burned through quicker, that is invariably going to lead to guys pitching more often on zero days rest. As you point out, the bullpen has collectively struggled mightily on zero days rest.

64.1 innings
10 home runs (1.40 HR/9)
41 strikeouts (5.74 K/9)
20 walks (2.78 BB/9)
2.05 K/BB
4.83 DIPS ERA

Here's the pen's stats with one or more days of rest ...

143.2 innings
13 home runs (0.81 HR/9)
123 strikeouts (7.71 K/9)
68 walks (4.26 BB/9)
1.81 K/BB
4.06 DIPS ERA

Oddly enough, the bullpen walks many more batters with one or more days of rest, but both their strikeout ratio and home run ratio is significantly better.

Also, those 64.1 innings of work on 0 days rest for Reds relievers accounts for 30.9 percent of their total relief inning workload. The 2007 National League average is only 22.6 percent. Reds relievers are pitching a significantly higher workload of innings on 0 days rest than the average National League bullpen.

Two young relievers I'm worried about seeing far too many games with 0 days rest are Jon Coutlangus and Todd Coffey.

Jon Coutlangus is a situational lefty, and he's not typically going to face many hitters, but he's the team's leader in games with 37 and is barely averaging three batters faced per relief appearance. Of the 37 games Coutlangus has appeared in, 15 have come on 0 days rest. In those 15 games with zero days rest, Coutlangus has pitched 10.1 innings, allowed two home runs and six walks with five strikeouts, good for a 6.49 DIPS ERA. With one or more days of rest, Coutlangus' DIPS ERA is 4.09.

Todd Coffey has appeared in 13 games with zero days rest out of his 33 appearances. In 13.2 innings with zero days rest, Coffey has allowed four home runs and five walks with nine strikeouts, and that's good for a 6.90 DIPS ERA. With one or more days of rest, Coffey's DIPS ERA is a more respectable 4.50.

Aronchis
06-22-2007, 01:06 AM
Is Matt Belisle Harang circa 2004 or just another piece of .........;)

How much better can Belisle get? If I was trying to construct the 2008 Reds, that would be a important question. Will he develope into a good starter and increase expectations of a improved Reds or is he filler while you rebuild with better pitchers? Minor league numbers will not help much since it took years for him to regain his arm after blowing out his back. This is really a player where the GM needs to feel it out and make the right move(keep Belisle, include him in a deal for somebody else).

Cyclone792
06-22-2007, 12:09 PM
Is Matt Belisle Harang circa 2004 or just another piece of .........;)

How much better can Belisle get? If I was trying to construct the 2008 Reds, that would be a important question. Will he develope into a good starter and increase expectations of a improved Reds or is he filler while you rebuild with better pitchers? Minor league numbers will not help much since it took years for him to regain his arm after blowing out his back. This is really a player where the GM needs to feel it out and make the right move(keep Belisle, include him in a deal for somebody else).

I like Belisle as a back of the rotation guy. If he's your #4 or #5 starter, then your rotation should be in decent shape. He's pitched a lot of relief innings so his numbers may be skewed a bit, but he does have a 103 lifetime ERA+. Here's his career peripherals and DIPS ERA ...

1.11 HR/9
6.01 K/9
2.69 BB/9
2.24 K/BB
4.29 DIPS ERA

And here's the 2007 NL average ...

0.95 HR/9
6.54 K/9
3.29 BB/9
1.98 K/BB
4.19 DIPS ERA

He's been roughly a league average pitcher for the most part, and that's not bad to have at the bottom of your rotation.

The big question surrounding Belisle, however, is how he'll hold up with the big innings pitch over the course of a season. So far this season, he's been less effective as the season has gone on. His best month has been April, and his worst month has been June. Belisle did throw around 180 innings in each of 2000 and 2003, then threw another 162 innings in 2004, but those seasons are a few years in the past. I just wonder how effective he'll will be this season once the innings pile up and he nears the 200 innings pitch mark.

D-Man
06-22-2007, 01:01 PM
Cyclone--thanks for sharing the info on bullpen usage.

What is amazing is that the Reds are getting great work out of the starters, generally speaking, so the bullpen should be well rested. But the *overmanagement* of the bullpen has created a disaster. I have far fewer issues with other aspects of Narron, but this element of his management approach is particularly damning in my book.

Belisle strikes me as a likely breakdown candidate, as he has a history of back and shoulder problems. He may make it to the 200-IP mark; I doubt this is the year that happens. The 2004 Harang comparisons are fair, with respect to endurance. Belisle is likely candidate to hit the wall in September, like Harang did in 2004 with his 7.81 ERA.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/pi/psplit.cgi?n1=haranaa01&year=2004

Mario-Rijo
06-22-2007, 01:42 PM
D-Man outstanding posts! And Cyclone likewise! :thumbup:


The nugget I might add is this one, a piece Stark did (last year) on having innings eaters quite interesting. It shows just how dreadfull the rest of this team really has been.


Updated: January 20, 2006

How important is it to collect inning-eaters? Just ask the team that won the last World Series.

The White Sox were the only team in baseball to have four starters top 200 innings. And that had a lot to do with all of that confetti and champagne that entered their lives in October.

So we decided to look into this. Over the last five seasons, 17 teams have had at least three starters who pitched 200 innings. Twelve of those teams made the playoffs. None had a losing record. And they averaged 92 wins apiece.
Now spin that forward to this year. By trading for Javier Vazquez, the White Sox have five starters who pitched 200 innings last season.

1980 A's rotation
Innings
Rick Langford 290
Mike Norris 284.1
Matt Keough 250
Steve McCatty 221.2
Brian Kingman 211.1

Oakland went 83-79, finishing 14 games behind AL West winner Kansas City.
Obviously, as your stock broker once said, past performance is no assurance of future returns. But if they all do that again, the White Sox would be the first team since Billy Martin's 1980 Oakland A's to run five 200-inning starters out there in the same year.

But you probably knew about the White Sox's pitching depth. What you might not have noticed is that two other teams have now assembled four pitchers who worked 200 innings last year.

One is the Indians, who added Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson to last year's 200-200 twosome: Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook. (And C.C. Sabathia missed 200 by a whopping 3.1 innings.)

The other team on this list is a club with a real shot to surprise people -- the A's. They already had Barry Zito, Dan Haren and Joe Blanton on board, and added Esteban Loaiza.

"That's a team that could be this year's White Sox," one AL executive says of Oakland. "I love the depth in their rotation. The back of their bullpen is really strong. If they keep Milton Bradley from getting distracted, and they get a full year out of Mark Ellis, Nick Swisher, Rich Harden and Bobby Crosby, they can be very dangerous."

Incidentally, two other teams will break out rotations with three 200-inning guys -- the Cardinals (Mark Mulder, Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis) and Blue Jays (A.J. Burnett, Gustavo Chacin and Josh Towers).



Incidentally it also shows why Krivsky has such an obsession with getting that BP right. Oddly enough the main reason for the BP's woes he seems to be overlooking (read above^), Jerry freakin' Narron.......and perhaps Dick Pole and Tom Hume should start to share some of this responsibility.

Mario-Rijo
06-22-2007, 01:49 PM
Originally posted by D-Man
Plus he flashes signs of dominance now and again. He is the owner of two sparkling performances this year: he has an 85 and a 77 game score. That puts him tied for third in the NL in starts with 75+ game scores this year:

1.) Peavy, 5 starts with 75+ game score
2.) Hamels, 3
3.) Lohse, 2 (Harang has 2, as well)


Just out of curiosity D-Man, how did Homers performance vs. the A's the other night rate?

D-Man
06-23-2007, 11:32 AM
Just out of curiosity D-Man, how did Homers performance vs. the A's the other night rate?

It was a 68. You can find it on ESPN.com under each player's "GameLog" tab. It's also listed at the bottom of the box score for each game.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/gamelog?playerId=28668

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=270619111

texasdave
06-23-2007, 05:11 PM
In a weak defense of Jerry Narron, I imagine it would be quite easy to 'overmanage' a bullpen of such poor quality. And it is hard to let your relievers stay in there for a league-average number of batters when they are getting pounded. Maybe it is a chicken-egg situation. Is the bullpen so poor because it is overmanaged; or is it overmanaged because it is so poor?

Falls City Beer
06-23-2007, 05:12 PM
In a weak defense of Jerry Narron, I imagine it would be quite easy to 'overmanage' a bullpen of such poor quality. And it is hard to let your relievers stay in there for a league-average number of batters when they are getting pounded.

Two good points. I agree with each.

Mario-Rijo
06-23-2007, 05:31 PM
In a weak defense of Jerry Narron, I imagine it would be quite easy to 'overmanage' a bullpen of such poor quality. And it is hard to let your relievers stay in there for a league-average number of batters when they are getting pounded. Maybe it is a chicken-egg situation. Is the bullpen so poor because it is overmanaged; or is it overmanaged because it is so poor?

It's hard to argue that. But I would make this point. I KNOW I can live w/o Narron as the manager (he has many flaws) so it certainly wouldn't hurt to can his behind. I am not sure if the guys he is working with could get it done any better thereafter but I would hate to see them get cut or dealt for nothing just to have them find success and soon ala Josh Hancock and Ryan Franklin.

Mario-Rijo
06-23-2007, 05:34 PM
It was a 68. You can find it on ESPN.com under each player's "GameLog" tab. It's also listed at the bottom of the box score for each game.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/gamelog?playerId=28668

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=270619111

I would imagine that score had alot to do with his BB's (4) and only going 7 IP. That was a really nice game however for only his 3rd ever ML game. Thanks for the info!

D-Man
06-24-2007, 01:14 PM
In a weak defense of Jerry Narron, I imagine it would be quite easy to 'overmanage' a bullpen of such poor quality. And it is hard to let your relievers stay in there for a league-average number of batters when they are getting pounded. Maybe it is a chicken-egg situation. Is the bullpen so poor because it is overmanaged; or is it overmanaged because it is so poor?

That explanation doesn't quite jive with what we know to be true.

Overmanaging the bullpen would be excusable only if Narron had one or two really good relievers and several awful ones. In that case, the good relievers would be brought in to clean up the mess left by the really bad ones.

But that isn't the case with this bullpen. What we are seeing is shuttling mediocre reliever in to replace another mediocre one, day after day. And the byproducts of that approach are friction and systematic waste: lots of overused bullpen arms, no one can settle into a role, everyone is on his toes, etc.

If the Reds bullpen was so bad, a priori, then why swap out one bad reliever for another after two batters? It won't lead to better results. Replacing one mediocre reliever with another one after two plate appearances doesn't achieive anything, except taxing the arms.