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Thread: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

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    Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    Tonight Narron left Arroyo in for the first two batters of the 8th. It seemed unnecessary. Narron has a slow hook. Baseball Prospectus has written about it. It has been observed on this website. There are some pluses to the slow hook (see Harang pitching really well later than it would have seemed likely on opening day, two pitchers with 200+ IP last season, avoiding a weak bullpen, etc), but many minuses (see first two batters on base in the 8th of a frigid game with bullpen rested, why starters get pulled -- getting tired and giving up hits, one too many times through the lineup, not trusting the bullpen). John Fay suggested the following tonight folowing the game:

    I'm sure there will be debate about whether Arroyo should have started the eighth.

    Argument for: He retired 10 of 11 going into the inning.

    Argument against: The bullpen was rested and he was facing Chicago's best hitters (Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez) for the fourth time.
    I don't think the Fay suggestion is an interesting debate. The debate should be about Narron's slow hook. Is his hook glacially and unnecessarily slow (read: should he have something resembling the Sparky Anderson approach?)? Or is the guy, by trusting and showing confidence in his starters, more likely to get more out of them? I tend to go with the former approach (as did the Boston Red Sox after the 2003 season when Grady Little was chased out of town despite nearly making the WS because he trusted and had confidence in one of the greatest pitchers in the last 15 years), especially with a deep and rested bullpen, which the Reds presumably have on day number 2. Still, I don't want to focus on tonight. Game-by-game, every manager is bound to be wrong or right based on outcome. The question is whether Narron's slow hook tendencies are more helpful or detrimental to the team. I have to think it is a slight negative with the current bullpen. If the bullpen proves to be solid, I think it becomes a much more significant detriment (assuming, of course, that Narron doesn't hasten his hook, which may have been slow last year because of his uncertain bullpen).

    Looking longer term, the slow hook approach seems short-sighted. It saves the bullpen for the next few games, but it taxes the starter if he is left in to pitch after he begins to struggle. In doing this, the manager may be showing confidence in his tiring starter, but how much trust and confidence are the guys in the bullpen feeling? By leaving the starter in for 7+ innings on a frigid night, will the starter be as solid the next night. Moreover, is the confidence of the manager's trust more important than the confidence of a quality start, lower ERA, and win credit for the starter?

    Those are my views, but I'd like to read a broader and more informed sample of viewpoints.

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    Worst Behavior. reds44's Avatar
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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    Why do you always have to stretch it until something goes wrong? He did retire 10 of the last 11, but he was at 100 pitches, on a cold night, in his first start of the year. Does common sense not kick in?

    Why did he leave him in after the leadoff single? He for sure should have been out then. We all saw it coming.

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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    I didn't really mind Arroyo starting the inning. Hindsight is 20/20 though, so obviously it's going to be frowned upon. The Lee AB he was ahead IIRC and he just slapped a single, so still, it looked like he'd be okay.

    I would have rather we went straight to Coffey rather than using Stanton. Other than that, I'm not too upset with it.

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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    With the "offense" the Reds have assembled, Narron's slow hook won't matter at all. Neither the Reds starters nor their bullpen are nearly good enough to win many games this year. So, it's somewhat of a minus that may cause the Reds to lose - say - 90 games instead of the 86 or so they would otherwise lose.

    EDIT TO ADD: Of course, there is the added downside that Harang and Arroyo's arms might fall off before the Reds are ever able to assemble a good team.

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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    I thought Arroyo was still throwing well so I didn't mind the call by Narron.

    Even the two hits in the 8th were hardly scolded. They were the usual run of the mill singles that find a hole. They were just as easily outs if hit in the right direction. The Reds had some unfortunate luck in that inning as all of the hits (including the Coffey one) simply found their way through the infield. Most days that inning goes away pretty quietly. The inning and game result were dissapointing, but I'm not sure if Narron should have really done anything differently. You can make all the right moves, but sometimes things just don't work out.

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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    Bronson Arroyo at +105 pitches: 19.1 IP / 18K / 1.03 WHIP / 2.33 ERA

    He's shown he's fine to go out there for long outings. The only question was whether THIS particular night (cold, early in the season) was the right one for him to be pitching deep into the ballgame. He hadn't really labored, other than the one inning, and looked to REALLY be throwing easy (I don't think any of his pitches topped 86 on the stadium gun -- kinda troubling, but OK if he wasn't intending them to be much faster).

    I'm fine with Narron giving Arroyo and Harang the benefit of the doubt late in games. They're both likely better than anything thats going to come trotting out of the bullpen, IMO.
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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    There was no reason to leave Arroyo out there after 7 tonight. He doesn't need more confidence. The bullpen has a lot of sound guys that Narron could have gone with. Coffey was ready, it was a good spot for him.

    I like Narron generally, think he is sound, but he just consistently leaves his starters out there a few batters too long. Tonight is a good example. Regardless of pitch count, Arroyo was in a tight, intense game. He was facing the middle of the Cubs order for the fourth time through. The odds were extremely high that there would be some trouble.

    Now, with big contracts for Harang and Arroyo, my concern is that Narron will never want to remove them. I'm not worried about their durability, just their effectiveness after throwing 7 tough innings.

    I don't think the Reds were winning tonight anyway -- they only had three hits, one a bunt by the pitcher. And I understand letting a starter work through tough middle innings rather than using up the bullpen. But in that spot in the 8th inning, it should have been Coffey.

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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    Quote Originally Posted by reds44 View Post
    Why do you always have to stretch it until something goes wrong? He did retire 10 of the last 11, but he was at 100 pitches, on a cold night, in his first start of the year. Does common sense not kick in?

    Why did he leave him in after the leadoff single? He for sure should have been out then. We all saw it coming.
    I think everyone who saw the game would agree with you. It didn't seem like a wise move. It seemed like Arroyo was out there only because Ross didn't get on base to call for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh (we'll leave Chad Moeller as pinch hitter for another thread).

    What I'm interested in is the overall plus/minus on Narron's slow hook approach, which I was hoping was the product of last season's tired and overworked bullpen. This sentence from the BP annual spoke volumes to me regarding what I hoped a stronger bullpen would prevent for this year's team: "The Reds led the league in blown quality starts, or quality blown starts through six innings that saw the starter ultimately surrender more than four earned runs because of what happened in the seventh or beyond." Id. at 133. I was hoping that figure was the result of having an injury riddled and otherwise shoddy and unreliable bullpen last year. If tonight's game is any suggestion, last year's use of starters may be Narron's longer term tendency. To evaluate this, I went back to review Narron's only other full year as a manager before last year. Last year, Narron had 47 slow hooks contrasted with 33 quick ones. In his last full year as a manager, 2002 with the Rangers, Narron had 50 slow hooks contrasted with 30 short hooks. Raw numbers don't carry that much significance, but it does seem like Narron leaves in his starters beyond the point where it seems like they remain reliably effective.

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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kc61 View Post
    There was no reason to leave Arroyo out there after 7 tonight. He doesn't need more confidence.
    This wasn't about confidence. Whether you agree with Narron or not, Arroyo was left in because Narron thought he gave the Reds the best chance to win.

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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kc61 View Post
    Now, with big contracts for Harang and Arroyo, my concern is that Narron will never want to remove them. I'm not worried about their durability, just their effectiveness after throwing 7 tough innings.
    I don't think "big" contracts have anything to do with it, because more often than not, he was guilty of this last year too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kc61 View Post
    I don't think the Reds were winning tonight anyway -- they only had three hits, one a bunt by the pitcher. And I understand letting a starter work through tough middle innings rather than using up the bullpen. But in that spot in the 8th inning, it should have been Coffey.
    Pulling Arroyo after the 7th may have changed the complexion of the remainder of the game. With baseball, you just never know.
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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    Sometimes, you have to look at the game beyond the game.

    Let's take a look at the situation after 7 for Arroyo:
    99 pitches
    7 IP
    9 K
    2 BB
    6 H
    2 ER

    Nothing too bad there.

    Now, look at the outside factors.
    -Cold
    -Windy
    -1st start of the year
    -Down 2-1
    -Struggling to score
    -Going to the 8th

    Lineup due up: (stats as of end of 7)
    Lee (0-3)
    Ramirez (2-4, run)
    Floyd (1-3, run)

    Now, you want to leave him in to face Lee and go from there? Ok, I said at the time I wouldn't but it's nothing to shocking.

    Then, Lee leads off the inning with a single. Now, look at your situation.

    Lee on first
    Ramirez up, who mind you already has 2 singles off Arroyo.
    Cubs bench has Theriot and Cedeno on it, so you know there is an option to put a pinch bunter up there to play small ball if needed.
    A rested Coffey in the pen.
    Arroyo over 100 pitches

    At this point, the decision has to be made to pull Bronson. Put a rested Coffey in, and don't let Ramirez go for hit #3.

    Narron didn't, Ramirez signle, Cubs play small ball, IBB, single, game over.

    In a game like this, you can't afford to try to stretch a guy out. Every run is critical.

    If this was an isolated incident with Narron, oh well managers goof up sometimes. However, we see him constantly leaving his pitchers out their too long.

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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    Quote Originally Posted by Austin Kearns View Post
    This wasn't about confidence. Whether you agree with Narron or not, Arroyo was left in because Narron thought he gave the Reds the best chance to win.

    I don't disagree. Tonight I'm sure he did think it was the best strategic move to leave BA out there. Overall, however, a manager who has a slow hook usually feels that keeping starters out there help them in the long run -- gives them confidence, lets them learn to work through trouble, stretches them out, saves the pen. All these reasons.

    I don't want to criticize the manager too much, I think he is sound in most respects. But the Cubs are like two different offensive teams -- very potent in the middle of the lineup, pretty weak at the bottom. With the middle coming up I think a rested Coffey was the right choice there.

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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    From a strict pitch count/injury risk angle, Arroyo wasn't yet at a high risk for starting the 8th inning. He had thrown 99 pitches through the first seven innings, and his highest individual pitch count inning was the 1st inning with only 23 pitches. I've been critical of Narron abusing Harang and Arroyo in the past, but I won't accuse him of that tonight. Arroyo hadn't labored in any individual inning, and his total pitch count wasn't too terribly high.

    However, given the weather conditions combined with the specific batters due up for the Cubs in the 8th inning, my vote would have been to bring in Coffey to start the eighth.

    Arroyo pitched seven fantastic innings in harsh weather conditions, and the bullpen was fully rested with any Reds reliever available to pitch tonight. I'd have managed the 8th inning by hoping Coffey pitches a scoreless inning, then I'd have immediately pinch hit for him in the bottom half. If you tie it up or take the lead, any other Reds reliever would have been available for the 9th/subsequent innings to finish the game.
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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kc61 View Post
    I don't want to criticize the manager too much, I think he is sound in most respects. But the Cubs are like two different offensive teams -- very potent in the middle of the lineup, pretty weak at the bottom. With the middle coming up I think a rested Coffey was the right choice there.
    I think this says a lot about the merits of a slow hook. If the slow hook will let the starter feast on the back end of a NL lineup and the starter has been otherwise performing well and is within pitch count range, go for it. The back end of the lineup probably won't hurt you as much, at least not in the NL. It is a somewhat different matter when the pitcher is coming back into the teeth of the order for yet another pass. It is especially a different matter when a fresh pitcher can come into a cold game throwing pitches that the shivering hitters are unlikely to connect with.

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    Re: Narron's Slow Hook -- How Big of a Minus?

    Quote Originally Posted by reds44 View Post
    Sometimes, you have to look at the game beyond the game.

    Let's take a look at the situation after 7 for Arroyo:
    99 pitches
    7 IP
    9 K
    2 BB
    6 H
    2 ER

    Nothing too bad there.

    Now, look at the outside factors.
    -Cold
    -Windy
    -1st start of the year
    -Down 2-1
    -Struggling to score
    -Going to the 8th

    Lineup due up: (stats as of end of 7)
    Lee (0-3)
    Ramirez (2-4, run)
    Floyd (1-3, run)

    Now, you want to leave him in to face Lee and go from there? Ok, I said at the time I wouldn't but it's nothing to shocking.

    Then, Lee leads off the inning with a single. Now, look at your situation.

    Lee on first
    Ramirez up, who mind you already has 2 singles off Arroyo.
    Cubs bench has Theriot and Cedeno on it, so you know there is an option to put a pinch bunter up there to play small ball if needed.
    A rested Coffey in the pen.
    Arroyo over 100 pitches

    At this point, the decision has to be made to pull Bronson. Put a rested Coffey in, and don't let Ramirez go for hit #3.

    Narron didn't, Ramirez signle, Cubs play small ball, IBB, single, game over.

    In a game like this, you can't afford to try to stretch a guy out. Every run is critical.

    If this was an isolated incident with Narron, oh well managers goof up sometimes. However, we see him constantly leaving his pitchers out their too long.
    Well stated and I agree. I was fine with Narron leaving in Harang to face the 8-9-1 hitters at the 100 pitch mark. I am not fine with leaving Bronson in there to face the meat of the lineup at the 100 pitch mark.

    I think the matchups should dictate the decision more than anything.
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