That's three pretty good pitchers, right? That's perhaps the three best pitchers in all of baseball today, or if they're not the top three, they're all pretty darn close. If the Reds would ever be so fortunate to acquire any of those three, Reds fans would be drooling all over themselves in absolute excitement.
Anyway, what do those three pitchers all have in common?
It's something in common that's quite fascinating and first jumped out at me a few hours ago when I was following Peavy as he was mowing down Diamondbacks hitters to the tune of 11 strikeouts and one run allowed over seven innings. In the top of the 7th, Jake Peavy had an easy 1-2-3 inning as he notched his 11th strikeout and recorded two more outs on a fly ball and pop out. A bit later in the bottom of the 7th inning the Padres had just taken a 2-1 lead thanks to a Geoff Blum home run.
The situation is now two outs in the bottom of the 7th, two outs, nobody on base, and the Padres have a 2-1 lead with Jake Peavy due up to hit.
Except Jake Peavy isn't hitting. Rob Mackowiak was sent up to pinch hit for Peavy, signaling that Peavy's night was finished after seven full innings of work and 114 pitches. Here are the Padres on August 27th playing the Diamondbacks, the team they're chasing in the AL West playoff race. The Padres have their staff ace on the mound who is arguably the National League's best pitcher this season, they have a tiny one run lead in the bottom of the 7th, and manager Bud Black gives Peavy a pat on the back and says "Good game, Jake."
What in the bizarro world of Jerry Narron is going on here? And speaking of Jerry Narron - since I'm still scarred heavily from watching Narron take a chainsaw to Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo - what would Jerry Narron have done in that situation? If your guess is Jake Peavy would have hit for himself and gone out to pitch the 8th, then you're probably correct.
But that got me thinking about Jake Peavy, Bud Black, and Bud Black taking care of Jake Peavy. If Bud Black was pulling Peavy in a pivotal late August game against Arizona at 114 pitches, then what does the Bud Black/Jake Peavy history look like? This was easy to find, and quite refreshing ...
Jake Peavy has 27 games started now under manager Bud Black (Black was hired on this season). Peavy's highest single game pitch count is 116 pitches, which he's done twice on April 25th and April 30th. Those are actually the only two starts Peavy's made all season in which he's thrown 115+ pitches. Tonight's start against Arizona was Peavy's third highest pitch count game at only 114 pitches. Additionally, Peavy entered tonight's game with 170.2 innings pitched and ranked way down at 45th on the Baseball Prospectus Pitcher Abuse Points chart.
That's zero starts for Peavy this season with 120+ pitches (or even 117+ pitches) and only two starts (7.4 percent) for Peavy this season with 115+ pitches.
It's an absolutely novel idea; an organization and its manager monitoring pitch counts and taking care of their staff ace, who is also arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball right now.
Now what about two other marquee MLB pitchers in baseball right now, Johan Santana and Brandon Webb? How have their managers, Ron Gardenhire and Bob Melvin respectively, handled those two killer arms? Again, this is easy to research ...
Ron Gardenhire took over for the Minnesota Twins in 2002, and he's been the manager for 160 of Johan Santana's career 169 starts. In those 160 starts under Gardenhire, Santana has thrown 120+ pitches exactly one time, which was a 120-pitch outing on April 21st, 2006. Also during that stretch, Santana has only seven other starts in which he threw 115-119 pitches. That's one start with 120+ pitches (0.6 percent) and eight starts with 115+ pitches (5 percent) for Johan Santana under Ron Gardenhire.
In 2004, Santana pitched 228.0 innings yet ranked 72nd in Pitcher Abuse Points. In 2005, he pitched 231.2 innings and ranked 71st in Pitcher Abuse Points. In 2006, he pitched 233.2 innings and ranked 70th in Pitcher Abuse points. This season, Santana has pitched 182.0 innings and currently ranks 49th in Pitcher Abuse Points.
Once again, a classic example of an organization and manager monitoring pitch counts and taking care of their staff ace, who also happens to be arguably the best pitcher in baseball too.
** It should also be noted that it was less than two weeks ago when Santana posted 17 strikeouts over eight innings in a win against Texas. Santana's pitch count after eight innings was 112 pitches, and despite having a chance to notch a 20 strikeout game over nine innings, Gardenhire pulled Santana in favor of Joe Nathan.
Now let's take a look at Brandon Webb and his history with Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin.
Bob Melvin took over as Diamondbacks manager in 2005, and he has been the manager for 93 Brandon Webb starts. In those 93 starts under Melvin, Webb has thrown 120+ pitches exactly zero times. Also during that stretch, Webb has 13 total outings in which he threw 115-119 pitches, with the 119 pitch outing earlier this season on August 11th being the most pitches Webb has ever thrown under Bob Melvin. Webb has thrown 115+ pitches in 14 percent of his starts under Melvin.
In 2005, Webb pitched 229.0 innings yet ranked 40th in Pitcher Abuse points. In 2006, Webb pitched 235.0 innings and ranked 64th in Pitcher Abuse Points. This season, Webb has pitched 191.2 innings already this season, but only ranks 25th in Pitcher Abuse Points.
Let's add this up ...
Three of baseball's best pitchers have 280 combined starts under their current managers over eight total seasons. In those combined 280 starts, the highest single game pitch count total is 120 pitches by Johan Santana, which happened once. That start by Santana is the only start by all three pitchers under their current managers in which they threw 120+ pitches. Those three pitchers have also combined to post only 23 combined outings with even 115+ pitches. That's 23 outings in 280 combined starts, or 8.2 percent of all their starts.
Pitcher Abuse Points rankings for those eight combined seasons: 25th, 40th, 45th, 49th, 64th, 70th, 71st, 72nd
Those are three of the best pitchers in baseball, and what we've seen is their current managers monitoring their pitch counts and trying to protect those three outstanding pitchers in the best manner possible. If you want a how-to manual on how to protect an outstanding pitcher, then pay attention to what Bud Black, Ron Gardenhire, and Bob Melvin have done with their key arms.
Jake Peavy, Johan Santana, and Brandon Webb are three of the best pitchers in all of baseball right now. They've piled up tremendous innings and tremendous value for their teams under their current managers, yet they haven't piled up tremendous abuse from those same managers. Nobody can claim a pitcher can't pile up innings and absurd value without piling up abuse, because those three managers have proven it can be done with their current aces.
For comparison sake, what have the Reds (i.e. mostly Jerry Narron) done to Aaron Harang since 2005 and Bronson Arroyo since 2006?
Harang has 94 starts for the Reds since the 2005 season, and he's thrown 120+ pitches 12 times in those 94 starts (12.8 percent). Included in those 120+ pitch outings are individual outings of 135 pitches, 131 pitches, 126 pitches, and 125 pitches. He's thrown 115+ pitches in 25 of his 94 starts, or 26.6 percent of his starts since 2005.
Harang ranked 4th in Pitcher Abuse Points in 2005, 3rd in Pitcher Abuse Points in 2006, and he currently ranks 3rd in Pitcher Abuse Points in 2007.
Arroyo has 62 starts for the Reds since being acquired in 2006, and he's thrown 120+ pitches six times in those 62 starts (9.7 percent). Included in those 120+ pitch outings are individual outings of 129 pitches and 127 pitches. He's thrown 115+ pitches in 17 of his 62 starts, or 27.4 percent of his starts since 2006.
Arroyo ranked 6th in Pitcher Abuse Points in 2006, and he currently ranks 4th in Pitcher Abuse Points in 2007.
That's 156 combined starts for Harang (since 2005) and Arroyo (since 2006) under primarily Jerry Narron, with a little bit of Dave Miley and Pete Mackanin thrown in. They've thrown 120+ pitches 18 times in those 156 starts (11.5 percent), and they've thrown 115+ pitches 42 times (26.9 percent).
Pitcher Abuse Points rankings for those five seasons combined: 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 4th, 6th
Bud Black, Ron Gardenhire, and Bob Melvin get it. Jerry Narron didn't get it. If Pete Mackanin is going to be the man for the Reds going forward in 2008 and beyond, then he better get it much like Black, Gardenhire, and Melvin get it. If Mackanin's going to be another Narron with regards to handling Harang and Arroyo, then he needs to take a hike immediately. And whoever the Reds manager is in 2008 and beyond, that person better get it with regards to handling Harang and Arroyo much like Black, Gardenhire, and Melvin get it with handling their aces.
It all comes down to one simple fact ... if protecting three of baseball's best pitchers is so important for Bud Black, Ron Gardenhire, and Bob Melvin, then it better darn well be important for whoever the Reds manager is in 2008 with regards to protecting Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo.