Radical Pitcher-Usage Theory

The title is exaggerating, but in the discussion that ensued on my finger-wagging article about the misuse of Cole Hamels, reader and commenter Pete got the hamster wheel a-spinnin’. If you haven’t read the article, click here, or perhaps the following synopsis will suffice.

My argument was that Charlie Manuel was wrong to use Hamels with an eight-run lead going into the eighth inning, when the Phillies had a 99.7 percent chance to win. Many counter-arguments were made in the comments, such as that there was a double-header coming up where the bullpen would presumably be needed (the bullpen pitched a combined five innings in both games), or that Hamels needed to be “conditioned to throw more pitches”.

In reality, though, there is no counter-argument to the claim that using Hamels in that situation was unnecessary (sparing the obvious semantic debate about the definition of “necessary”). With two innings of regulation left and an eight-run lead, to abstain from using the bullpen implies that they were worse than a 36.00 ERA pitcher. I’m not exactly confident in David Herndon, but I trust him and his bullpen compatriots to not allow eight runs in two innings.

In the comments, Pete wrote:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems you are a step away from advocating for having pitchers pitch towards a certain expected win percentage? What percentage would that be? 99%? 95%? X%? Any way you fixed it, it would be a minor revolution in the game if managers started following this line of thinking (and probably the last straw for those people who already hate pitch counts and pitching towards anything other than a win). I can imagine a scenario where the Phillies score 10 runs in the top of the 1st inning and a newly Baer-schooled Charlie Manuel doesn’t send Hamels out to pitch the bottom of the 1st. I am imagining also that Charlie’s decision would be a misinterpretation of the Baer rule, but we better start preparing now to see Charlie muck it up.

I like that way of thinking. Not so static, but the overall principle makes a lot of sense. Contract stipulations (money, years, incentives, etc.) should — and do — play a huge role in player usage; this is one such case. Hamels has one more year of arbitration before he is eligible for free agency, and the Phillies will want to lock up a player of his caliber before he is able to test the open market. As much as it may pain the traditionalists, Hamels should absolutely be pampered, as should anyone else to whom the Phillies do or could owe a lot of money over many years (e.g. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, etc.). Protecting investments is one big factor in the current and continued success of a franchise.

As for specifics on when to yank a starter, it should be a case-by-case decision. The manager will need to assess a lot of details. By how many runs does my team lead? What inning is it? Do I trust my bullpen? Which relievers will I use? What are the long-term effects of employing this strategy? (e.g. does my bullpen need more time to recover?) How many runs can I expect my team to tack on before the end of the game?

As an example, according to Tom Tango’s “The Book”, the home team has a 16.7 percent chance to win if it is behind four runs entering the top of the second inning. The road manager should expect his team to score more runs, making things worse for the home team. After all, the average National League team averages 4.1 runs per nine innings, and even the worst team in the league averages 3.3 runs per nine.

The biggest problem here is the uncertainty. With the thousands of innings of data we have from the current season, we can make fairly accurate assessments about what to expect in the big picture. Unfortunately, in the span of eight innings, our ability to make correct predictions drops precipitously. In a vacuum, where average players play on average teams and they face similarly average players on similarly average teams, we can improve our odds, but since — as the traditionalists will tell you — baseball is not played in a vacuum, those eight innings are highly prone to all of the variables that makes it such a great sport. Temperature, wind, strength of the opponent, the lineups that are being employed, the opposing pitchers, etc.

In that first inning scenario, I am much more confident pulling Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds since they are more likely to tack on more runs (4.9 per game) than the Atlanta Braves (3.3). I am much more confident pulling Hamels if I am playing the Houston Astros (allow 5.0 runs per game) than if I am playing the Braves (allow 3.3). If it is cold and the wind is blowing in, I would expect to score fewer runs, so I would be hesitant to pull my starter again. If my bullpen is bad like the Los Angeles Dodgers (4.84 ERA), I would lean on my starters, but if my bullpen is great like the San Diego Padres (2.44 ERA), I would be quicker to make a call to the ‘pen. Those are just the broad strokes; we haven’t even gotten into the specifics, such as pitcher batted ball splits, or batter/pitcher platoon match-ups.

So, you can see the initial problems with this practical use of starting and relief pitching. Many situations will not be as cut-and-dried as the Hamels situation, where you have just 0.3 percent left to ensure a victory. However, this would be a gigantic step in the right direction. It would, undoubtedly, reduce the number of superfluous injuries that occur to pitchers throughout the course of the season.

Maybe Hamels doesn’t finish off the last two innings of that game, but he also doesn’t leave the game with a back injury. If the injury had been more serious, he lands on the disabled list and the Phillies have to rely more on Kyle Kendrick, as well as Vance Worley. A rotation of Halladay/Lee/Oswalt/Hamels/Kendrick leads to fewer losses than Halladay/Lee/Oswalt/Kendrick/Worley. Theoretically, being highly risk-averse leads to more wins. With players to whom you are paying many millions of dollars over the course of many years, more wins over many years means a more successful franchise, happier fans, and increased revenue.

In summation, the above was a long way of saying, “Don’t use your starting pitching superfluously, especially if they’re important.” Want to run Kendrick out there with an eight-run lead in the eighth inning? Knock yourself out. But Hamels, or Halladay, or Lee? Protect them! The implementation doesn’t have to be nearly as scientific as I have described it; all that is required is a broad recognition of your team’s chances to win the current game, the side-effects of your decisions on games in the immediate future, and the overall health of your team in the big picture. Yes, it’s so easy, even a Charlie Manuel could do it.

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48 comments

  1. Cutter

    June 16, 2011 07:50 AM

    I don’t think you’re going far enough. If I were the Phillies, I wouldn’t have any of the big four pitch until October. That way, there’s no way they can get hurt before the postseason, and they’ll be very fresh and well rested.

  2. JB Allen

    June 16, 2011 09:03 AM

    Great article, Bill. Given that the Phillies probably won’t score runs like they used to, Manuel should take advantage of every chance he sees to get his starters some extra rest.

    Purely anecdotal, but this reminds me of how Davey Johnson used to pull Sid Fernandez when the Mets were up by a decent number of runs, even when Sid had been pretty good. It always seemed to work out for that f***ing team. Johnson probably should have done that with Gooden, too.

    Man, I sound like a grandpa. I can’t even make the onions-on-our-belts joke without dating mystelf.

  3. Richard

    June 16, 2011 09:06 AM

    Yeah, Pete’s suggestion was always at the back of my mind every time you make this complaint. It’s patently ridiculous. And I love how you dismiss all counter-arguments as basically non-existent (“In reality, though, there is no counter-argument to the claim that using Hamels in that situation was unnecessary”; oddly, there were several good counter-arguments, though “necessity” wasn’t the point any of us were making–I certainly wasn’t claiming it was “necessary” he pitch the 8th) and simply re-assert your original claim, as if it were gospel, backed up only by “win expectancy”. Quality “science”.

    Meanwhile, Hamels did not incur a back injury while pitching. He experienced stiffness on the bench, then pitching to the first batter determined he should stop.

    Also, the fact that the bullpen pitched a combined 5 innings in the doubleheader is irrelevant to the discussion. That’s putting results over process just as much as those who routinely take spurious issue with sabermetric principles.

  4. Bill Baer

    June 16, 2011 09:17 AM

    Richard,

    So what would the rationale be behind using Hamels with an eight run lead with two innings to go? There is no counter-argument because bullpens aren’t 36.00 ERA-bad, the overwhelming majority of the time. If I had a database (and database skills), I’d try to find the number of times a bullpen allowed eight-plus runs in a span of two consecutive innings. I’d be willing to wager money that the percentage of occurrences divided by opportunities is extremely low. And for bullpens of the Phillies’ caliber, the expectancy of eight runs in two innings is astronomically low.

    There is just no justification for risking your star pitcher’s arm when you have a bullpen there for that very reason. It’s not me being dismissive; it’s simple recognition of facts and observation of optimal strategy.

    If it’s a beer-league softball team? Yeah, I’ll trust the star pitcher. But a Major League bullpen with an eight run lead? Pfft.

  5. Richard

    June 16, 2011 09:34 AM

    My point is that it’s not an obviously “wrong” or cut-and-dried decision.

    Leaving a pitcher in who is cruising is not in itself a risky proposition. You can say that any pitch a pitcher throws is a risk of some kind, but that’s hardly a satisfactory way of looking at it.

    I posted a comment yesterday, which in a sense followed some of Pete’s slippery slope logic. Are you suggesting you would never let a non-laboring pitcher complete a game with a big lead? Never pitch a no-hitter or perfect game or shut-out? Baseball would be a lot less fun if that happened.

    Tuesday’s game seems clear on the face of it, and in truth, I may well have thrown Herndon out there instead myself. What I’m objecting to is the implication that Manuel was being obviously and inexcusably stupid in allowing Hamels to go out there. He is dealing with players who want to achieve things, and pitching deep into games is a personal measure of achievement. And, more to the point, pitching innings is a major component of these pitchers’ value.

    The weird thing is we also get these posts discussing whether in a close game you should leave such a pitcher in when it’s late (there were recent discussions at Baseball Prospectus and at Tom Tango’s blog), where it’s concluded (with all kinds of WE models, and time-through-the-order stats) that the closer is the better option. Well, so now we’re talking about never letting a non-laboring pitcher complete a game?

    Notice I keep saying non-laboring. I’m not saying dudes should be allowed to go 140-150 pitches. But, complete games are fun (baseball is supposed to be fun; it’s not a simple risk- or cost-benefit analysis), and they add value.

  6. Bill Baer

    June 16, 2011 09:43 AM

    Are you suggesting you would never let a non-laboring pitcher complete a game with a big lead? Never pitch a no-hitter or perfect game or shut-out? Baseball would be a lot less fun if that happened.

    Well, that depends on the perspective. Optimal strategy is more from the point of view of a front office type or dugout manager, not as a fan. The fan in me wants to see Roy Halladay throw 120 to get a perfect game, but the optimal strategist would hate to see him throw 45 unnecessary pitches when the game was wrapped up long ago.

    Really, though, the fan should be concerned with optimal strategy if he or she enjoys winning. Ultimately, all fans want their favorite team(s) to win, so they should be in favor of optimal strategy over “fun”. Remember Roy Halladay convincing Charlie Manuel to leave him in the game in Washington early in the season, only to almost fork over the lead in the ninth inning? While the CG SHO might have been fun, a lot of fans would’ve been super pissed if he ended up bringing the Phillies to extra innings.

  7. Steve

    June 16, 2011 10:15 AM

    I am not really sure how I feel about this issue, but I did have a question. I would like to save innings and arms for Sept/Oct, but I am not sold on the idea of a possible injury this early into the season. First, although Manuel is the manager, doesn’t Dubee have the most influence on the pitchers including when to give them the hook? Secondly, I actually think Hamels was “pampered” by being allowed to pitch the beginning of the 8th. Manuel is known to listen to players and what they want – both the good and the bad. That is part of the reasons the players want to play for him and any pitcher wants to stay in that game.

  8. Wayne

    June 16, 2011 10:28 AM

    Many of the arguments seem after the fact. The bullpen was only used for 5 innings yesterday but Charlie had no way of knowing that Tuesday night. Kendrick going that deep was a surprise and Halladay had a high pitch count early before settling, both situations that could have easily turned out differently.

    With Oswalt having trouble earlier in the season I would undoubtedly support pulling him early. Hammels has shown no reason why he could not have pitched. With 4 games scheduled in less than 48 hours Charlie made a decision to keep him and conserve the bullpen. I can not fault him for that.

    I also recall an interview with Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hammels, and Blanton before the season where they were asked the most import stat for a pitcher. Everyone answered innings pitched except for Blanton who answered wins. Irrelevant, but interesting.

  9. Rob

    June 16, 2011 10:51 AM

    Yeah- I think the only way this argument exists is by relying a heck of a lot on hindsight. It’s definitely an interesting idea- using expected win percentage- but I just don’t see Baer starting this new crusade if Hamels’ back doesn’t get slightly tight.

    I think that if you’re frustrated with him going out in the 8th, you have to be similarly frustrated with him pitching the 7th with an 8-1 lead. That means Herndon goes two, Baez pitches the 9th and the bullpen is still in the same position for the double header the next day.

    I think in the moment, it is neither necessary to bring out Hamels (who still hadn’t thrown that much) or to bring him out (without any indication he could strain his back). It was simply a decision, it had some merit behind it regardless on whether Baer agrees with it or not, and a freak *very* small happened. It’s an interesting idea, but that’s all it is, can’t fault Charlie for not thinking of an idea before it was even created.

  10. Rob

    June 16, 2011 10:52 AM

    Also, I think I should come up with a different way to say “I think”.

  11. Phillie697

    June 16, 2011 11:19 AM

    @Richard,

    “You can say that any pitch a pitcher throws is a risk of some kind, but that’s hardly a satisfactory way of looking at it.”

    Yeah, actually, it is. When you have a 8 run lead going into the 8th, why risk your starter at all for ANY reason? Be it a back problem because he might have pitched one batter too many, or something more fluky like being hit by a batted ball or a leg injury running to cover first? I mean, I get that pitchers have personal goals, but I think Bill’s point is, if you are about winning and winning only, then that should not matter nearly as much. Harsh? Yes. Is it the best way to manage? Debatable. Plus, even on the personal achievement front, it’s not black and white. What was Hamels going for two days ago? A complete game? His pitch count was prob too high to last for two more innings. There was no no-hitter, he wasn’t striking out 18 with a chance to get to 20. Yes, for some things maybe you let Hamels out there because players are people too, but when there is so little on the line, either for the team or the player, why risk it?

  12. Tim M.

    June 16, 2011 11:21 AM

    Bill,

    What about the thought that is in the back of everyone’s mind? “Cole Hamels is having a Cy Young year. Let him pitch.”

    Roy Halladay and Adam Wainwright pitched comparably in 2010 (Halladay listed first).

    W-L ERA WHIP K’s K/9 K/BB Avg.
    21-10 2.44 1.04 219 7.86 7.30 .245
    20-11 2.42 1.05 213 8.32 3.80 .224

    Halladay’s 2010 regular season included 9 complete games, 4 of which were shutouts, one a Perfect Game, and 250.2 innings pitched. He pitched an additional 22 innings in the postseason including a No-Hitter. Halladay’s ability to go the distance set him apart from NL Cy Young runner-up Adam Wainwright, who logged 5 CG’s, two SHO’s, and 230.1 innings.

    However, Wainwright is only 4 months removed from Tommy John surgery for blowing out his elbow. Whereas Roy Halladay is conditioned to handle a large workload.

    Should Hamels’ Cy Young candidacy be taken into consideration, while Baer-Metrics are overridden, to let Hamels pitch himself into a Cy Young award?

  13. Phillie697

    June 16, 2011 11:44 AM

    @Tim M.

    And pitching two more innings (which is debatable that he even would) out of the course of one season will somehow enhance his Cy Young chances? Really?

    You win Cy Youngs by staying healthy and pitching the WHOLE season. What would have been his Cy Young chances if his back problem was more serious?

  14. Tim M.

    June 16, 2011 11:58 AM

    @ Phillie697

    This is not a one game, 2 inning point. Consider the season long effect…two innings here, one inning there, etc.

  15. JR

    June 16, 2011 11:59 AM

    Should the same rational be used for other 8 men on the field. Should you get your big money players out when you are winning big?

  16. Phillie697

    June 16, 2011 12:01 PM

    @Tim M.,

    Yes, but we were talking about that particular start. If next time out he’s pitched seven innings with a pitch count of 70, yeah I say sure, let him out there.

    You don’t win Cy Youngs by trying to pitch more innings. You win Cy Youngs by pitching quality innings. I would bet you a million bucks if you asked Hamels if he would over-extend himself just to pitch more innings in order to try to win the Cy Young on the off chance that someone has a nearly-identical line to his at the end of the season so that voters will look at innings pitched, he probably would laugh at you.

  17. Phillie697

    June 16, 2011 12:03 PM

    @JR,

    Sure, but there aren’t enough bench players to substitute for ALL of them. And btw, it IS done by managers all the time (perfect example this season, check the game logs of the Cardinals and their usage of Lance Berkman).

  18. Tim M.

    June 16, 2011 12:07 PM

    @ Phillie697

    I’m not saying quantity over quality wins a Cy Young. The premise is that the innings pitched are quality innings, typical of how he’s been performing this year.

  19. Chris

    June 16, 2011 12:09 PM

    Halladay may have ultimately won the Cy over Wainwright because (in the voter’s minds) the IPs, CGs, SHOs, and the perfect game were more impressive than what Wainwright accomplished, but Halladay was the better pitcher because of 1 thing: that K/BB ratio. I know that’s not really your point, but just saying.

    Anyway, Wainwright pitched just as many innings in ’09 as he did in ’10, so I don’t think the whole conditioning point has much merit. Obviously Halladay IS more conditioned than Wainwright because he’s pitched 200+ innings 7 times in his career vs Wainwright’s 3, but I don’t think you can definitively say that’s the reason Wainwright blew out his elbow.

    I’m pretty sure if Hamels had the choice between the chance at a Cy and reducing injury risk, he’d choose reducing injury risk every time. Of course he’d love to have both, but realistically, the chances of Hamels winning a Cy while he’s on the same team as Halladay are pretty low anyway, especially the way Halladay’s been pitching.

    If Charlie, Dubee, or anybody in the FO thinks that Hamels or any of our pitchers should go for the CG/SHO in an 8 run blowout just so he can go after a Cy, they should be fired. Okay, maybe not fired, but you get my point.

  20. Mike

    June 16, 2011 12:10 PM

    @Rob

    You could always just leave out “I think” from your sentences. The reader assumes that it is what you think, as opposed to fact or someone else’s opinion, since you’re the one writing it.

    Re: the subject, there are plenty of times when it’s reasonable for a starter to pitch into the 8th and 9th. But with a large lead and (more importantly) the unusual circumstances due to the rain delay, the smarter move would have been to pull Hamels, possibly even before the 7th.

  21. Phillie697

    June 16, 2011 12:17 PM

    @Tim M.

    You’re making a LOT of assumptions to support that he should pitch more innings.

  22. Phylan

    June 16, 2011 12:29 PM

    That’s a lot of words but the only attempts at justifications I saw were “fun” and “pitchers want to do it” and surely you can see why that’s not compelling at all.

  23. Phylan

    June 16, 2011 12:30 PM

    Wow I need to hit refresh more often, that was in re: Richard’s comment

  24. Matt C

    June 16, 2011 12:31 PM

    I agree with Bill for the most part — why risk injury to an important player when victory is nearly assured? — but my first thought when Cole came out to pitch the 8th was that Charlie was obviously gunshy because of his experience last Friday.

    If you recall, Halladay dominated the Cubs for 7 innings, and the Phils built a 7-run lead. Charlie did exactly what you advise here, and pulled Halladay to save his arm. Then a combination of Contreras and Romero promptly coughed up 5 runs while getting only a single out. There were still plenty of Cubs on the bases when Stutes came in and got the last two outs, so they were just a bad pitch or two away from surrendering 7 or 8 runs in less than an inning.

    It’s not technically “eight-plus runs in a span of two consecutive innings,” but it’s a directly comparable situation that happened very recently, and was almost a disaster. I’m sure that — combined with the doubleheader the next day — was the reason why Charlie wanted to avoid using the ‘pen in this case.

  25. JR

    June 16, 2011 02:04 PM

    Curious,

    Philes are up 3 to 0 and Lee is pitched 7 innings (87 pitches). Do you send him out in the 8th. Who do you bring in if you pull Lee?

  26. JR

    June 16, 2011 02:06 PM

    Meant Phils of course. I leave him in to pitch the 8th – Madsen in 9th unless they score more runs.

  27. Anthony

    June 16, 2011 02:15 PM

    @ JR
    No! You’re doing it wrong! ESPN says Phillies are 95% to win the game at this point. Take him out! 87 pitches! Every pitch after that risks injury!

    In fact, take out Ryan Howard too. We’re sure to win, and he’s a valuable piece, and we’re highly invested in him. What if he pulls a muscle running out a ground ball? We should pull the whole starting team at this point!!!

  28. JR

    June 16, 2011 02:26 PM

    I’ll take that as a vote to leave Lee in!

  29. Anthony

    June 16, 2011 02:33 PM

    Phew. Dodged a bullet there.

    Seriously though. This is a question on limits. Apparently Bill’s limit is the 7th inning of a low leverage situation, and higher in a high leverage situation. Charlie’s limit is a certain pitch count.

    Unless someone wants to factor in likelihood of injury and loss of WAR from that injury against decreased chance of winning this game, and added value from bullpen in future games and put that together, it’s anyone’s guess what the limit for a pitcher should be.

    I don’t think we can criticize someone else’s limit if we can’t put solid statistics behind showing truly that the risk is greater than the reward.

  30. Mike

    June 16, 2011 02:50 PM

    So with 2 outs in the ninth do you take out Lee who is throwing a 2 hit shut because the bullpen has better than a 27.00 ERA?

  31. Mike

    June 16, 2011 03:09 PM

    No Ryan. You are too valuable. We should trot out Gload to get that last out.

  32. LTG

    June 16, 2011 03:48 PM

    …which was the style at the time!

  33. Rob

    June 16, 2011 04:08 PM

    @Mike

    Yeah, wrote that right after waking up and was clearly not in the correct state of mind to write something intelligent. I made the second comment more to make fun of myself, but thanks for the input regardless.

    Judging from where the discussion has gone now, people are tired of this discussion. So until that next fateful 8th inning…

  34. Phillie697

    June 16, 2011 04:32 PM

    Apparently 3 run leads are the same as 8 run leads based on the comments here this afternoon…

  35. JB Allen

    June 16, 2011 04:48 PM

    LTG – Nice.

  36. JB Allen

    June 16, 2011 04:51 PM

    Wait a minute, Bill, isn’t what you’re proposing pitching to the score? You know, like Jack Morris used to do all the time (which is why he’s a True Hall of Famer)?

    [Sarcasm.]

  37. Travis

    June 16, 2011 07:46 PM

    If we assume that that WP is continuous throughout the game[a dubious assumption but bear with me], than a team that is a 93% favorite to win a game will blow that lead on average once a [non-Mon]day. A team should blow a game they are a 99% favorite to win once a week. And 99.7%? 7-8 times a year. And presumably these win percentages are based on traditional strategies so adopting a safety first strategy will decrease your win percentage. So I think it is perhaps a mistake to be so cavalier with the assumption that a team can’t lose.

    Also given how much of the game is mental, I wonder what effect it would have on players to be handled with such kid gloves. Would the pitcher be insulted? Would he become a hypochondriac constantly worried that he is about to get injured?

  38. Shazbot

    June 16, 2011 09:57 PM

    If you are only going to judge pitchers by how badly they’re needed in-game, why are they starters? Those are called relievers, where it is the most important thing to spend their limited number of innings in the highest-value locations possible.

    Why shouldn’t you treat your starters similarly? Because if your starter is good for X pitches, then you should let him pitch all of them every time he’s out, so you get the most value from the player you have signed.

    I suppose it isn’t optimal strategy to keep Mr. Good Starter in the game for one more inning in a mostly decided game, but that one inning saved doesn’t mean you can pitch him again on three days rest, nor can you save up those saved innings and use them in a more important time, like you can do to some degree with relievers.

    Letting your starters pitch allows you to maximize the value gained from them, as ‘saved’ innings on your starter aren’t saved, as you can’t use them like you can with relievers, or even with position players, letting them rest. The starter coming out while he’s got stuff left isn’t saving him any effort. All that saves you is the random chance of an injury, which is present at all times, regardless of usage.

    It is not optimal to get less than maximum value from your players. Would you suggest that no reliever should ever be allowed to face more than three batters in a game?

    No, it isn’t optimal to pull your starters after the game is decided, regardless of all other considerations. You only get so many opportunities to start them, and you should make the most of your chances to let them pitch. The same applies to relievers and position players.

    Good pitching is too transitory and random to not take advantage of opportunities to get more innings from good pitchers.

  39. Bill Baer

    June 16, 2011 10:12 PM

    All that saves you is the random chance of an injury, which is present at all times, regardless of usage.

    To say that injury risk is static across all pitch counts is… not true. Watch a slow-motion animation of a pitcher throwing a baseball, and tell me if you think there’s no difference doing that once or 120 times a game once every five days.

    It is not optimal to get less than maximum value from your players.

    Let’s keep using the Hamels situation. Why do you need “maximum value” from him with a 99.7% chance to win? You have nothing to gain, but a lot to lose. It’s a high-risk, low-reward situation.

    If every inning pitched added the same probability of winning, then I would agree with your statement. But pitching the eighth with a 2-1 lead is fundamentally different than pitching the eighth with a 9-1 lead.

  40. Phillie697

    June 16, 2011 10:13 PM

    @Travis,

    I didn’t know Cole Hamels is so fragile mentally that you would hurt his feelings or confidence by pulling him in a game in which he pitched 7 great innings, had a 90+ pitch count, and the team is up by 8 runs. We’re not talking about pulling him after 5 innings and the score is 2-1 and he has thrown only 50 pitches. Extremely low leverage situations = even the starting pitcher knows he’s no longer needed.

  41. Phillie697

    June 16, 2011 10:19 PM

    @Shazbot,

    There is one flaw in your analysis. You assume the point of signing players to contracts is to get the most value out of those contracts. This isn’t a factory. In the end, the ONLY thing that matters to MLB teams is how many wins there are at the end of the season. In a game where you have 8 run leads with two innings to go, you’re actually NOT getting the most value out of Cole Hamels because by pitching him more because you’re not adding anything to the bottom line, i.e. another win. You save that “value” for another time when it WILL matter.

  42. Shazbot

    June 16, 2011 10:55 PM

    I’m saying you can’t save your SP innings like that, Phillie, so it doesn’t make sense to treat them like relievers when it comes to shifting innings.

    That 8th inning today might mean a PH for the next day’s starter in the fourth. The odds of that are pretty slim, but the downside risk, that of an injury in a specific one of his 210 innings this year, is pretty slim too.

    Bill Baer, no pitcher throws once in a day. A SP might start his day with a 20 pitch bullpen session. There have been plenty of injuries in the early innings of ballgames. Certainly the risk is more with more pitches thrown, but he’s still going to be at risk in his next start, just as he is today.

    Pitchers, even very good pitchers, get better and worse quite frequently and randomly. Assuming that he’s going to be there four years from now if you don’t leave him in for this inning is absurd.

    If you’re going to think about reforming rotations and usage of relievers, I would recommend going into the camp that says that games should be started by a RP, who is then changed for the starter after the pitcher’s slot comes up to the plate. It makes more sense, and is a lot simpler. It also would help the team much more than the decision over one random low-leverage 8th inning.

  43. jauer

    June 17, 2011 04:13 PM

    to me, the most ridiculous (and overlooked) factor of this entire debate is this: hamels was removed in a 1-1 game in pittsburgh after throwing 98 pitches in good weather. the good relievers (contreras, stutes, bastardo) kept the pirates at one, but once manuel burned through his quality pitchers, baez came into the game and promptly blew it (of course, madson sat on the bench the whole time while manuel waited for the magical save opportunity).

    anyone defending charlies use of hamels in a 9-1 game must therefore criticize his use of hamels in a 1-1 game. hamels was allowed to throw 110+ pitches (which he would have without the injury) in a 9-1 game, but wasnt allowed to throw 99 in a 1-1 game.

    simply terrible.

  44. Jay

    June 17, 2011 05:07 PM

    Conceptually you may be correct. Realistically, it is an awful argument. You cannot take a pitcher out if they are dominating and aren’t tired no matter what the score is. Pitchers have big egos, they will want to keep pitching to get their innings pitched up and their ERAs down. There is not a manager in the league that would take an ACE out in that situation.

  45. Scott G

    June 18, 2011 12:04 AM

    Actually, as a manger, you can take a player out whenever you want.

    No one can claim that it was necessary for Hamels to go out for the 8th. It’s not NECESSARY for him to pitch any inning. Are we really going to let him go out and pitch with a 7 run lead AFTER he admitted to having back tightness? Absurd.

    Also, I dislike when managers use closers with 3 run leads. The book says teams are 97% to win at this point, and closers and mop-up men alike shut it down with 3 run leads. I am of course talking strictly to avoid overuse.

  46. Scott G

    June 18, 2011 12:04 AM

    Oh, and this isn’t about hindsight. If you’re watching the games, and not thinking about these things are they’re occurring, why are you watching/what are you thinking about?

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