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December 3, 1998

Pitcher Usage and Result Patterns: Cleveland Indians

Focus on 1998 Indians starting pitching

by Jeff Bower and Christina Kahrl

Pitcher Usage and Result Patterns? What are these, you ask? This is the end result of a conversation the two of us started up in the spring on how to evaluate starting pitchers in terms of how they're used by their managers, and what that means in terms of results. We wanted to generate a team-wide statistical snapshot on how starting pitchers performed based on how they were used by their managers. In doing this, we used the quality start as our qualitative measure of pitcher performance, and we recorded them against rest and usage patterns. What comes out on the end? Starters (and teams) are evaluated in terms of how many games they've started on 3, 4, 5, or 6+ days' rest. Among each of those sets of information, we see how many quality starts (QS) and blown quality starts (BQS) the starter recorded, and what their average pitch counts were. What's a blown quality start? A game in which a starter has already logged a quality start (six or more innings, three or fewer
1998 Overall Pitcher Use Patterns
Days rest -> 2 3 4 5 6+ CS Totals
Starts 1 1 86 50 23 1 162
QS 1 0 42 24 14 0 81
%QS 1.00 .00 .49 .48 .61 .00 .50
BQS 0 0 4 1 0 0 5
%QS+BQS 1.00 .00 .53 .50 .61 .00 .53
Avg # pitches 104 81 100 105 103 93 102
runs) that either he blew by allowing a fourth run (or more) after the sixth, or that his bullpen blew by allowing baserunners that the starter left to them to score.

What can it tell us? It gives us a way to think about how a manager runs his rotation in terms of pitch counts and how regularly the starter pitches. As we work our way through the `98 season, we'll be able to come to some conclusions about some pitchers and some managers. How often does a manager have his starters take their regular turn? Is there a relationship between pitch counts and longer rest periods? How often did the starter give his manager a quality start? Are some starters more successful with longer rest periods than four days? Rooting through this information should begin to give us the answers to these questions.

Nagy               Days rest                 Wright             Days rest
                3    4    5   6+   Totals                    3    4    5   6+  Totals
Starts          0   19   11    3       33    Starts          0   17   11    4      32
QS              0    7    5    2       14    QS              0    9    5    4      18
%QS           .00  .37  .45  .67      .42    %QS           .00  .53  .45 1.00     .56
BQS             0    2    1    0        3    BQS             0    0    0    0       0
%QS+BQS       .00  .47  .55  .67      .52    %QS+BQS       .00  .53  .45 1.00     .56
Avg # pitches   0   98  103  108      100    Avg # pitches   0  101  108  114     105

Colon              Days rest                 Burba              Days rest
                3    4    5   6+   Totals                    3    4    5   6+  Totals
Starts          0   17    8    6       31    Starts          0   18    8    5      31
QS              0   10    3    3       16    QS              0    8    5    3      16
%QS           .00  .59  .38  .50      .52    %QS           .00  .44  .63  .60     .52
BQS             0    0    0    0        0    BQS             0    2    0    0       2
%QS+BQS       .00  .59  .38  .50      .52    %QS+BQS       .00  .56  .63  .60     .58
Avg # pitches   0  103  116  101      106    Avg # pitches   0  106  102  104     105

Gooden             Days rest                 Ogea               Days rest
                3    4    5   6+   Totals                  2-3    4    5   6+  Totals
Starts          0   12    8    3       23    Starts          2    3    3    1       9
QS              0    7    4    1       12    QS              1    1    2    0       4
%QS           .00  .58  .50  .33      .52    %QS           .50  .33  .67  .00     .44
BQS             0    0    0    0        0    BQS             0    0    0    0       0
%QS+BQS       .00  .58  .50  .33      .52    %QS+BQS       .50  .33  .67  .00     .44
Avg # pitches   0   96  100   92       97    Avg # pitches  93   81   92   81      87

Krivda             Days rest                 Karsay             Days rest
                3    4    5   6+   Totals                    3    4    5   6+  Totals
Starts          0    0    1    0        1    Starts          0    0    0    1       1
QS              0    0    0    0        0    QS              0    0    0    1       1
%QS           .00  .00  .00  .00      .00    %QS           .00  .00  .00 1.00     .00
BQS             0    0    0    0        0    BQS             0    0    0    0       0
%QS+BQS       .00  .00  .00  .00      .00    %QS+BQS       .00  .00  .00 1.00     .00
Avg # pitches   0    0   93    0       93    Avg # pitches   0    0    0   97      97

Jacome             Days rest
               CS    4    5   6+   Totals
Starts          1    0    0    0        1
QS              0    0    0    0        0
%QS           .00  .00  .00  .00      .00
BQS             0    0    0    0        0
%QS+BQS       .00  .00  .00  .00      .00
Avg # pitches  93    0    0    0       93

A salient point that was brought up following Cleveland's loss to the Yankees in the ALCS is how difficult it is for the Indians to win a championship without a true number one starter. This void was cited as the main reason why they have lost Game 1 of the playoffs in each of their last eight series. While that notion may be true, the Tribe has had enough pitching to make the playoffs for four straight seasons, twice reaching the World Series. Manager Mike Hargrove annually mixes a decent enough staff and a deep bullpen with the two-headed monster of Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez to produce the requisite eighty- eight wins needed to capture the AL Central flag. Since the White Sox can't differentiate a pitcher from a peanut vendor and the rest of the division spends most of their time howling some version of Bud Selig's small market jingle, Hargrove doesn't get much credit for his work. However, some of the numbers below suggest that he should--at least for the way he handles his staff.

The statistic that really stands out is that his starters had only five blown quality starts for the entire season. This is very impressive considering that the best ERA by a starter was 3.71 and that two of the members of the rotation were in their first full season. Grover and Mark Wiley were able to identify when their starter was faltering and didn't waste any time getting him back into the dugout when it happened. Hargrove also showed good judgement by never shortening the rotation in the event of an off day.

Charles Nagy headed up the veteran portion of the rotation--well, at least he was the opening day starter. Nagy's nasty habit of giving up the long ball was primarily responsible for him having three of the team's five BQS--Hargrove couldn't sprint to the mound before the ball left the yard. Nagy pitched significantly better on five or more days rest, hinting of a tired arm (he had over 225 IP in '96 and '97). Dave Burba was almost the opening day starter--for Cincinnati. Upon arriving in Cleveland, Burba immediately paid dividends, racking up nine quality starts in his first thirteen outings. The heaviest workload of his career may have caught up with him, as he had only three QS+BQS in his last ten starts. Hargrove exercised more care with Dwight Gooden than any of his other starters. Gooden was the only starter to average less than 100 pitches a start and threw over 120 pitches only when he had at least five days rest. Not coincidentally, Doc was Cleveland's most consistent starter in August and September, with seven quality starts in his last eleven appearances.

One of Hargrove's most important tasks is fashioning his two young pitching gemstones, Bartolo Colon and Jaret Wright, into jewels. If done properly, the job will entail only polishing, not cutting. So, how did Grover approach the various facets of this delicate procedure? Some with admirable caution, others a bit recklessly. Neither Colon nor Wright was ever asked to move up a slot in the rotation when the schedule or the weather presented the opportunity. The extra days off really helped Wright, as he posted four quality starts in four tries when he had at least six days rest. Colon, though, actually performed better working on the more usual four days rest. Amazingly, Colon and Wright did not have a single blown quality start between them the entire season. This statistic suggests that Hargrove and Wiley were carefully monitoring their young pitchers' stuff and were quick to shut them down when they wavered. Occasionally, however, it seems that Hargrove didn't pay particularly close attention to their pitch counts- especially Colon's. Four times in the first half of the season Bartolo exceeded 130 pitches, topping out at 140. This certainly could be the reason that his performance took a nosedive after the All-Star break. Hargrove, however, learned from his mistake. Wright was only allowed to throw 120 pitches once during the second half, while Colon never reached that mark. So, while Cleveland might not currently have a true number one starter on its roster, if Hargrove continues his judicious ways, the Indians may soon have two.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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