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January 18, 1999

Pitcher Usage and Result Patterns: Boston Red Sox

Focus on 1998 Red Sox starting pitching

by Jeff Bower and Christina Kahrl

The biggest off-season move prior to the 1998 season was Boston's acquisition and subsequent signing of Pedro Martinez. He didn't come cheaply--first costing the Red Sox &oumu;berprospect Carl Pavano, and then a $75 million, six-year contract--but he was absolutely the type of pitcher that Jimy Williams had to have if the Red Sox were to contend for a playoff berth. Aside from innings gobbler Tim Wakefield, the Boston starters going into the season consisted of physical question marks (Bret Saberhagen and Butch Henry), unknown quantities (Derek Lowe and Brian Rose) and a combination of the two
1998 Overall Pitcher Use Patterns
Days rest -> 2 3 4 5 6+ CS Totals
Starts 3 4 83 50 18 4 162
QS 0 1 40 27 6 1 75
%QS .00 .25 .48 .54 .33 .25 .46
BQS 1 0 4 1 0 0 6
%QS+BQS .33 .25 .53 .56 .33 .00 .50
Avg # pitches 75 93 92 92 89 93 91
(Steve Avery). Williams was able to add Martinez to the mix and produce a solution that satisfied the Fenway faithful. Let's see how he did it.

Williams made sure the Red Sox got their money's worth with Martinez, working him hard--especially in the first half of the season when Williams was sifting through candidates for the bottom two-fifths of his rotation. Four times before the All-Star break, Williams shortened his rotation and asked Pedro to work on one less days' rest. In fact, the only time during the entire season that Martinez got more than five days rest was during the All-Star break. You'd expect a few more times over a season if a five-man rotation is used consistently. Overall, Martinez responded brilliantly, posting a 76% QS+BQS for the season. His performance did decline towards the end: he didn't pitch poorly, but he wasn't as dominating as he was for most of the year.

Tim Wakefield was the other cornerstone of the Red Sox rotation entering the season. Like Martinez, Wakefield was used heavily before the All-Star break. Williams even had him pitch in relief three times while still keeping his place in the rotation. However, for a team in need of innings from its starters, Wakefield wasn't pushed too hard. He averaged only 94 pitches a start, topping out at 123. Perhaps surprisingly, the knuckleballer showed signs of a tired arm: Wakefield had only 9 QS+BQS in 22 starts on four or fewer day's rest, while going 8 for 11 with at least five days rest.

Williams and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan deserve recognition for the way that they handled Bret Saberhagen. Sabes was still working his way back from the reconstructive shoulder surgery that he had in 1996, so he was used very gingerly. He was frequently the beneficiary when Martinez or Wakefield moved up in the rotation. Notice that Williams consistently had him throw fewer pitches when he had fewer days off. He never threw more than 100 pitches on four days' rest and he had zero BQS in 31 starts, which means that he wasn't required to throw a lot of those "stress pitches" that certain announcers like to dwell upon. As a result of these precautions, Sabes not only survived the season, he thrived, finishing with a very nice 58% QS and getting stronger as the season progressed.

A trio of left-handed hurlers with brittle arms (Butch Henry, Steve Avery and Pete Schourek) added to Williams' rotation-juggling fun. Henry strained a hamstring in spring training and made it back into the rotation during the third week of April. Henry had had Tommy John surgery in 1995, and made two ineffective starts, hurt his ACL, and was done for the season. Avery made the short jaunt east from Pawtucket in mid-May. He hadn't exactly been shutting down International League hitters and things didn't change when he got to Boston, as he had only 9 QS in 23 outings. However, Williams did manage to coax a few 5+ inning, 3 runs or less games out of him. Avery also had no BQS and Williams didn't ask that he throw a lot of pitches, probably less out of fear of injury to Avery than to the pedestrians on Lansdowne Street. Pete Schourek from Houston for cash in the billiard room was Boston's move to shore up the pitching staff for the stretch drive. His unsound mechanics and past arm troubles caused Williams to treat him with kid gloves, as he never threw more than 91 pitches in any game while putting up 4 QS in 8 starts.

What about the younger pitchers on the staff, you ask? Derek Lowe and John Wasdin were the handy solutions when one of the arms Williams was juggling fell on the floor. Lowe was moved from the bullpen into rotation and back twice, Wasdin once. Jimy overextended neither during their stints in the rotation, but both proved more effective in long relief, and neither was given an extended trial in the rotation. But they still proved to be assets in long relief; with Boston's fragile rotation, there were plenty of innings to go around. With Pavano's departure, Brian Rose was handed the fifth spot in the rotation in spring training. Rose struggled in his ten regular season starts, but it wasn't due to Williams' handling. He worked Rose carefully, keeping the pitch counts low and often giving him an extra day of rest. Robinson Checo and Jin Ho Cho each got a quick cup of coffee in Beantown and then went back to the PawSox. Although all of these pitchers could and should continue to see major league duty, the misfortune was their reluctance to commit and stay committed to any of them. The constant tinkering with the back end of the rotation didn't make any difference in terms of keeping the Sox ahead of Anaheim/Texas or Toronto in the wild-card chase, and it didn't help them find any long-term solutions either.

In conclusion, in terms of usage Williams did an admirable job with a difficult starting rotation. That the potentially combustible Red Sox staff only had 6 BQS attests to the fact that Williams monitored his starters closely and wasn't afraid to use his entire bullpen. Though the staff had only 75 QS, there were also at least ten starts of 5+ innings and 3 or less runs. The workload that Martinez had to carry was a little heavy, but was necessitated by the physical condition of the other members of the rotation. Let's just hope his career doesn't follow the path of his brother, Ramon. At least there haven't been any Lasorda sightings in New England. Saberhagen was handled exceptionally well, which helped resurrect him in what's becoming baseball's answer to John Travolta in terms of a seemingly endless cycle of burnouts and comebacks. Williams probably got as much mileage out of Avery and Schourek as could be expected. The next test for Williams and Kerrigan will be to see if they can successfully ease one of their younger pitchers into the rotation.

P. Martinez        Days rest                 Wakefield           Days rest
                3    4    5   6+   Totals                  2-3    4    5   6+   Totals
Starts          0   19   13    1       33    Starts          4   18    9    2       33
QS              0   13    8    1       22    QS              0    6    7    1       14
%QS           .00  .68  .62 1.00      .67    %QS           .00  .33  .78  .50      .42
BQS             0    2    1    0        3    BQS             1    2    0    0        3
%QS+BQS       .00  .79  .69 1.00      .76    %QS+BQS       .25  .44  .78  .50      .52
Avg # pitches   0  115  113  102      114    Avg # pitches  96   93   96   93       94

Saberhagen         Days rest                 Avery              Days rest
                3    4    5   6+   Totals                 OS-2    4    5   6+   Totals
Starts          0   13   13    5       31    Starts          2   12    4    5       23
QS              0    8    8    2       18    QS              0    5    2    2        9
%QS           .00  .62  .62  .40      .58    %QS           .00  .42  .50  .40      .39
BQS             0    0    0    0        0    BQS             0    0    0    0        0
%QS+BQS       .00  .62  .62  .40      .58    %QS+BQS       .00  .42  .50  .40      .39
Avg # pitches   0   83   90   95       88    Avg # pitches  78   81   75   89       81

Schourek           Days rest                 Lowe               Days rest
                     4    5   6+   Totals                    3    4    5   6+   Totals
Starts               6    1    1        8    Starts          1    7    2    0       10
QS                   3    1    0        4    QS              1    3    0    0        4
%QS                .50 1.00  .00      .50    %QS          1.00  .43  .00  .00      .40
BQS                  0    0    0        0    BQS             0    0    0    0        0
%QS+BQS            .50 1.00  .00      .50    %QS+BQS      1.00  .43  .00  .00      .40
Avg # pitches       81   91   68       81    Avg # pitches  91   83   55    0       79

Wasdin             Days rest                 Rose               Days rest
             CS-2    4    5   6+   Totals                         4    5   6+   Totals
Starts          2    3    2    1        8    Starts               4    3    1        8
QS              0    2    0    0        2    QS                   0    1    0        1
%QS           .00  .67  .00  .00      .25    %QS                .00  .33  .00      .13
BQS             0    0    0    0        0    BQS                  0    0    0        0
%QS+BQS       .00  .67  .00  .00      .25    %QS+BQS            .00  .33  .00      .13
Avg # pitches  67   88   85   91       82    Avg # pitches       82   89   59       82

Cho                Days rest                 Henry              Days rest
               CS    4    5   6+   Totals                              5   6+   Totals
Starts          1    1    1    1        4    Starts                    1    1        2
QS              1    0    0    0        1    QS                        0    0        0
%QS          1.00  .00  .00  .00      .25    %QS                     .00  .00      .00
BQS             0    0    0    0        0    BQS                       0    0        0
%QS+BQS      1.00  .00  .00  .00      .25    %QS+BQS                 .00  .00      .00
Avg # pitches  88   71   61   84       76    Avg # pitches            55   95       75

Checo              Days rest
               CS    4    5   6+   Totals
Starts          1    0    1    0        2
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  88    0   52    0       70

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

Related Content:  Rotation,  Bret Saberhagen,  Rest,  Pitches,  Playoff Rotation

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