CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

No Previous Article
No Next Article

January 21, 1999

Pitcher Usage and Result Patterns: Montreal Expos

Focus on 1998 Expos starting pitching

by Jeff Bower and Christina Kahrl

Felipe Alou's annual assembly of a solid pitching staff out of kids and retreads is as sure a thing as a crappy Fall lineup on CBS. However, last year may have been the most challenging of any of his seven seasons as manager of the Expos. Five of the eleven pitchers who started games for Montreal in 1998 were rookies. Among the other six starters, only Carlos Perez and Shawn Boskie entered the season with more than two years of major league service. That means that 134 out of 162 games last season were started by players with less than two years of major league experience.
1998 Overall Pitcher Use Patterns
Days rest -> 3 4 5 6+ CS Totals
Starts 2 101 40 17 2 162
QS 0 43 13 8 2 66
%QS .00 .43 .33 .47 1.00 .41
BQS 0 9 1 0 0 10
%QS+BQS .00 .51 .35 .47 1.00 .47
Avg # pitches 74 90 84 85 78 87
Still, Alou's corps finished ninth out of sixteen NL teams in ERA. Looking at the team numbers, the one thing that stands out is the low pitch count compiled by the starters--an average of only 87 per outing. If there is one trait that distinguishes Alou from his peers, it is realizing the fragility of pitchers' arms and handling them accordingly. While the team's ten BQS seems to be about league average, it is an admirable figure for a team with so many young starters and such a patchwork bullpen. Interestingly, the Expos starters performed considerably better on four days' rest than on five (51% QS+BQS versus 35%).

Before being peddled to the Dodgers at the end of July, Carlos Perez was the workhorse of the Montreal staff. Perez was consistently asked to suck it up when an off day afforded Alou the opportunity to skip the turn of one of his struggling young starters. Still, Pastaman and his Fox employers didn't receive damaged goods, as Perez averaged only 102 pitches per start with the Expos while posting an excellent 74% QS+BQS.

Twenty-six year old Dustin Hermanson is one of the gems fashioned by Alou's quick coal-to-diamond transformation process. Hermanson was very consistent, racking up quality starts in half of his outings regardless of the number of days' rest. Alou kept a tight reign on his pitch count, and Hermanson finished the year with only 187 IP, due in part to an upper back strain that caused him to miss three starts in late May.

Despite having pitched only 40 innings at Double-A, twenty-two year old Javier Vazquez was asked to take a regular turn in Montreal's rotation. On the surface, the Expos 1997 Minor League Pitcher of the Year didn't fare too well, posting only 38% QS+BQS. However, his peripheral numbers hint of future success. Knowing that Vazquez is a vital part of the Expos future, Alou didn't yo-yo him in and out of the rotation or shuttle him back and forth to the minors. Instead, Alou and pitching coach Bobby Cuellar monitored his pitch count, limited his innings to a modest 172 for the season, kept his confidence up and didn't blast him in the media (is Mr. Piniella paying attention?).

Shoulder tendinitis kept the baseball faithful of Quebec Province from seeing Carl Pavano--the booty in the Pedro Martinez deal--until late May. Upon being activated, the twenty-two year old was inserted into the rotation and put up a solid 57% QS+BQS the remainder of the year. Pavano really blossomed at the end of the season, with quality starts in 7 of his last 10 trips to the mound. Alou did his part to insure that Pavano will evolve into a top-flight starter (and not just the answer to the McGwire HR #70 trivia question), by keeping his pitch count low, thereby limiting his IP to 135 for the year.

Trey Moore and Marc Valdes both opened the season in the Expos rotation and finished it on the surgeon's table. But that is where the similarity ends. Not much was expected of Moore, a soft-tossing lefty acquired in the Jeff Fassero trade, but he pitched adequately (5 for 11 QS) before shoulder problems--later diagnosed as a small rotator cuff tear--in early June. Valdes continues to be a riddle. Alou started the former Marlin first rounder despite thinking he was better suited for the bullpen, and was careful in using him, always starting him on five days' rest or more. Even so, Valdes was a crowd pleaser in certain sections of the ballpark, providing many souvenirs for Quebecois bleacher patrons. After moving to middle relief, he pitched better before season-ending surgery on his elbow at the end of June.

Miguel Batista returned to his original organization via the Oh Henry! Rodriguez trade. While Alou used him primarily as a long reliever, he also was used as a starter when someone suffered an injury or proved ineffective. Though Batista wasn't completely worthless as a starter (38% QS+BQS in 13 starts), he was more effective in relief, and posted an overall ERA of 3.80 in 135 IP. Expect him to fill the same role in 1999. The less said about Shawn Boskie, the better.

Youngsters Mike Thurman, Jeremy Powell and Mike Johnson all had an opportunity to don the red white and blue of les Expos in 1998. Thurman, the oldest at 24, worked the last two months of the season and had the most success. While he recorded only a 31% QS+BQS in thirteen starts, he also had four outings of 5+ innings and three runs or less, as Alou was particularly stingy with his pitch counts. Powell and Johnson were both promoted from Double-A Harrisburg, and Alou admitted that he was rushing them. While Johnson crashed and burned in two emergency starts (each time being called up to cover for an injury), Powell showed enough in his six-pack to open some eyes for next year. Neither ever threw more than 90 pitches in a game.

So how does Alou pull off his annual juggling act? While other managers pay lip service, the numbers show that Alou truly believes in limiting pitch counts and innings worked--particularly for his youngest starters. To accomplish this, Alou has to use the entire pitching staff, even when its back end is composed of castoffs like Mike Maddux. Nine times Alou pulled his starter after less than fifty pitches, indicating that he tries to limit the damage to his pitcher's confidence when things aren't going well. Traits that aren't as measurable are his patience, nurturing, allegiance, positivism, and the ability to create a situation where his players can succeed. With Alou's magic and the age and abilities of his current starters, watch out for the Expos around the year 2000.

C. Perez           Days rest                 Hermanson          Days rest
                     4    5   6+   Totals                         4    5   6+   Totals
Starts              18    5    0       23    Starts              20    8    2       30
QS                  12    2    0       14    QS                  10    4    1       15
%QS                .67  .40  .00      .61    %QS                .50  .50  .50      .50
BQS                  2    1    0        3    BQS                  1    0    0        1
%QS+BQS            .78  .60  .00      .74    %QS+BQS            .55  .50  .50      .53
Avg # pitches      102  102    0      102    Avg # pitches       96   74   94       90

Vazquez            Days rest                 Pavano             Days rest
                     4    5   6+   Totals                         4    5   6+   Totals
Starts              20   10    2       32    Starts              16    3    4       23
QS                   3    3    2        8    QS                   9    1    2       12
%QS                .15  .30 1.00      .25    %QS                .56  .33  .50      .52
BQS                  4    0    0        4    BQS                  1    0    0        1
%QS+BQS            .35  .30 1.00      .38    %QS+BQS            .63  .33  .50      .57
Avg # pitches       85   98   96       90    Avg # pitches       94   89   87       92

Thurman            Days rest                 M. Batista         Days rest
                3    4    5   6+   Totals                    3    4    5   6+   Totals
Starts          1    8    3    1       13    Starts          1    7    4    1       13
QS              1    1    0    1        3    QS              0    3    1    1        5
%QS          1.00  .13  .00 1.00      .23    %QS           .00  .43  .25 1.00      .38
BQS             0    1    0    0        1    BQS             0    0    0    0        0
%QS+BQS      1.00  .25  .00 1.00      .31    %QS+BQS       .00  .43  .25 1.00      .38
Avg # pitches  77   83   61   82       77    Avg # pitches  66   94   92  103       92

T. Moore           Days rest                 Je. Powell         Days rest
                     4    5   6+   Totals                    3    4    5   6+   Totals
Starts               6    2    3       11    Starts          1    3    2    0        6
QS                   4    1    0        5    QS              1    0    1    0        2
%QS                .67  .50  .00      .45    %QS          1.00  .00  .50  .00      .33
BQS                  0    0    0        0    BQS             0    0    0    0        0
%QS+BQS            .67  .50  .00      .45    %QS+BQS      1.00  .00  .50  .00      .33
Avg # pitches       82   80   72       79    Avg # pitches  78   57   80    0       68

Boskie             Days rest                 M. Valdes          Days rest
                     4    5   6+   Totals                              5   6+   Totals
Starts               3    0    2        5    Starts                    2    2        4
QS                   1    0    0        1    QS                        0    1        1
%QS                .33  .00  .00      .20    %QS                     .00  .50      .25
BQS                  0    0    0        0    BQS                       0    0        0
%QS+BQS            .33  .00  .00      .20    %QS+BQS                 .00  .50      .25
Avg # pitches       52    0   68       58    Avg # pitches            36   88       62

Mi. Johnson        Days rest
                     3    4    5   Totals
Starts               1    0    1        2
QS                   0    0    0        0
%QS                .00  .00  .00      .00
BQS                  0    0    0        0
%QS+BQS            .00  .00  .00      .00
Avg # pitches       82    0   70       76

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

0 comments have been left for this article.

No Previous Article
No Next Article

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article What You Need to Know: August 29, 2014
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: This Article Mentions Fehlan...
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Friday, August 29
Premium Article The Call-Up: Dilson Herrera
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Thursday, Augu...
Prospectus Feature: Roast A Parks
Premium Article Raising Aces: Mis-Priced


MORE BY JEFF BOWER
1999-02-26 - AL West Notebook
1999-02-01 - Pitcher Usage and Result Patterns: Colorado ...
1999-01-22 - Pitcher Usage and Result Patterns: Houston A...
1999-01-21 - Pitcher Usage and Result Patterns: Montreal ...
1999-01-18 - Pitcher Usage and Result Patterns: Boston Re...
1998-12-03 - Pitcher Usage and Result Patterns: Cleveland...
1998-12-02 - Pitcher Usage and Result Patterns: Seattle M...
More...