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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Allen Barra: Relief For Mets Is In Sight—And His Name Is R.A. Dickey

Owen Scheetz was a knuckleballer…and I think Barra was owen the Voice some scheetz with this.

Occasionally during this season, Howie Rose or Ron Darling, or someone else broadcasting a Mets game has hinted at what a great reliever Dickey would be. What I’m proposing is that he might be even more valuable in the bullpen than in the starting rotation.

...Can you see him pitching perhaps 70-80 times a year out of the bullpen and going 2 and sometimes even 3 innings? I can.

Okay, I know this isn’t going to happen this year, if only because Dickey has a chance to win 20 games and no one wants to take that away from him. But he’s 37 now, and as he gets older perhaps he would seriously consider the fact that a career in the bullpen could give him many more years in the big leagues - why not into his mid-to-late forties, as other knuckleball pitchers have done?

The Mets are scrappy and resilient and have shown a lot of heart this season. But it’s not likely that they’re going to win anything. However, when they put the pieces together for next year’s team, I can’t believe that the idea of converting Dickey into a relief pitcher won’t occur to the Mets brass. And to R.A. Dickey, too.

And if the Mets haven’t given up on this season: here’s another idea: use Dickey as a reliever on this “throw” days, the middle day between his last start and his next start. If Dickey can stay loose on his throw day by tossing 80-100 balls in practice, why not cut the number of pitches and have come in come in to throw, oh, say, 25 knuckleballs in an actual game?

Repoz Posted: July 24, 2012 at 05:55 AM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mets

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   1. RollingWave Posted: July 24, 2012 at 06:32 AM (#4190601)
oh lord
   2. Dale Sams Posted: July 24, 2012 at 07:45 AM (#4190613)
Imagine what a great pinch hitter Papi would be? Instead of letting him waste 4 AB's when the manager has no control over the situation...Have Papi sitting on the bench like a cobra waiting to strike!! Imagine the fear of the pitchers knowing that Papi was on the bench waiting to be used at any second!
   3. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: July 24, 2012 at 08:37 AM (#4190628)
Well, to be fair, what Barra appears to be suggesting is a Mike Marshall-type season in which Dickey puts up essentially starters' innings out of the pen. There may be some legitimacy to that idea, if Dickey can stay healthy while doing it.
   4. Rants Mulliniks Posted: July 24, 2012 at 08:59 AM (#4190640)
Or he could start 30 games and still come out of the pen between starts.
   5. JJ1986 Posted: July 24, 2012 at 10:14 AM (#4190690)
Dickey already pitched in relief Saturday, so Barra's suggestion to use him between starts is Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
   6. Benji Posted: July 24, 2012 at 01:06 PM (#4190857)
I suppose that he would just automatically be as effective in that role as he is starting. He's doing his job. Don't make him do the bullpen's and the GMs too.
   7. PerroX Posted: July 24, 2012 at 01:20 PM (#4190873)
Meet The Mess.
   8. Steve Treder Posted: July 24, 2012 at 01:34 PM (#4190895)
Well, to be fair, what Barra appears to be suggesting is a Mike Marshall-type season in which Dickey puts up essentially starters' innings out of the pen. There may be some legitimacy to that idea, if Dickey can stay healthy while doing it.

History doesn't suggest there's much legitimacy to that idea. Mike Marshall was the only reliever who ever put up essentially starters' innings out of the pen. Among knuckleballing relief aces, the most relief innings Hoyt Wilhelm ever pitched in a season was 159, the most Charlie Hough pitched was 143, and the most Eddie Fisher pitched was 165. Not quite a starter's innings.
   9. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: July 24, 2012 at 04:53 PM (#4191135)

Not only that Steve, but Marshall only really did it twice, and he wasn't 38 years old. Dickey also throws a harder knuckleball than most, which might put more strain on his arm than is typical.
   10. Steve Treder Posted: July 24, 2012 at 05:28 PM (#4191178)
Yeah.

Something else the historical data indicates is that a relief season of even, say, 75 games and 125 innings was a difficult workload to sustain for more than a couple of years. The sample size is quite small, of course, as it always is for players performing at the edge of the envelope, but the data from the 1960s/70s suggests that working as a starter in 40 games/300 innings was easier to sustain year in and year out than working as a reliever in 75 games/125 innings.
   11. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 24, 2012 at 05:48 PM (#4191202)
A reliever doesn't have to pitch a starter's innings, though, to have a starter's impact or greater, since you can steer some of those innings to high leverage situations. A reliever pitching 65 games/115 innings at the same quality level as a starter pitching 30 games/200 innings may well be more valuable, if used intelligently (which means fewer save situations, more tie games).
   12. Steve Treder Posted: July 24, 2012 at 05:55 PM (#4191207)
A reliever doesn't have to pitch a starter's innings, though, to have a starter's impact or greater, since you can steer some of those innings to high leverage situations. A reliever pitching 65 games/115 innings at the same quality level as a starter pitching 30 games/200 innings may well be more valuable, if used intelligently (which means fewer save situations, more tie games).

Certainly.
   13. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 24, 2012 at 06:03 PM (#4191213)
I wonder whether it would be realistic (and wouldn't wear the pitcher out) to pitch your relief ace every other game, 2 innings at a time, as a rule.

Occasionally when his day to pitch comes up and it's 9-1 by the sixth inning you can give him an extra day's rest (but not too often, and if it's been four days since he last pitched you want him to pitch at least an inning no matter what the score is; you want him to stay in a rhythm.)

Obviously sometimes he'll need 26 pitches to get out of his first inning and then you won't bring him back out for a second.

Once in a while he might enter in the eighth when you're trailing 5-4, then only need 19 pitches to get through the eighth and ninth while you score one to tie the game, and you might bring him out for at least part of the tenth.

What I'm saying is you can be flexible, but around the framework of a "pitch 2 innings every other game" expectation, resulting in probably somewhere right around 60 games, 110 innings. I think that would not put undue stress on your relief ace's arm, and I think it would draw much more value out of him than the current Standard Closer usage pattern. If he has a good year he won't save 45 games, but he might win 15 and save 25. Hell, one of these years you'd probably end up with a reliever leading the league in wins.

Re-edit: I should also mention that when you do use your relief ace in this theoretical usage plan, it's not strictly in the 8th and 9th innings. If you have a tie game in the 6th and your starter in a jam, bring the relief ace in if it's his day to pitch.
   14. Steve Treder Posted: July 24, 2012 at 06:13 PM (#4191219)
What I'm saying is you can be flexible, but around the framework of a "pitch 2 innings every other game" expectation, resulting in probably somewhere right around 60 games, 110 innings. I think that would not put undue stress on your relief ace's arm, and I think it would draw much more value out of him than the current Standard Closer usage pattern. If he has a good year he won't save 45 games, but he might win 15 and save 25. Hell, one of these years you'd probably end up with a reliever leading the league in wins.

That's pretty much exactly how relief aces were typically deployed from roughly 1945 through 1965, and a lot of relief aces continued to be used that way until the arrival of the closer paradigm in the late 1980s/early 1990s.
   15. PreservedFish Posted: July 24, 2012 at 06:20 PM (#4191225)
I think that would not put undue stress on your relief ace's arm, and I think it would draw much more value out of him than the current Standard Closer usage pattern.


I was going to say that people would go nuts if anyone tried this, but it is less radical than the Rockies' rotation gimmick...
   16. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 24, 2012 at 06:29 PM (#4191230)
I don't think selling it to the fans and media would be the hardest part about implementing that usage pattern now; selling it to your relief ace would be. Couching it in the correct terms would be key; I'd emphasize to him that "relief ace" is his new job title, he's just as important as the rotation's ace, and we expect if he pitches well to rate near the league leaders in wins, plus get 20 or 25 saves. We can explain all that to the fans and media, too, not that they'll care much.
   17. PreservedFish Posted: July 24, 2012 at 06:43 PM (#4191236)
I think it would be easy to sell a non-established closer on the plan. A veteran that's already been awarded an eight figure salary on the strength of his yearly 40 saves would never bite, but a kid without any saves would. The Rockies starters (that motley crew) are operating in a scheme that guarantees to vulture wins away from their line.

The thing I'm skeptical about is the "every other game" plan. We have no idea if it really makes the 100+ inning regiment more sustainable, and the baseball gods absolutely will not cooperate when doling out the good relief ace situations. I think it would break down pretty quickly. Within a month you'd have the guy on the bench during 4 consecutive blowouts, and then pitching in three consecutive close games.
   18. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 24, 2012 at 07:07 PM (#4191257)
Yes, I think that's about right. You would have to have absolute organizational commitment to the idea. But I am certain the every-other-day concept would do a much better job overall of leveraging innings, because (a) we're aiming at the 0 and 1 run games, not the 2 and 3 run games, and (b) we're typically getting two innings at a time in those close games, rather than one.

That's why it would need to be a fairly regular every-other-game workload, I believe, because we want two innings at a time. When it's a close game we can tend toward leaving him out for two innings, and when it's not that close and he's just getting some work we can err toward taking him out after one if he lets more than one guy on. Etc.

This would be somewhat easier to pull off in the American League, where you wouldn't have to worry about double switching and whether the pitcher's spot might come up next inning, of course.
   19. PreservedFish Posted: July 24, 2012 at 07:16 PM (#4191270)
OK, so who's going to do it in Stratomatic and tell us what happens?
   20. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 24, 2012 at 07:21 PM (#4191273)
Based on some work in OOTP I can tell you pretty reliably what kind of stats get generated. What I can't tell you is whether it in real life would wear the pitcher out, or whether in real life the GM and/or manager involved would get fired two months in when the relief ace hits a rough patch and racks up three losses and a blown save in two weeks.
   21. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 24, 2012 at 08:38 PM (#4191384)
The Rockies starters (that motley crew) are operating in a scheme that guarantees to vulture wins away from their line.


Not really. For one thing, it's not very common for a pitcher to pitch effectively enough to be in line for a win and throw more than 75 pitches before he finishes the fifth. I checked a while back, and I think there was only one instance where a Rockies starter had a shot at a win but was pulled before he finished the fifth. For another, the 75-pitch limit was just while everyone was getting their feet wet in the new rotation; Jeff Francis has reached 80 pitches three times now, as has Drew Pomeranz.
   22. PreservedFish Posted: July 24, 2012 at 09:00 PM (#4191424)
Lady luck giveth, and lady luck taketh away. Dickey's ERA is now just about exactly the same as his FIP, and his BABIP is back at the same level it was in the last couple years.

Starting with the Yankees game where he got beat (ending his magical streak of unhittableness) Dickey's thrown 40 innings, with 36 Ks, 9 BBs, 4 HR. Those are fine numbers. But he's had a .350 BABIP, and his ERA has been up around 5.50.
   23. The District Attorney Posted: July 24, 2012 at 09:16 PM (#4191444)
OK, so who's going to do it in Stratomatic and tell us what happens?
You know how sometimes a game just has a "broken player"? I believe, for instance, career minor leaguer Brandon Sing was this in Diamond Mind or Out of the Park one year. In the Strat-O-Matic online game, one of those players is Dale Murray. Formerly only known either for not being Dale Murphy or for being disastrously swapped for a young Fred McGriff, Murray's terrific 1974 rookie card (187/256/215 opposition batting) can easily be used to throw 350+ dominating relief innings in a season. (His "R4" rating means that he can last an average of 4 relief IP per outing. So even given that he probably sits one out after pitching in consecutive games, averaging 2 IP/game over the season is not a problem at all.)

Anyway, this is like Barra's sixth consecutive inexplicable article. I'm at a loss.
   24. Good cripple hitter Posted: July 24, 2012 at 11:29 PM (#4191533)
OK, so who's going to do it in Stratomatic and tell us what happens?


I've actually been doing that the past couple weeks in MVP Baseball 2005 with Rollie Fingers and the Expos. My goal is to beat Mike Marshall's 1974 season (106 games, 208 1/3 innings). Through 38 games Fingers has 29 appearances and 54 IP. He's 3-0 with 12 saves and a 0.17 ERA. It's surprisingly difficult to leverage him properly, though. It's really easy to say 'okay, first sign of struggle, Fingers is in', but I have a five man bullpen so it's really easy to say "I'll bring in John Halama, it's only the fifth inning and he's got the platoon advantage, and this'll save Fingers for more important innings." It's also difficult to commit to multi-inning relief appearances because you either throw away at-bats by having a reliever hit or double-switch and lose a productive regular.

Then again, this is a game where Brandon Duckworth has a 17 inning shutout streak, Buck Leonard is on pace for a .390/80/144 Triple Crown, and Shawn Green might break the single-season slugging percentage record, so it might not be a totally accurate simulation. Ichiro! is even on pace for a 40/40 season, because he totally wants to and it's a 1 year stretch goal.
   25. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 24, 2012 at 11:37 PM (#4191537)
I've been running a Royals franchise in OOTP and using Dan Quisenberry in pretty much the usage pattern I detailed in #13. Over a period of five years he generally put up ERAs in the 1.80-2.20 range, with right around 60-65 appearances for 105-115 innings a year. His Wins-Losses-Saves record was extremely volatile; one year he went 16-2 with 24 saves, the next year he went 7-3 with 35 saves. The sample's too small to be sure of this, but the results lined up with my logical expectation that when his team is very good he'll tend to get fewer decisions and more saves, and when his team is mediocre-to-poor he'll tend to get more decisions and fewer saves.
   26. PreservedFish Posted: July 24, 2012 at 11:38 PM (#4191538)
I always wanted to know what would happen if you put Rollie Fingers and John Halama on the same team.
   27. Sunday silence Posted: July 25, 2012 at 12:12 AM (#4191553)
, Murray's terrific 1974 rookie card (187/256/215 opposition batting) can easily be used to throw 350+ dominating relief innings in a season. (His "R4" rating means that he can last an average of 4 relief IP per outing. So even given that he probably sits one out after pitching in consecutive games, averaging 2 IP/game over the season is not a problem at all


I believe the football equivalent was the Greg Landry card, when Landry had scrambled once the entire season, for 9 yards or whatever it was, so he became like a Super Steve Grogan or something.

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